Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Acacia Honey—The What?! Why?! Which?! and How?!—July 2018 Honey of the Month

Acacia honey is one of the most popular honey varieties. It is widely considered one of the best kinds of honey in the world, provided it is authentic….and is.highly sought after around the world.

Acacia honey is made from the nectar of Robinia pseudoacacia, what we here in America know as the black locust tree, or “false” Acacia…

This tree is not only native to North America, but is also found in Europe—from Northern Italy to the Ukraine, especially in Hungary—where the tree is known as the acacia, even though the honey does not actually come from true acacias.

As far as color, acacia honey is a very pale, light golden colored—much like liquid glass. Acacia honey is often jarred with the actual honeycomb visible in the jar beause the honey does have such clarity and a pale color.

As far as taste. acacia honey is one of the lightest tasting honeys in the world, having a clean, light and mildly sweet, floral taste with delicate vanilla tones and no aftertaste..

Why?!

Adding acacia honey to your diet can provide many health benefits, including…

  1. Dealing with diabetes…Acacia honey has a very low sucrose content and a high fructose level, making it the best choice for diabetics. In addition to being a good choice for diabetics, acacia honey is known for its therapeutic qualities, including…
  2. Helping boost the health of your skin…The rich supply of minerals found in every type of honey, including iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, and copper, as well as vitamin C and other antioxidants, can help reduce the appearance of wrinkles, soothe inflammation, and decrease the appearance of scars, blemishes, and burns when topically applied
  3. Helping you lose weight more quickly...Honey mixed with water or milk can help satisfy your sweet tooth and make you feel full. This will possibly keep you from munching out while vegging out in front of the TV and stimulate your metabolism.
  4. Lowering your blood sugar…Although most people worry about their blood sugar being too high, acacia honey can help lower the blood sugar. Also, hypoglycemia is a dangerous condition, and eating acacia honey can deliver a concentrated burst of carbohydrates to your system that will balance your blood sugar levels
  5. Helping you deal with allergies…Acacia honey, like almost all other honeys, is great for helping you deal with allergies and other respiratory problems because of the antibacterial properties, rich nutrients, and antioxidants that it contains.
  6. Preventing chronic diseases…Acacia honey contains antioxidants that are able to seek out free radicals throughout the body and reduce the negative impacts of oxidative stress…in turn, lowering cellular mutation and reducing your risk of chronic diseases—such as cancer, arthritis and heart disease.
  7. Supporting your immune system…Acacia honey naturally contains hydrogen peroxide, a powerful antibacterial agent that can help prevent infections throughout the body and relieve strain on your immune system.

Which?!

When buying acacia honey, or any other honey, make sure that you are buying a honey that is pure, organic, authentic, raw, unprocessed, unheated and unadulterated from a responsible source with a reputation for producing “clean” honey that hasn’t been processed, heated or pasteurized in any way.

There are many processed products claiming to be acacia honey. Avoid these. After all, our goal in this “What Now?!” segment of Muffins and Magnolias blog has been to start eliminating processed foods from our diets and replace these foods with healthier alternatives.

Obviously, the best place to buy your acacia honey is directly from a beekeeper, who sources the honey directly from the beehive.

But you can also find sources of acacia honey from sites such as Organic Acacia Honey.comOlive Nation, and Savannah Bee.

How?!

Acacia honey is an excellent choice for cooking because of its mild flavor and the fact that it mixes easily in liquids and batters. Other ideas for using acacia in your kitchen include…

1. Berries…Acacia honey is a fantastic topping and the perfect complement to the natural taste of any berry—such as blueberries, blackberries and strawberries…

2. Beverages…Acacia honey is a good choice for mixing with beverages—such as tea—because it sweetens your beverage, without actually changing the taste of the drink

3. Bread…Acacia honey and creamy butter makes an excellent topping for toast.

4. Cheese…Acacia honey is great when served with hard cheeses such as Grana Padano, an Italian cheese made from unpasteurised, semi-skimmed cow’s milk that has been aged for about two years.

The word “grana” means “grainy” in Italian.

This cheese is a “grana” cheese—a fragrant, dry, crumbling cheese with a firm, thick and deeply straw-coloured rind and intensely sweet flavor…very similar to Parmigiano Reggiano, but much less expensive because more areas actually produce this type of cheese. Grana Padano is also less crumbly, milder and less complex than Parmigiano Reggiano.

