In an effort to shift the nutritional paradigm beyond calories, macronutrients, and micronutrients to food as information, rethinking “sugar” from whole foods such as fruit and honey may help to demonstrate the need for a more nuanced interpretation. Prized by modern hunter-gatherers such as the Hazda, raw honey has been consumed since prehistoric times and has been integrated into traditional cultures as a medicinal product, the collective knowledge of which is referred to as “apitherapy”.
Savoring this whole food nectar may be only one dimension of our complex relationship to bees. Tragically, the impact on bee colonies through decades of pesticide use (neonicotinamides), poor hive management practices, and electromagnetic field pollution is putting our very species at risk.
In a review entitled Neurological Effects of Honey: Current and Future Prospects, the sheer quantity and complexity of nutrigenomic information in raw honey is explored. Honey contains organic acids, all nine essential amino acids (and nonessentials except for glutamine and asparagine), 31 minerals, vitamins, and numerous polyphenols and flavinoids. The sugars include a dizzying list beyond glucose and fructose, including 5-10% of total carbohydrates consisting of oligosaccharides, microflora modulating prebiotics.
The polyphenol consituents of honey are suggested, by animal research, to have neuroprotective effects against free radical oxidation of delicate brain fats, misfolding of proteins, excitotoxicity, and inflammation. Additionally, nootropic or growth and plasticity effects may support early brain development and optimal gene expression.
A body of literature supports honey’s healing properties, and the relationship between the gut, brain, and inflammatory signaling suggests that this food may be an optimal choice for the sweet tooths among us.