anti inflammatory

Honey Bee Good

The recorded use of honey in human civilization dates back to at least 700 B.C. Therefore, it is no surprise that over the centuries honey has been used for many different purposes. Personally, growing up I was administered gobs of honey whenever I felt sniffly or my throat was sore - my mom was on to something!  Other health benefits include: 

  • Boosts immunity by showing antimicrobial (anti-bacterial, fungi, viral, etc) and antiseptic properties, especially when used topically on burns, infected/ non-healing wounds and ulcers.  
  • Research in Israel shows decreased incidence of neutropenia (low white blood cell counts) in cancer patients. As honey is high in antioxidants, specifically phenolic compounds (ellagic acid), it has been linked to cancer prevention.
  • Anti-inflammatory properties decrease the risk for chronic diseases. 
  • Improve appetite-regulating hormones as well as glucose response (prolonged energy), as per small study. 
  • Aids in reduction of weight gain and adiposity (in rats), most likely because of controlled appetite and lower food intake  
  • Helps with upper respiratory infections and acts as a natural cough suppressant  
  • Helps with mouth sores, as per Traditional Chinese Medicine
  • Helps enhance the growth/ activity of good bacteria found in probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt, kefir, and fermented food, which aids digestion and increases immunity. 
  • Helps athletic performance by providing good muscle recuperation as it is a good source of carbohydrates (the best ergogenic source) 
  • Aids with the effects of seasonal allergies, specifically raw, local honey. This, unfortunately, is based more so on anecdotal stories rather than informed clinical research.  

Honey does more than provide personal health benefits. It is estimated that 1 of every 3 mouthfuls of food are dependent on pollination from a Western honeybee, which equates to ~35% of the calories we consume every year! Honeybees are responsible for the pollination of commercial crops worldwide (apples, oranges, onions, carrots, broccoli, sunflowers, strawberries, melons, avocados, peaches, cotton, soy, alfalfa). As Albert Einstein observed: “No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more man”- a harsh statement that speaks true to the current bee crisis. Beehives are dying off or disappearing. Some theories point to the overuse of pesticides in industrial farming, the varroa mite- a parasite that infected bees with a virus, and loss of local varieties or monoculture commodity crops that lack enough pollen to properly feed the bees, such as wheat and corn. The most affected places have reported losing up to 90% of their bee colonies! No wonder honey can be so expensive, and with reason!    

How To Pick Honey

As a rule of thumb, I recommend the darker honeys (buckwheat, sage, tupelo) because they are usually higher in antioxidant content. That said, darker honey has a stronger taste than the lighter colored varieties, so it also depends on your flavor preference. Honey flavor differs as a result of the flower varieties from which bees harvest the nectar i.e. clover, orange blossom, wildflower, eucalyptus - up to 300 different types!

Honey is available in raw or pasteurized form. When raw honey is removed from the hive and bottled, it contains supportive health benefits such as traces of yeast, pollen, phytonutrients, and healthy bacteria (specifically lactobacilli and bifidobacteria). Look for the label “100% pure.” Pasteurized honey has been heated and processed to remove impurities and kill any potentially harmful bacteria. 

CAUTION: Do not give honey to children under one year old. They may develop infant botulism due to the botulinum endospores found in honey. Their underdeveloped digestive system can’t destroy the spores yet. 

Nutrition Facts

One teaspoon of honey provides 20 to 22 calories, which is slightly more calories than sugar. It is also sweeter due to its high fructose content, so a small amount goes a long way. Even though honey is better for glucose control and is considered a natural sweetener, it is still an “added sugar” and therefore should be indulged in moderation. Some research has stated that fructose favors fat storage and therefore may contribute to obesity, hyperlipedemia, and insulin resistance; studies are inconclusive. 

“Bee” smart and enjoy this low-calorie honey citrus recipe from Environmental Nutrition. Thirty-five calories per tablespoon! Use to sweeten tea, yogurt, oatmeal, whole grain pancakes/ French toast, high fiber/ low sugar cereal, or just fruit! 

  •  ½ cup honey 
  •  ¼ cup fresh lemon juice 
  •  ¼ cup tamarind juice 

Directions: Combine all in a small cup. Blend well. Refrigerate in an air-tight container- preferably with a spout! 

Written and photographed by Alanna Cabrero, MS, RD  

Originally posted on NYHRC Tumblr 

The Real Scoop on Sugar. Today’s Dietitian, October 2012

Discovering A Honey of a Sweetener. Environmental Nutrition, December 2011.    