5. Wine…The best wines to pair with acacia honey are

  • Barolo…such as this Aldo Conterno Barolo Bussia 2013 Nebbiolo
  • Zinfandel…such as this Rombauer California Zinfandel 2016
  • Gavi…such as this Principessa Gavia Gavin 2016

6. Yogurt…Finally, acacia honey is great paired with Greek yogurt…in recipes such as the following Kiwi Smoothie.

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Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Monofloral Honey—The Which?!

 

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Oh my goodness!!! Before I started reading up on honey, I had no clue that there are SO, SO, SO many varieties…I thought honey was just something you picked up in a bear-shaped container found on the very top shelf at Walmart.

By the way, that top shelf at Walmart can be a very scary place for short people like me. One day I was on my tiptoes reaching up to get a can of canned salmon. That can fell on its edge into the top of my head. I got a concussion.

Anyway, back to the varieties of monofloral honey…

 

Monofloral honey, unlike multifloral or wildflower honey, must contain the nectar of one single predominant plant.

In theory, this sounds so easy…but in real life, this can be difficult to achieve because bees cannot be herded like cattle or trained like circus animals to go to a particular type of plant.

Producing relatively pure monofloral honey requires two things to happen—(1)the predominance of the target plant within a given radius from the hive…and (2)the timing of the introduction of the fresh hives when the target plants start producing nectar and the actual removal of the hives and extraction of the honey before any other plants within the area start blooming also.

Monofloral honey comes in hundreds, perhaps thousands of different varieties, each unique according the the specific flower that the nectar has been gathered from. Each variety of monofloral honey having its own unique characteristic flavor, texture, and aroma.

Anyway, I had originally planned on doing a quick synopsis of each type of honey and describing its unique flavor, texture, and aroma…a few recipes that can this particular type of honey can be used for…and a few of the best places to find this particular type of honey.

After discovering that at least 111 different varieties of monofloral honey exist, I’ve decided that this would be quite overwhelming, not to mention boring…

So instead—just like my posts on essential oils—I have decided to choose one particular honey each month to highlight.

The honey of the month for July is…

Acacia Honey

Join me on this journey…accomplished by a single step, or in this case, a single jar of honey.

Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Honey—The Why?!

Now for the most important question about monofloral honey—or at least to me and my family at this time as we rethink our diet and learn more about nutrition…

Do we add/keep monofloral honey on our Grocery IQ app or not?!

Just like I did in previous posts on why we should all be eating avocadoes and blackstrap molasses, let’s look at the nutritional benefits of honey in a way that corresponds to the nutrition labels.

  1. Serving Size…Honestly how much honey you eat at one time is totally up to you—how sticky do you want your toast to be—how sweet do you want your hot tea to be…but for our purpose, we’re gonna look at the nutritional value of 1Tbsp.
  2. Calories…Each tablespoon of honey contains about sixty-five calories.
  3. Basic Nutrients…Now as for those specific nutrients contained in monofloral honey—such as carbohydrates, fat, protein, cholesterol, sodium, and sugar—that all of us typically eat in adequate amounts….honey contains little fat (zero grams), dietary fiber (.2grams), or protein(.3grams).
  4. Vitamins and Minerals…Monofloral honey actually contains very few vitamins and minerals, but let’s take a look at how much honey does contain…
    • Folate (B9)…1%…2 μg
    • Iron…3%…0.42 mg
    • Calcium…1%…6 mg
    • Magnesium…1%…2 mg
    • Niacin (B3)…1%… 0.121 mg
    • Pantothenic acid (B5)…1%…0.068 mg
    • Phosphorus…1%…4 mg
    • Potassium…1%…52 mg
    • Riboflavin (B2)…3%…0.038 mg
    • Sodium…0%…4 mg
    • Vitamin B6…2%…0.024 mg
    • Vitamin C…1%…0.5 mg
    • Zinc…2%…0.22 mg

There are benefits of honey in general—such as being a natural antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic and antibiotic—but monofloral honey not only provide these benefits, but also many other benefits and unique properties that make them even more beneficial.

These benefits are related to the following conditions…

    1. Acid reflux…Monofloral honey can help reverse acid reflux damage.
    2. Infection…Monofloral honey often contain strong antibacterial elements—such as hydrogen peroxide and antioxidants.
    3. Cancer…Monofloral honey controls the side effects of radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
    4. Digestive conditions…Monofloral honeys are good for stomach health. They  have prebiotic benefits that help to improves digestive health, such as helping to soothe an upset stomach or constipation. These honeys can also encourage the stomach to regenerate itself, helping heal gastritis naturally.
    5. Fatigue…Monofloral honeys can give you more energy and help you combats fatigue and hypoglycemia.
    6. Immunity…Monofloral honeys, especially those produced from local sources, make your immune system more effective.
    7. Respiratory conditions…Monofloral honey helps you recover from respiratory infections more quickly, as well as helping you deal with seasonal allergies due to pollen.
    8. Skin conditions…Monofloral honeys are good for all skin types. They help prevent acne by reducing bacteria and the excess sebum that these bacteria feed on and by calming skin irritation. As far as dry skin, monofloral honey nourishes, hydrates, and restores radiance.
    9. Sleep…Monofloral honeys can help you fall asleep faster.
    10. Sore throat…Monofloral honey is good for sore throat and cough, common cold and tonsillitis.
Getting Healthy

Honey—The What?!

