(NaturalNews) Losing weight has never been sweeter, as long as you use the right sweetener. A new study indicates that the use of table sugar or mixed sugar leads to weight gain. However, honey does not lead to weight gain.
Diets including sugar were found to increase the levels of HbA1c, indicating higher levels of glucose in the blood. Diets including sugar were also found to increase triglycerides, an aspect of blood fat that is known to damage arteries.
In this study, researchers from Waikato University in Hamilton, New Zealand fed three different groups of rats diets with no sugar, eight percent mixed sugars, or ten percent honey. The animals fed honey gained about as much weight as those fed no sugar at all, while those eating sugar gained significantly more weight. A diet of ten percent honey causing no more weight gain than a diet including no sweetener at all? Astonishing.
This finding is one reason to make honey a regular dietary choice. But there are many more reasons.
Honey provides our bodies with much more than the hollow calories of sugar, corn syrup and other processed sweeteners. Honey is a natural substance, the only one in our diets made up of concentrated nectar from blooming plants. It contains trace amounts of protein, plus riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), vitamin B6, folate (vitamin B9), vitamin C, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. It also contains antioxidants, some found only in honey, which include pinobanksin, chrysin, catalase and pinocembrin.
Honey provides a stable source of energy as it enters the bloodstream while sugar enters it so quickly that blood glucose levels fluctuate rapidly. Honey has a healthier glycemic index (GI) compared to sucrose, high fructose corn syrup and other common sweeteners. The GI rating measures the effect of foods on the blood sugar level. The lower the GI rating, the more gradual the absorption of sugars into the bloodstream. Eating diets low on the GI scale is associated with a reduced risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity. So replacing other sweeteners with honey, particularly honey in combination with whole foods, could be associated with improved health.
Honey is also sweeter and more flavorful than sugar. A teaspoon of sugar has 16 calories while a teaspoon of honey provides 22 calories. But because honey is more intensely sweet, most people use about a third to a half less honey than sugar, actually reducing the calorie load.
Purchasing locally sourced honey helps support beekeepers, who are having difficultly staying in business due the impact of bee diseases and pests, agricultural chemicals, and Colony Collapse Disorder. There's evidence that some imported honey is actual packer's syrup, not pure honey, so beware of low cost products. Every one of us, whether we consume honey or not, relies on bees to pollinate the crops we eat each day. Supporting reputable beekeepers helps to insure that there will be enough bees to put fruits, vegetables and nuts on our tables.
What are some ways to incorporate honey in a weight loss program?
1. Ayurveda, the respected system of traditional Indian knowledge, recommends using honey to cure obesity in a variety of ways. Start the morning with a glass of warm water mixed with a tablespoon of honey and fresh lemon or lime juice. This drink can be taken several times a day, up to a half hour before each meal. Mint tea or ginger tea with honey is suggested. Raw ginger slices with honey can be eaten to stimulate the metabolism. The herb guggul may also be combined with honey and ginger, and used two to three times a day.
2. The ancient Unani healing system often used honey as a base. For weight loss, honey was combined with cinnamon. Current versions of this remedy suggest drinking a concoction each morning made by boiling a half cup of water with a half teaspoon of cinnamon powder and a teaspoon of honey. Since boiling honey destroys important enzymes, modify this recipe by pouring boiling water over the cinnamon then stirring in honey, to taste, after the water has cooled somewhat.
3. A small amount of honey helps you look forward to replacing an unhealthy meal with a fruit smoothie. Place approximately a quarter-cup each of three types of fruit (such as pineapple, mango, grapes, apple, banana, blueberries, strawberries, peaches, etc) in a blender along with a tablespoon of honey and several ice cubes. Process until fruit and ice are smooth. Top with yogurt or nuts for protein.
4. Many herbal teas are known to assist in weight loss, in addition to the mint and ginger teas suggested above. Honey added to the tea not only improves the flavor but helps curb hunger. Green tea raises the metabolic rate, nettle tea reduces appetite and chickweed tea is said to diminish cravings.
5. Use honey to support a healthier exercise routine. The University of Memphis found that honey is a highly effective pre and post exercise energy source. Researchers studied the performance of athletes supplemented with honey during endurance cycling trials. The cyclists' power and speed were significantly improved using honey compared to those using a placebo. Honey was found to boost performance equal to glucose, a more common carbohydrate source. But honey promotes steady blood sugar, helping sustain energy and promoting recovery, while glucose does not.
6. Replace expensive, unhealthful energy drinks with those you make yourself to support a more active lifestyle and lose excess weight. Mix 1/3 cup unsweetened grapefruit, cranberry, pomegranate or other tart juice with 1/3 cup honey. Add 6 cups of water. If necessary for exercise in hot weather, add a few grains of sea salt. Blend well, distribute in sports bottles and refrigerate till ready to use. Or steep four tea bags of your favorite herbal, green or flavored black tea in two cups boiling water. Add five additional cups water and 1/3 cup honey, stir well and store in sports bottles in the refrigerator till ready to use. Experiment by mixing teas, juices, supplements, water and honey in your own proportions for a sports drink that supports your exercise program and provides a healthy boost of energy.
7. The Hibernation Diet was developed by a pharmacist and sports nutritionist. The initial results were published in the Journal of Medicinal Food and are now in a book by the same name. This diet supports liver and adrenal function. A central feature of the diet is taking a dose of honey before bedtime. Check (www.benefits-of-honey.com/hibernation-diet.h...) to see if you meet the criteria for this approach.
Remember, it's about balance. Honey should be a small part of your overall diet. If you use no sweeteners, you might want to add a spoonful of honey to your diet for the benefits it offers. If your diet currently includes sugar, high fructose corn syrup, aspartame or other sweeteners, consider making honey your sweetener of choice but keep your focus on the taste and appeal of whole foods eaten in moderation.
About the author
Laura Weldon lives on an organic farm and believes in bliss. Learn more about her book "Free Range Learning" by visiting at www.lauragraceweldon.com