Is Honey A Good Sugar Substitute?

Hi friends, happy Friday!

How are you all?

Last to last post was about jaggery vs sugar (read here if you missed the post) and we saw that in terms of calories and sugar content, there isn’t much difference. For a non-diabetic healthy person, switching over to jaggery from white refined sugar might be okay but for rest, jaggery is and should be treated as a sugar only, especially if you are watching your weight or sugar level spikes.

Oh and make sure to find good, unprocessed jaggery to get real benefits out of it! Adulterated jaggery, highly bleached and full of toxic chemicals – from certain parts of India is a big news these days. The worst part of this adulteration it is that we consume something thinking it is beneficial for us when it is actually doing more harm than good.

Anyways, let’s evaluate another sugar substitute today. Now that we know where jaggery and sugar stand, the next question is “and what about honey”?

First, What Is Honey

Honey is made by honeybees from the nectar of flowers. Sweet and syrupy, it ranges from golden colour to a much darker shade of yellowish-brown.

Today, the market is full of all kinds of honey. The difference could lie in the plant-source, the way it is extracted or even in how it is processed. It could be raw, it could be pasteurized. Our choices are vast – from wild honey to acacia honey to clover honey to even neem honey! Not to mention blended honey, now.

Nutrition & Calories

Let me share a personal experience with you. There was a time long back when I decided to try warm honey-lemon water first thing in morning – for weight loss. Well, that was the prevalent wisdom then and a very famous brand was actively promoting its honey for the same purpose.

Did it work for me? A big NO! That got me thinking how it could even? If you are trying to lose weight, the first general step is to reduce sugar intake. Was honey-lemon water in morning helping with it? No. It just added to my sugar intake and the logic was so simple to me that I refused to listen to all the “weight-loss wisdom” after that till it fitted my basic, simple logics of nutrition and calories.

I never got to examine the detox part of it as I stopped consuming it altogether after that whole weight-loss debacle.

Before we come to the nutrition part, let’s clear the calories part. Did you know, honey has more calories than white sugar? Oh yes, 1 tbsp of honey contains 64 calories versus 1 tbsp of sugar with 46 calories. This means swapping sugar for jaggery or honey would not be a safe bet for weight-watchers!

It also means that for diabetics, honey isn’t a good alternative to sugar, just like jaggery. Though it has a relatively less glycemic index (61 against 65 of sugar) but it still causes sugar spikes and still adds up on calories for weight-watchers.

Much sweeter than sugar, honey is about 35% glucose, 40% fructose, 9% sucrose and rest other simple carbohydrates. Though this could also mean that you use it in lesser quantities!

Having said that, a dash of honey in your herbal tea is fine if it increases the flavour or makes it slightly less bitter. At least you know/understand why you are having it and what exactly would it be doing!

Honey does contain several micronutrients like iron, zinc and potassium but in minute quantities. However, high-quality honey:

  • is rich in flavonoids and other antioxidants (such as phenolic acids)
  • helps in wound-healing and anti-inflammatory purposes
  • can also help with heart health and other chronic diseases

Doctors strongly advise against giving a baby of less than 1 year any sort of honey as it contains pollen spores and might result in botulism, a kind of serious toxicity caused by bacteria Clostridium botulinum.

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Which Honey Is The Best?

That’s an important question!  Choose raw, unprocessed, unpasteurized honey always. Preferably an organic one and definitely without any added sugars or chemicals/preservatives!

The Bottomline

For normal healthy people, swapping sugar with high-quality honey might make sense. Even then, consume only high-quality honey and in moderation.  If it fits into your daily healthy diet, no harm taking it and it would be best to consume it with other nutritious foods.

If you are a weight-watcher/diabetic and your doctor/nutritionist allowed you some honey, make sure it’s high-quality and you add it with some other foods with fibre/protein/fat etc so that the sugar-spikes are regulated.

That is all for today, friends. Hope you found the post useful 🙂

Till next Friday!

Love, Health & Peace

Hybrid vs GMO Produce

Hi Friends, how are you all? How was the week that went by?

On my Instagram story yesterday, I posted about my current fruit-addiction ‘Thai Guava’. Well, it’s a fruit that I got introduced to very recently. It is a guava grown throughout Southeast Asia but now, produced locally even in Maharashtra.

I generally prefer local, seasonal fresh produce as that tends to be less in wax and other preservatives and is…well, fresher. When I tried Thai guava, I was apprehensive initially as I though it’s an import. Later, when I researched more, I came to know that it’s produced locally. Thank God because I love them!

