by Christopher Cudworth
You can’t say the same thing about honey, because honey is largely a dietary choice, not an unavoidable consequence of eating the foods we buy at the supermarket. Many of these foods are literally stuffed with sugar. Of course the packaging doesn’t say things like, “STUFFED WITH SUGAR” because sugar is considered nothing of a negative. It makes us fat, lethargic and stupid in some cases.
But honey? It usually gets a mention as a positive. “CONTAINS REAL HONEY!” or “HONEY EAT THIS!” Oh wait, that’s what wives say to husbands about leftover meatloaf coated with ketchup that looks like dried blood on top. Then the wives go out with their girlfriends to share some Mommy Juice among friends.
Benefits of Honey to those who run, ride and swim
But we digress. We were talking about honey and its supposed benefits, Especially to Real Athletes like You and Me. We Run and We Ride, and we Swim sometimes too. So we’re always looking for ways to Eat Right, Gain More Energy and Build More Endurance.
So bees are our buddies. They buzz around all day with limitless energy, collecting nectar, and by accident–pollen from plants–and head back to the hive to make that magic stuff we like to call honey.
Some people like to claim that honey and bee pollen does all sorts of miraculous things for your body. But it’s not really bee pollen. It is actually flower pollen collected on the legs of bees as they go around collecting nectar. Then those little bee buggers add some spit to it and that makes it bee pollen. Bee nuggets. That’s more accurate.
Beekeepers actually collect bee pollen by placing signs at the openings of bee colonies that say “PLEASE DEPOSIT POLLEN HERE.” Okay, that’s not true. I made that up.
But this video shows how pollen traps actually work. Pretty ingenious. The bees seem to like going through those little holes. I think it gives them beegasms.
Even the cautiously medical folks at WebMD are forced to recognize the many claims about bee pollen, stating: “Bee pollen is also recommended by some herbalists to enhance athletic performance, reduce side effects of chemotherapy, and improve allergies and asthma.”
Good old WebMD. They lure you in with all those scary questions about what disease or condition you might have, then tell you as little as possible, except for the drugs ads that pay for the whole thing. And that’s our entire health care system in a nutshell. Or maybe it’s a beehive.
In any case, we’re still trying to figure out whether honey is any better for you than brown sugar or those oatmeal packets that look like Space Food from the 1960s.
Honey Fanatics and Egyptians
You need to visit the Honey Fanatic if you want to see what true honey devotees say about their favorite “natural” product. It all starts out like this: Honey is amazing and has remarkable powers. This golden liquid predates sugar by thousands of years. Not only does it taste good, but honey also offers incredible antiseptic, antioxidant and cleansing properties. The medicinal properties of honey are expansive – it is effective for burns, soothing pain, for digestion, for wound care, and the list goes on and on.”
Okay, half those claims are half true. From what I’ve read, honey does have some vitamins and some cleansing properties. It might in fact work very well in treating cycling road rash because honey possesses anti-bacterial qualities that make it ideal to treat open wounds. Even the Egyptians did this when they crashed off their Cervelos, or maybe it was their chariots. Same effect. Road rash hurts. It oozes. Needs a coating sometimes to help it scab over. Whereupon you pick at it and start all over again. That’s why those Egyptians make those funny arm movements in their hieroglyphics. Their fighting off the sting from road rash after falling off their chariots.
The bees know best
Here’s a description from WebMD on why and how honey gets its unique wound-treating properties.
“When bees collect nectar, they carry it back to the hive and regurgitate it into the cells of the honeycomb. Then, with they beat their wings and air dry the water content from the nectar. Enzymes in their saliva change the nectar’s sucrose into fructose and glucose, which then binds the remaining water, leaving a percentage between 17 or 18 percent. This process creates an inhospitable substrate where bacteria can’t survive. This mixture also is composed of hydrogen peroxide that’s made from the enzyme glucose oxidase. Hydrogen peroxide kills bacteria such as e.coli, the ulcer causing bacteria, heliobacter pylori and even staphyloccus. Not many antiseptics can make that same claim.”
Holy Pharoah’s Ghost! Who would have thought that bees knew how to kill bacteria?
The Honey Fanatic makes a nod to this too, stating: “Honey is also delicious and comes in so many different aromas and flavors. It is prized for its culinary contribution, and it is also quite nutritious.”
We all know people are always looking for a magic elixir to make them better athletes and replace sugar in their diets. But one beekeeper I met, who truly loved his product, took a more realistic stance: “As far as I’m concerned, honey is really just a form of glorified sugar.”
Probably the truth is somewhere in between. But I’m a Sugar Freak and eat a lot of honey. On cereal. In tea. On toast. So if you’re going to tell me it does me good, I’m all ears. To be sure, I do not have allergies, and have decent endurance, and honey might be partly responsible. That would bee good.
Recently my daughter received a huge jar or raw honey from her boyfriend’s family. “A jar like that lasts us a year,” they told her.
She laughed, because having a Sweet Tooth like me, she goes through honey too. “This will last us half a year at most,” she chuckled. “Seriously, we eat it on everything.”
“It tastes great!” she told him.
Of course all that honey talk got her thinking, about bees, and she watched documentaries until 4:00 in the morning about how bees are struggling to survive in the face of seemingly unseen pesticide poisoning. Colony Collapse Disorder is devastating commercial bee pollinators worldwide. No one wants to take the blame, especially companies like Monsanto that seem to want to control everything in nature and then take the blame for nothing. They always say things like “the science isn’t proven” when bees dies off or Monarch butterflies literally disappear from their normal lifecyles. But Monsanto marches on with its supposedly beneficial sciences without looking at the wake it leaves in our natural history. The company is natural like a tornado is natural. It wipes things out and leaves a wide swath.
That’s why honey in some ways tastes bittersweet to me these days. If bees are wiped out as a result of rampant pesticide use around the globe, who will pollinate our crops and plants? In China they actually had to hire (or require) human beings to hand-pollinate some valuable flowering trees. Is that where we’re headed? Are we human beings the worker bees when no bees are left to perform on natural terms? Our survival may some day depend on it. Then we’d have very little time to run and ride. We’d be out with tiny spoons pollinated April trees in April rather than running that half marathon or marathon we dreamed of going. Honey teaches us that perhaps we take too many things for granted.
Sometimes motivation for change and preservation comes from the pleasures we seek. There’s a moral to the story of how honey is made, how we eat it, and what it potentially does for our bodies, naturally.
Which means, if you’re really smart you’ll go make a peanut butter and honey sandwich on whole wheat bread. Then let it sit a while. Something in the chemistry of the peanut butter and the honey makes it crystallize in the bread. Then you get little sugary crunches in your bread. It’s like crack cocaine.
It all comes down to this. There’s nothing like a little honey to make life sweeter. Honey makes a prominent appearance 2:42 into this video from 9 1/2 weeks starring Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke. From the looks of things nowadays, Mickey should have eaten some of that honey for health reasons rather than squirting it all over naughty little Kim.
There’s a moral there. There really is.