January 8, 2009

You Ask, I Answer: Honey

I have heard claims that honey is an "immune enhancer" and was wondering what your thoughts are on that.

-- Dennise O'Grady
Bay Head, NJ

Those types of claims bother me because they are so vague.

What, exactly, does the term "immune enhancer" mean? For example, is a fruit drink chock full of sugar but fortified with a day's worth of Vitamin C more of an "immune enhancer" than a fruit containing a quarter of a day's worth of the vitamin?

It is true that, due to its antimicrobial and enzymatic properties, honey can be helpful when dealing with certain conditions, like sore throats.

Similarly, it can be useful -- albeit messy -- for treating external wounds like scrapes and burns.

However, extrapolating that information and claiming honey works wonders for the entire immune system is quite a stretch.

Besides, I take issue with attributing health properties to sweeteners because it encourages their abundant consumption.

I find it very irresponsible when self-proclaimed "nutrition experts" point out that honey contains vitamin C, and forget to mention that to get just three percent of the vitamin C daily value, you need to consume an entire cup of honey.

That's 1,031 calories!

That cup of honey also contains five percent of the daily value of zinc and a measly two percent of the daily magnesium requirement.

Ironically, these are two minerals that many honey-pushing "holistic experts" provide as "proof" that honey is "better" than sugar.

I can't bring myself to get excited over a food that barely delivers two percent of the daily value of most vitamins and minerals in a half cup (515 calories).

In my mind, honey is simply another sweetener. If you like it in your tea in place of sugar, there is no reason why you should stop consuming it.

If you are specifically looking to boost your immune system, though, I suggest you simply focus on the basics -- get enough sleep, be as physically active as you can, and limit nutritionally void junk food.


Kristin said...

I thought that the claims about honey being an "immune enhancer" were referring primarily to raw/unprocessed honey. Is there enough difference between processed and unprocessed honey to make a difference?

Corey said...

Although I must say, for a sweetener I am impressed with blackstrap molasses. A tablespoon for 42 calories, 20% calcium, 20% iron, and 20% potassium. That's quite a roll for something that tastes so good(although I appreciate that some do not care for its strong flavor-I like though)