I also prefer my food to be non-GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms). And food/produce which is made to look better and made to last more on our plates/shelves, doesn’t appeal to me…despite the enhanced beauty.

And apparently there are more like me because on my Instagram story, I got a few queries if Thai guava was a non-GMO. And that is how this post came into being.

The truth is that a lot of fruits and vegetables that we eat are not nature-made. In fact, most of what we eat today is man-made. Oh yes, the orange carrots we love to munch on, were purple in the beginning. The kale and broccoli…the cauliflower…the Honeycrunch apples….all man-made. You won’t be able to eat most of the original versions!

So what exactly is a hybrid and what is a GMO produce?

Hybrid

A hybrid produce is man-made for sure, created either on a farm/plantation or in a lab…by cross-breeding two different but compatible fruits or vegetables. This creates a new variety which could be very different from the parents or just a better version, more suitable for human palette.

Many a times this happens naturally (evolved over a period of time) and sometimes its man-induced. Grapefruits for example is a cross between pomelo and sweet orange. It was a done on a plantation way back in 18th century.

And the banana that is equally loved today all over the world by all the classes…is a hybrid and I bet, you won’t like the original banana at all! A hybrid of two wild species, both unpalatable…our nutritious and humble banana as we know it today, was a natural accident, capitalized upon by human agriculturists however it hasn’t changed genetically.

In case of bananas in India, the popular varieties or ‘cultivars’ are Robusta, Monthan, Poovan, Dwarf Cavendish, Nendran, Red banana, Basrai, Ardhapuri, Nyali, Safed Velchi Rasthali, Karpurvalli, Chinia and many others.

Hybrid fruits/veggies need a lot of care as they are sensitive to their environment. They also don’t reproduce easily on their own and might not stay true to their parents if reproduce at all. They might eventually stabilize and survive on their own.

The hybrids are particularly profitable to the farmers/producers as it produces a consistent, higher yield and is predictable in terms of quality. They are maximized for human-desired traits. This could also make bigger-sized fruits/vegetables with a better taste.

GMO

As per WHO, foods produced using GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) are called GM (Genetically Modified) foods.

This genetical engineering (genetic cloning, protein engineering and kinds) can be done through bacteria, viruses or other plants/animals. It is mostly done to ensure some sort of resistance or tolerance in the produce e.g. a resistance for pesticides that is used to kill the pesty weeds or making the crop resistant to insects. The saved harvest can be high on that pesticide or other ‘un-studied on humans’ chemicals…and this is why GMO is a controversial topic since ever.

For example, GMO corn has a pesticide Bt engineered into its genetic code and this insertion makes it resistant to the pests. Overuse of such corn with a pesticide built into its genes, over a period of time really raises a red flag! However, don’t worry, thatb corn is industrial and the whole sweet corn (including canned/frozen versions) that we eat is most likely not genetically modified. Almost all GM-corn is used as fuel (I am also not sure if ethanol really is environment-friendly to be honest but that’s for another day), livestock feed and processed foods.

Am waiting for the day when it would become compulsory for the producers to label the produce as GMO or otherwise. We deserve to know and make our informed choices on our own, don’t you think?

In The End

Not saying GMO is all bad. There is a reason why such a concept was even introduced and the resultant high-yield, disease free species help in maintaining food supplies all over the world. They are approved by top authorities as safe for human consumption before they reach us. So make sure, they are approved by authorities such as FDA, FSSAI etc

In the end, a few key-points are worth remembering:

  • Hybrids are not genetically modified. They are guided/traditional/controlled cross-pollination in fact
  • Hybrids can be both natural or man-made…in plantations or in labs
  • Hybrids do not have an altered DNA
  • Organic foods are only labeled organic if they do not in any way, use GM products so make sure you know how to identify truly organic products/produce
  • Read your labels carefully as almost 50% of imported packaged food today have either wheat or corn in them, one way or other and…are also found to be GM positive
  • India allows import of GM soyabean and canola oil however the only GM crop approved for cultivation in India is Bt Cotton (because of many crop failures in past in the cotton belt area, I believe)
  • Cultivation of unapproved GM crops in India, is a punishable offence. Yey!

We are lucky that India still manufactures most of its produce non-GMO and many attempts to introduce them to Indian consumers in past, have been not allowed yet e.g. BT brinjal, Protato (protein rich potato) and GM mustard etc

However, let’s stay aware of what we consume and make a habit of reading the labels well. Till the time we have a definite answer to the question whether GM produce/crops are safe or not, better stay wary…and aware.

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Till next Friday

Love, Health & Peace