Honey is so familiar to almost all of us as Americans, that there’s really no reason to go into a in-depth explanation of what honey actually is…most of us already know that honey is primarily produced by bees gathering nectar from nearby flowers and storing it in wax structures called honeycombs.

And the 20,000 to 40,000 female worker bees and seasonally variable number of male drone bees available to “fertilize” new queens all work together with one goal in mind—to keep the one and only single female queen bee happy.

Kinda like the bride preparing for a wedding…right, Bridezilla?!

 

 

But a few interesting facts about honey that I recently learned include…

  • It typically requires drinking the nectar of over a thousand flowers over a timespan of more than an hour to gather the average of 3Tbsp that the bee gathers before returning to the hive.
  • The amount of nectar that he gathers is about half of the bee’s initial weight.
  • Once the forager bees return to the hive, they transfer nectar to the hive bees by regurgitating it. Then the hive bees “share” this nectar between themselves in a process that typically takes as long as twenty minutes.
  • There is a specific bird called a “honeyguide bird” that leads beekeepers to wild bee nests.
  • Beekeepers use the smoke that you typically imagine them using mainly to pacify the bees and make them think that there is an actual fire that requires them to attempt to save the hive and obscures the pheromones the bees use to communicate.

 

But even more interesting to me is the myriad of honey found on the market and knowing which one(s) to actually buy.

High-quality honey varies and can be distinguished by a number of factors—including absence of defects, clarity, color, natural sugar and microorganism content, water content, flavor, aroma, pH, additives used, strain of yeast used to process the honey, and consistency.

 

1. Quality...First of all there are differences in the quality of the honey available.

Although the USDA does actually require inspection and grading in actual honey manufacturing places to ensure that honey meets specific USDA standards. a grading system is accepted by these manufacturers to help consumers know the quality of the honey that they are purchasing.

The American scale for grading honey is basically as follows…

  • Good—”has a good, normal flavor and aroma for the predominant floral source or, when blended, a good flavor for the blend of floral sources and the honey is free from caramelized flavor or objectionable flavor caused by fermentation, smoke, chemicals, or other causes with the exception of the predominant floral source”
  • Practically free—”contains practically no defects that affect the appearance or edibility of the product”…Clear—”may contain air bubbles which do not materially affect the appearance of the product and may contain a trace of pollen grains or other finely divided particles of suspended material which do not affect the appearance of the product”…B…≥ 81.4%…
  • Reasonably good—”has a reasonably good, normal flavor and aroma for the predominant floral source or, when blended, a reasonably good flavor for the blend of floral sources and the honey is practically free from caramelized flavor and is free from objectionable flavor caused by fermentation, smoke, chemicals, or other causes with the exception of the predominant floral source”…
  • Reasonably free—”may contain defects which do not materially affect the appearance or edibility of the product”
  • Reasonably clear—”may contain air bubbles, pollen grains, or other finely divided particles of suspended material which do not materially affect the appearance of the product”…C…≥ 80.0%…
  • Fairly good—”has a fairly good, normal flavor and aroma for the predominant floral source or, when blended, a fairly good flavor for the blend of floral sources and the honey is reasonably free from caramelized flavor and is free from objectionable flavor caused by fermentation, smoke, chemicals, or other causes with the exception of the predominant floral source”…
  • Fairly free—”may contain defects which do not seriously affect the appearance or edibility of the product”…
  • Fairly clear—”may contain air bubbles, pollen grains, or other finely divided particles of suspended material which do not seriously affect the appearance of the product”
  • Substandard…Fails Grade C

 

2. Color…Next there are differences in the colors of various honey. The USDA has established a Pfund scale which set standards for grading honey based on its color and optical density…such as 0 for “water white” honey to more than 114 for “dark amber” honey.