Honey. World’s Healthiest Foods.   

The Plight of the Honeybees. Time Magazine. Full article available here.

Edited by TCabrarr 

When In Doubt, Eat Mediterranean

Michael Pollan said: “Real food is things that your great-grandmother (or someone’s great-grandmother) would recognize.” I believe the Mediterranean diet has been shown time and time again to be a healthy, effective diet because, first and foremost, it’s based on fresh, whole ingredients. 

Among the many benefits of the Mediterranean diet, it has been considered the best anti-aging diet since some of the world’s oldest and healthiest people—mainly in Greece and other parts of the, ahem, Mediterranean—follow it. The diet is based on fatty fish, vegetables, ripe fruits, olive oil, nuts, seeds, unrefined grains, an occasional glass of red wine and minimal amounts of meat and full-fat dairy. 

Other benefits of this ageless diet are: 

  • Great for heart health! A large cohort study (PREDIMED trial) showed that adapting a Mediterranean diet*—specifically increasing extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) or mixed nuts intake—could be used as primary prevention for cardiovascular disease, showing as much as 30% of reduced incidence of major cardiovascular events among high-risk individuals. In addition, a small study showed a 9% decrease in “bad” LDL cholesterol, a risk factor for heart disease.
  • Reduces incidence of cancer, cancer mortality, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases
  • 19% less likely to develop thinking and memory problems and better retention of mental skills
  • Fewer hot flashes and night sweatsup to 20%!
  • Anti-inflammatory, due to its high amount of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and omega-3 fatty acids

*PREDIMED Trial: Generally, the Mediterranean diet groups consumed fatty fish 2-3 times per week, legumes 3 times per week, 4 tbsp. olive oil per day, 1 ounce of nuts each day, at least 3 servings of fruit and 2 of vegetables each day, and, for those accustomed to drinking, ~7 glasses of red wine per week.

Why does it work? The diet focuses on natural, unprocessed foods (vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans) that often maximize the health-promoting micronutrient and antioxidant content as well as fiber content. It is high in mono and polyunsaturated fats, which are found in olive oil/avocados/pine nuts and fish/nuts, respectively. Olives are also particularly rich in polyphenols, which are very strong antioxidants. In addition, it limits saturated fat, dietary cholesterol, and sodium, which have been shown to have an increased association with heart disease, cancer and stroke, among other chronic conditions. Usually, sweets are limited to fruits and/or honey, while processed snacks and empty calories are scarce—a great recipe for decreasing diabetes and metabolic syndrome! The lifestyle component or “non-food component” of the diet, as shown in the Mediterranean Food Pyramid, encourages pairing the diet with daily exercise, mindful eating and stress management. Enjoying meals with family is also considered to be an important aspect of the diet.

How to follow it? Generally speaking, the below is a good guideline to follow.

  • Include a vegetable and/or fruit at every meal. Aim for 5 to 9 cups of fruits and vegetables a day. Think about including deep, colorful choices.
  • Always choose whole grain! Some tasty options are buckwheat, bulgur, brown rice, oats, and millet.
  • Non-meat proteins are encouraged from a variety of legumes (beans, dried peas and lentils) and eggs (anywhere from 4 to 7 per week). 
  • Olive oil is the principal source of fat: approximately 1-2 tbsp. daily, in addition to nuts and seeds (about ¼ cup).
  • Fatty fish or poultry (free-range) should be consumed 2 times per week, 3-4 ounces per portion.
  • Limit red meat (ideally lean and grass-fed) to a few times per month.
  • Limit sweets to fresh fruit and a touch of honey.
  • Consume moderate amounts of cheese and yogurt, preferably low-fat/non-fat.
  • If you drink, drink wine in moderation (optional): about 1 glass for women and 1-2 glasses for men (5 oz. per glass).
  • Flavor with herbs and spices instead of salt.
  • Slow down. Sit down at a table to eat each meal/snack.
  • Be active! Even though going to the gym usually translates as a stronger, more powerful workout, it’s important to also remain active throughout the day by taking the stairs, walking during your lunch break, or standing instead of sitting while you type!

What do you like the most about the Mediterranean diet?

Written by Alanna Cabrero, MS, RD

Originally posted on NYHRC Tumblr 

Try Mediterranean Diet to Stay Healthy. Healthy Hand.  
Mediterranean diet is a healthy choice. Kenosha News.  
Making the Mediterranean diet work in the Midwest. StarTribune

Edited by TCabrarr

Photo of Tuna (Yellowfin, preferred) by Evan Goldenberg on Flickr.