In autumn, our best ally for health is undoubtedly honey, which can reduce inflammation, protect the upper respiratory tract, the heart, the immune system and the gut microbiota. So let's see the beneficial properties of honey, the advice on how to take it and the warnings, based, as always, on the most recent scientific research.
Honey for the gut microbiota
Honey is mainly composed of simple sugars, which are rapidly absorbed by the small intestine. However, honey also contains other substances, such as polysaccharides and oligosaccharides, which instead manage to reach the colon by acting with prebiotic properties, supporting good intestinal bacteria such as bifidobacteria and lactobacilli (Sanz et al, J Agric Food Chem, 2005). The types of honey that have shown a prebiotic action on the intestinal microbiota are acacia, chestnut, manuka and clove honey (Schell et al, Front Nutr, 2022). One of the main advantages of the prebiotic action of honey is that this food, by nourishing the intestinal microbiota and promoting good health, helps to reduce the levels of chronic inflammation with benefits for the whole body, for the brain, lungs and immune system, which is strengthened (Schell et al, Front Nutr, 2022).
Honey and cough
An irritating cough can be really a nuisance, especially at night when it doesn't let you sleep. Studies have found that a teaspoon of honey before bedtime, even in children, helps to relieve nocturnal coughs. In general, however, honey, even when taken during the day, helps reduce the frequency and severity of coughs (Abuelgasim et al, BMJ Evid Based Med, 2021). In fact, honey is emollient, antimicrobial and antioxidant. Studies have tested the efficacy against cough of eucalyptus honey, citrus honey, but also wildflower honey (Goldman et al, Can Fam Physician, 2014).
Honey and tea, the health drink
A cup of green tea and half a teaspoon of honey, here is the health drink, perfect even for the coldest days. Honey and green tea, in fact, work in synergy and help protect the gastrointestinal tract. The intake of green tea and honey, at least once a week and regularly, allowed to fight Helicobacter pylori infection, the main cause of gastritis, gastric ulcer and gastric tumors (Boyanova et al, Diagn Microbiol Infect Dis, 2015). Not only that, honey, as seen in the previous paragraphs, is anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial, useful for fighting upper respiratory tract infections. But also green tea, thanks to its content in catechins, which are antioxidants, has been shown to prevent and counter flu (Rawangkan et al, Molecules, 2021). Green tea is infused when the water reaches 60-70 ° C. Therefore, once the infusion is ready, it is possible to add honey without fear of destroying its properties due to exposure to excessive heat (Tosi et al, LWT, 2004). The warning is to avoid drinking green tea with honey in the late afternoon and in the evening, as green tea contains caffeine that could disturb the night's rest. Alternatively, you can choose low-caffeinated green tea varieties, such as bancha or kukicha.
Honey and heart
Honey is also healthy for the heart. Studies have observed that moderate honey consumption reduces the risk of hypertension (Zhang et al, Clin Exp Hypertens, 2020).
How to taste honey
Honey, as we have seen, can be added to green tea or even to other herbal teas, with the foresight to wait a few minutes before mixing it into the drink, so as not to alter the health properties of honey due to the heat. Alternatively, you can spread a layer of honey on a slice of wholemeal black bread and enjoy it in the morning, so that you can immediately recharge your batteries. In any case, never overdo the amount of honey. In fact, if taken in moderation, honey even has antidiabetic properties but, if in excess, it can increase blood sugar, triglycerides and body weight (Akhbari et al, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med., 2021).