 

3. Form…Next there are other forms of honey available, other than the typically expected liquid form of honey, based on how the honey has been processed. These include…

  • Chunk honey…widemouth containers consisting of one or more pieces of comb honey immersed in extracted liquid
  • Comb honey…honey that is still in the honeybees’ wax comb by cutting out chunks of honey from the wooded frames used in beekeeping.
  • Creamed honey, (also called whipped honey, spun honey, churned honey, honey fondant, and set honey)…honey that has been processed to control crystallization. Creamed honey contains a large number of small crystals, which prevent the formation of larger crystals that can occur in unprocessed honey and produces a honey with a smooth, spreadable consistency.
  • Crystallized honey, also called granulated honey or candied honey…honey that has had some of the glucose crystallized
  • Dried honey…honey that has had the moisture extracted from liquid honey to create completely solid, nonsticky granules….typically used in baked goods and for garnishing desserts.
  • Filtered honey…honey that has been filtered so that all or most of the fine particles, pollen grains, air bubbles, or other materials normally found in suspension, have been removed. Thi process typically involves heating the honey to 150–170 °F. Filtered honey is very clear and will not crystallize as quickly, making it preferred by the supermarket trade.
  • Pasteurized honey…honey that has been heated in a pasteurization process which requires temperatures of 161 °F or higher in order to destroy any yeast cells and liquefy any microcrystals.
  • Raw honey…honey that still remains as it was when first collected—without any other processing involved…Raw honey contains some pollen and may contain small particles of wax
  • Strained honey…honey that has been passed through a mesh material to remove particulate material—including pieces of wax, propolis, and other defects—without removing pollen, minerals, or enzymes
  • Ultrasonicated honey…honey that has been processed by ultrasonication, a nonthermal processing alternative that destroys most of the yeast cells originally found in the honey, reduces the rate of honey fermentation substantially, eliminates existing crystals, and inhibits further crystallization.

 

4. Source…But the main difference between the different types of honey available is the major plant source of nectar that the bees have used to make the honey.

Basically there are two types of honey based on source—

  • Polyfloral honey, also known as wildflower honey, is derived from the nectar of many types of flowers. The taste, aroma, and flavor may vary from year to year, depending on which flowers are most available for the bees to gather nectar from.
  • Monofloral honey, on the other hand, is made primarily from the nectar of one specific type of flower. These different honeys each have its own different, distinctive flavor and color because of differences between their principal nectar sources.

In the next post, we will look at the different monofloral honeys available and the uses and qualities of each…

Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

How to Find a Healthy Sugar Substitute

 

One of the best places to start swapping refined foods for more natural products is by swapping out refined sugars—such as white and brown sugars—and cutting back our sugar consumption to the ten  percent of our daily calories as suggested by the FDA’s daily recommended values.

Refined sugars can affect out health in many ways, including…

  • affecting pancreas and liver
  • causing allergies, both seasonal and food allergies
  • feeding fungus, bacteria, viruses, and other parasites that stress the whole body
  • radically lowering the body’s immune system

A new term that I have had to learn ever since my husband was diagnosed as having diabetes is “glycemic Index.” From what I have learned over the last few months since this diagnosis, the glycemic index shows how much glucose is released by a particular food over a two to three-hour period. The more quickly a food releases glucose  the higher that food is according to the glycemic index.

Foods that rank lower on the GI scale release glucose slower and more steadily, without causing a sudden spike of glucose in the blood, which in turn results is a large release of insulin, resulting in the excess glucose being stored as fat instead of causing us to have more energy….not to mention often resulting in a rapid drop in blood sugar and making us hungry.

So recently I have been trying to find the best natural sweeteners that I can use,  both for baking or cooking, as well as adding to my morning coffee.

I have been trying to find sugar that will be easier for to digest and process, and have the most health benefits….something to replace the “regular” sugar that I normally use…the sugar that  actually comes from genetically modified beets and GMO corn…which means they’re processed in and of themselves.

Some of the best natural and “healthier” sweeteners that I have found to be recommended include…

 

  • Acesulfame Potassium (Acesulfame-K or Ace-K)…
  • Agave
  • Apple Juice
  • Amazake
  • Aspartame
  • Barley Malt Syrup
  • Black Strap Molasses
  • Brown Rice Syrup
  • Coconut Palm Sugar
  • Date Sugar and Dried Dates
  • Equal
  • Evaporated Cane Juice
  • Fructose
  • Glucose
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Honey
  • Lactitol
  • Maltodextrin
  • Lactose
  • Maple Syrup
  • Maltose
  • Organic Sugar
  • Raw Sugar
  • Refined Table Sugar
  • Saccharin
  • Splenda
  • Stevia
  • Sucralose
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar Alcohols or Polyols—such as maltitol, maltitol syrup, sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol
  • Sugar Cane Juice
  • Sweet N’ Low
  • Turbinado

Join me in this next set of posts about some of these sugar options, and which ones we should keep on our grocery list and which ones we should completely cross off…and then wait for my Muffins and Magnolias Master Grocery List in the Making…

It will be sweet…

 

Getting Dressed

Vegan Face Mask Recipes

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Face masks are great for both winter weather—with its snow and hail, cold winds, and indoor heating systems—and summer weather—with the damage that may have been picked up from being out in the sun way too long.  They can also be great for many different skin issues, such as dry skin and acne breakouts.

