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Smart Health: On the sweet side, local honey does have a lot of benefits, but there are some cautions

By Kristen Mees
St. Elizabeth Healthcare

Every spring and summer, you’ll likely see suggestions in the news to use local honey to boost immunity and decrease seasonal allergies. But is there any truth to it?

The sweet side of local honey

The short answer: local honey does have a lot of benefits.

“Some research has shown that local honey can be a good source of vitamins and minerals, amino acids and antioxidants,” says Betsy Oriolo, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at the St. Elizabeth Physicians Weight Management Center. “The jury is still out on if local honey helps prevent or ease seasonal allergies.”

Local honey can also be used in a variety of ways, including:

• Cough suppressant – it can soothe or coat your throat.
• Topically – it can be used to treat burns and wounds.
• Sweetener – honey can be used in place of sugar in baking, cooking or even as a syrup replacement. It can also sweeten plain yogurt.

The not-so-sweet side of local honey

Pasteurized honey, commonly found in grocery stores and typically less expensive, does not have the same nutritional benefits as local honey. Local honey is typically “raw,” meaning it is not pasteurized or processed. However, raw honey can potentially contain bee parts, mold spores or bacteria that can lead to food poisoning. Additionally, local honey could cause an allergic reaction with itching, hives or swelling to the skin, in the mouth and/or in the throat.

From a nutritional standpoint, raw local honey isn’t so sweet. It’s similar to table sugar – both have close to 15 grams of carbohydrate and 50-70 calories per tablespoon.

Raw honey does not expire – you can use it until it’s finished. There are no labeling standards for pure or raw honey, so Betsy suggests looking for bottles labeled “raw honey.” She also cautions to never give honey to an infant under 12 months of age due to the risk of botulism.

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