HEALTHY FOODS — By Mini Padikkal — Honey is a commonly used item and pure honey is produced in Oman as well as most Arab countries. Honey is recognised for its nutritional as well as medicinal value and has been used since ancient times both as a food and medicine. The high quality natural honey can be distinguished by its fragrance and taste.
The benefits from honey are directly proportional to its quality. Honey is primarily composed of fructose, glucose and water. It also contains trace enzymes, minerals, vitamins, including niacin, riboflavin, panthothenic acid, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. Honey contains flavonoids and phenolic acids, and the darker the honey, the higher the level of antioxidants. Honey acts as a prebiotic and aids in the growth of friendly bifidobacteria, thus improving gut health.
All varieties of honey are rich in amino acids. One study has found that the level of amino acids present in honey is a reliable indicator of its antioxidant capacity. Amino acids are the basic building blocks of life, essential for our very existence. When you examine the various properties and benefits of each amino acid, you will start to form a clearer picture as to why honey is so beneficial.
Tryptophan: A natural relaxant, it helps alleviate insomnia by inducing normal sleep. It also reduces anxiety and depression, relieves migraine headaches, boosts immune system, reduces the risk of artery and heart spasms, and works with Lysine to reduce cholesterol levels.
Lysine: It is one of the essential amino acids — your body cannot generate its own Lysine, meaning you must get it from your diet. Lysine is important for the formation of collagen (the protein that forms the matrix of your bone, cartilage and connective tissue).
Methionine: Another essential amino acid. As with other essential amino acids, you do not create your own so you must ingest it for survival. It works as a sulfur donor to aid your body's detoxification processes.
Cysteine: This can function as an antioxidant and protects the body against radiation and pollution.
Histidine: Another essential amino acid which is delivered mostly through our diet. It has anti-inflammatory properties and is the only amino acid found to be consistently low in the blood of those with rheumatoid arthritis.
Glutamine: This essential amino acid plays a key role in the metabolism and the gastrointestinal tract. It is the primary energy source for the cells that line your intestines and is essential in keeping them healthy. It is also considered to be a brain food as it improves mental capacity. It may again help speed the healing of ulcers and reduce fatigue.
Tyrosine: Tyrosine is a natural mood enhancer because of its ability to convert to feel-good neurotransmitters or epinephrine and dopamine in the brain. It helps to combat depression and converts to thyroid hormone and to adrenaline which is produced by our adrenal gland in response to stress.
Honey contains antioxidants, powerful compounds which fight free radicals and reverse aging. Free radicals are everywhere — in the air we breathe, the food we eat, and even the sunlight. Every moment, the body absorbs oxygen and turns it into energy in a process called oxidation. This process also releases free radicals. Antioxidants slow down aging by neutralising these free radicals. They perform healing at the deepest cellular level, allowing honey health benefits to manifest in a myriad of ways.
• Honey is great for overall skin health and can even help reduce wrinkles and nourish the skin.
• Mix one teaspoon of honey with a hot glass of water, squeeze in about half a lemon to reduce stomach ache.
• To cure sore throat simply take about one teaspoon of honey and let it slowly trickle down your throat.
• Honey is also great for burns since it removes the pain and helps aid in the healing process. Honey not only prevents infections but actually accelerates skin healing.
Although generally safe for anyone, honey is not recommended for infants younger than 1 year. The risk of giving honey to children that age is deadly botulism, caused by clostridium bacteria in honey. Thus, honey is a magical liquid that has indefinite shelf-life and adapts to all cooking processes.
— The writer is a dietician at Atlas star Medical Centre, Al Khuwair, Muscat.