If you’re about to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, then your fridge is no doubt loaded with honey, a symbolic food meant to evoke a “sweet new year.”
Beyond this symbol, there are many myths about the thick golden syrup, but what exactly is it that we’re eating? Is honey as healthy as we thought? And what’s the right age to start eating it?
How is honey made?
Bees collect nectar from flowers and produce honey from it. The product is made from a variety of plants, so there are many different types of honey, including wild-flower honey, which is most common, but there’s also eucalyptus honey, avocado honey, citrus honey and even almond tree honey.
Truth or Myth?
Honey is healthy
True. “Saying honey is a healthy food is not enough,” says Doctor Ester Yogev, a natural health expert. “Honey is the healthiest food in nature. Bees produce honey for feeding purposes and its product – propolis, long dubbed ‘nature’s antibiotics’ – is used to protect the queen bee from disease. Hence, honey is an antibacterial substance with many virtues, it has healing properties and antioxidants which strengthen the immune system. When directly applied to a wound, it can help cure and prevent infections. And all of this is before we even talk about the vital vitamins and minerals it gives the body when consumed.”
There’s a toxin in honey, so it is poisonous
Not really. Botulinum, a toxin used for paralyzing muscles when injecting Botox, which contributes to wrinkle-reduction, is in fact produced from honey. However, honey itself is far from being dangerous or toxic, as an unprocessed toxin doesn’t harm the body at all.
Honey should be treated like candy
False. While honey is sweet, unlike other “candy” it is recommended to consume at least one portion of honey a day, starting at the age of 18 months, and not just on Rosh Hashanah. Honey can be used as a spread, in cake or stew or served with fruit as a healthy dessert.
Children shouldn’t eat honey
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It depends on their age. “I wouldn’t be in a rush to give honey to babies and toddlers who are under 18 months of age; but kids in kindergarten and elementary school – absolutely. Why shouldn’t they enjoy a delicious, healthy food that isn’t as harmful as other sweets?” Doctor Yogev wonders.
Honey is full of sugar
False. “It is an assumption that is flawed,” Yogev claims decisively, “not only is honey not loaded with sugar, rather, despite its extreme sweetness, there is not as much sugar and no rise in blood sugar levels after consuming it.”
Silan is date-honey
False. According to Yogev, silan is date extract – and although very healthy and tasty, it is not honey. Silan is the result of processing and extracting the date and there are no bees involved in the process of making it.
When white foam appears on the honey, it means it went bad
False. “Honey never goes bad,” Yogev says. “Not only is that white foam not a deterrent, it is a positive indicator of the honey’s quality. Foam only crystalizes when pure honey rests for a while. If it appears – rest assure, it is pure and excellent.”
Darker honey isn’t as good as the lighter kind
False. Different types of honey have different colors and textures. Yogev: “Aark honey is usually eucalyptus honey. It is a very sweet, concentrated and strong-flavored honey. It is very healthy so there’s no need to worry about consuming it, though some people find its dominant flavor off-putting. Lighter honey can also be pure and not diluted; for instance, wild-flower honey is lighter and thinner. Same goes with the white foam, there’s no need to worry about differently-colored honeys.