Holistic Honey: Good for the Body & The Earth
Guest post by Chef Kathryn Rogers of Vivacious Dish
Populations of honeybees have declined in recent years, with scientists reporting that beekeepers lost 42 percent of their hives in 2014. Declining habitat, parasites, diseases and agricultural pesticides are suspected causes. Two studies released in 2012 pointed to a new class of systemic insecticides applied to seeds, called neonicotinoids (neonics), as possible contributors to pollinator decline. Specifically In honeybees, insecticides in the neonics category obstruct foragers’ ability to find their way back to their hives.
So what can we as consumers and growers do to help support honeybees to thrive? We can start on our own properties by planting pollinator-friendly plants and flowers, and making sure to avoid harmful insecticide applications in our gardens. On a larger scale, holistic farmers and ranchers are helping support healthy pollinator populations by reducing or eliminating chemical use, and in some instances, regenerating native flower and grasslands which in turn provide more habitat for pollinators to thrive. Lastly, we as individuals can choose to consume raw, local honey that comes from beekeepers working in tandem with holistic land managers, thereby supporting a system aligned for the health and wellbeing of humans and honeybees alike.
My Refined Sugar Story
Three years ago I broke up with refined sugar. We had been in a toxic relationship for many years, where every time I ate sweets I would wake up the next morning feeling sluggish and swollen. Overtime this affected my digestion and skin – my gut was working overtime trying to process the inflammation from too much refined sugar, and my hormones were imbalanced causing acne flare ups at many times throughout the month. With all the stress sugar was putting on my body, I developed candidiasis, a chronic overgrowth of pathogenic yeast in the body that loves feeding on sugar. My body was in bad shape.
On the advice of a holistic practitioner and given my family’s history of sensitivity to refined sugars (my Dad is a recovering sugar addict), I was inspired to break free from the addictive chains of refined sugar and adopt a more healing approach to indulgence. In January 2015 quit cold turkey, steering clear of all sweets for the the first three months while my body healed the candida infection. Six weeks in, my skin started clearing up and I could feel my body starting to become more balanced.
Turns out I’m not the only one who is negatively affected by refined sugar intake. In fact, research shows that sugar consumption is directly correlated with increases in inflammation markers, as well as a risk factor for heart disease, diabetes and hormonal imbalances. The risk factors far outweigh the taste.
Now, before you start to contemplate life without desserts, the good news is that there are whole food alternatives to refined sugars that boast health benefits, support the natural environment and also satisfy your occasional sweet tooth. Sugars from fruit like dates, as well as organic maple syrup and raw honey, are fantastic alternatives to toxic refined sugars because they are rich in nutrients and are natural foods, making them easier for your body to recognize versus highly processed (bleached, extracted) cane sugar, corn syrup, etc.
The icing on the honey-sweetened cake? You can make delicious and nourishing desserts with natural sugars just as easily as you can with refined sugars! See the recipe below for my signature Raw Key Lime “Cheese”cake made with locally sourced wildflower honey.
Health Benefits of Honey
For centuries, honey has been celebrated as a healing food, dating back to ancient Egypt where they gave the sweet nectar as an offering to their Gods and as a healing remedy. They must have been on to something:
- Honey is antimicrobial and antibacterial, making it a great food for combating infections both internally and topically. Manuka honey has been shown to be effective for treating staphylococcal infections on the skin. You can also use raw honey as a spot treatment for cuts and acne to reduce inflammation and kill bacteria (it’s one of my favorite face masks!), as well as a scalp treatment for dandruff caused by fungal infections.
- Rich in antioxidants, raw honey supports healthy brain function and hormone balance in women.
- Raw honey provides relief for cough and throat irritation, with research showing raw honey to be even more effective than some cold medications.
Even with all its health benefits, honey is not a low calorie food, so should be enjoyed in moderation, especially by people with diabetes.
Note: Infants younger than one year should not be given honey because on very rare occasions, raw honey can contain strains of botulism, which can be dangerous to a still developing immune system.
What do you need to know when choosing honey as a sweetener?
- Moderation is still a good idea here. Looking at glycemic index alone, a ranking scale from 0-100 of how much a food raises your blood sugar levels, raw honey has a range of 30-45, depending on its composition, while white sugar has a GI of 64.
- Raw honey is a better choice than pasteurized honey. Ayurveda suggests that heating honey above 108 degrees Fahrenheit causes its molecular structure to change and came cause ama (inflammation) in the body. Pasteurized honey that you buy at the store is also often mixed in part with corn syrup to cut down on costs. It’s best to know your source directly!
- Speaking of knowing your source, with the increased use of pesticides like glyphosate in recent years, there are growing concerns about chemical contamination of raw honey. The solution? Know your farmer and choose organic. Ideally, you want to buy honey from local beekeepers who are managing their bees near organic farms or wildlands. First, because it supports a healthier ecological system and second, because holistic growing practices free from toxic chemicals support healthier bee populations, which they then pass along to you through their nutrient dense honey. Check out your local farmers market for many delicious raw honey options (ranging from dark and rich avocado honey to light and sweet wildflower honey), and be sure to ask the farmers and beekeepers any questions you have about their sourcing and growing practices.
Now it’s time to put this knowledge into action with a nourishing and delicious dessert featuring raw honey!
Vegan Key Lime “Cheese”cake with Wildflower Honey Recipe
1 1/2 cups blanched organic almond flour
8 Medjool dates, pitted
2 tbsp coconut oil
2 cups cashews, soaked 4-8 hours and drained
1/2 cup raw wildflower honey
1/4 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup lime juice
1 tbsp fresh lime zest
1 tsp matcha powder (or spirulina) for color
2/3 cup coconut oil
Pinch sea salt
8 oz fermented coconut cream
1/4 cup sweet cashew cream (instructions below)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Combine crust ingredients in a food processor until crumbly and press evenly to cover the bottom of a parchment lined 9-inch springform round cake pan.
- Bake 8 minutes, then remove to rack to cool.
- In the meantime, put all filling ingredients in a high powered blender or food processer and blend until smooth.
- Pour filling over crust and tap tray on the counter to remove any air bubbles.
- Refrigerate for 4-6 hours until set.
- To make topping, blend ¼ cup soaked cashews, 1 Tbsp. coconut milk, 1 tsp. coconut oil and 1 tsp. raw honey until smooth. Then stir into 8 ounces of fermented coconut cream and refrigerate.
- To serve, top “cheese”cake with coconut cream, garnish with calendula flower petals (for extra uplift) and drizzle with honey-sweetened fresh passion fruit juice.
Kathryn Rogers is a Conscious Chef with more than 15 years’ experience creating colorful dishes from locally sourced ingredients. She believes that food has the power to change the world – both in our own bodies through nourishing, clean ingredients that fuel whole health and in our larger community by supporting sustainable and regenerative farmers committed to improving the environment and treating workers and livestock ethically and humanely. She splits her time between San Diego, CA and Carson City, NV, where she teaches cooking classes and offers catering and private chef services. Find her recipes for deliciously vibrant living at VivaciousDish.com.
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