Below is a collection of simple face mask recipes that contain ingredients that you possibly already have on hand.

 

1. Almond Oil1Tbsp lemon juice, 1Tbsp almond oil or coconut oil

 

2.  Avocado…1/2 of a mashed ripe avocado, 2Tbsp honey

  • Benefits..extremely hydrating
  • Best for…all skin types, especially dry skin

 

3. Banana…one mashed banana, 1Tbsp honey

  • Best for…dry skin

 

4.  Chai...1Tbsp honey, 1/2tsp cinnamon, 1/2tsp cinnamon nutmeg

  • Benefits…gently exfoliates skin
  • Best for...oily or normal skin

 

5.  Chamomile Tea…1C brewed chamomile tea1Tbsp manuka or raw honey, 1tsp nutritional yeast

6.  Cinnamon...2Tbsp warmed honey, 1tsp cinnamon, 1 wedge of fresh lemon

7.  Clay…bentonite or kaolin clay and enough water to make a paste

8.  Cocoa…1Tbsp cocoa powder, one mashed quarter of avocado, 1Tbsp hone

  • Benefits…pore-refining and a great antioxidant

 

9.  Coconut Oil...1Tbsp coconut oil, tea tree oil or lavender essential oil

  • Benefits…moisturizes, helps fight off any skin infections, helps to keep your skin clean and clear

 

10.  Cucumber...1/2 of a cucumber, 1Tbsp honey, 1tsp or more bentonite or kaolin clay as needed to create a paste

  • Best for…especially oily or acne prone skin

 

11.  Eggsan egg yolk, 1Tbsp of honey, 1Tbsp olive oil, 1/2C oatmeal

  • Benefits…egg white proteins tighten pores and zap acne-causing bacteria 
  • Best for…oily skin

 

12.  Honey...1tsp honey, 1Tbsp natural yogurt

  • Benefitshealing and antibacterial, makes a perfect base for acne-fighting masks.
  • Best for…acne-prone skin
  • Note…True vegans can either substitute a little bit of pureed banana for the honey, or simply omit it.

 

13.  Matcha...1tsp matcha, 1tsp chlorella, enough water or aloe water to create a paste

  • Benefits…”wakes up” the skin and gets your skin glowing

 

14.  Nutritional Yeast…1tsp nutritional yeast, 1Tbsp organic yogurt

  • Benefits…great acne fighter, rich in vitamin B
  • Best for…acne-prone skin

 

15.  Orange Juice…3Tbsp orange juice, 1/2C hone

  • Benefits…vitamin C, helps even out your skin tone

 

16.  Papaya…2Tbsp honey, 1/2C mashed ripe papaya

  • Best for…those who have hyper-pigmentation, sun spots, and uneven pigment

 

17.  Strawberries…3 strawberries, 1oz lemon juice, 8oz plain Greek yogurt, 1oz honey

  • Benefits…exfoliates and brightens the skin, refines pores, natural antioxidant
  • Best forall skin types

 

18. Tomato…Blend half of a ripe tomato into a puree with a fourth of a cucumber

  • Benefits…contains silica which helps firm up sagging skin, improves complexion, soothes skin irritations, reduces puffiness, and balances skin pH
  • Best for…those wanting an even complexion and soft, smooth, flawless skin

 

19.  Turmeric…2Tbsp flour, 1tsp turmeric, 8Tbsp milk or yogurt, a few drops of honey

  • Benefits...antioxidant that slows down skin cell damage, exfoliant that improves skin texture, diminishes wrinkles
  • Best for…acne, dry skin, psoriasis, eczema, and wrinkles

 

20.  Yogurt….…1tsp plain organic yogurt, 1tsp honey, 1/2 ripe avocado, 2tsp olive oil

  • Benefits….yogurt contains lactic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid that dissolves dead skin cells, helps create a natural glow, prevents breakouts, and instantly softens and smoothes skin
  • Best for…dry skin, acne-prone skin