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So what about honey?

by (6832) Updated September 27, 2013 at 10:13 PM Created March 05, 2010 at 5:06 PM

Forgive me if this has been asked somewhere here already, but what role does honey and hive products (bee pollen, royal jelly and propolis) play in the paleo diet? I have a few questions to ask about this elusive nectar. It is called the perfect food; lab tests have shown that animals can survive indefinitely on a diet of bee pollen and water alone, but how much of it did paleolithic man consume?

Would hives have been raided seasonally in paleolithic times, would every part of the hive have been consumed and how much honey would Grok have consumed on average, if at all? I assume honey bees are found pretty much all over the world, and in classical times honey was certainly viewed as food from the gods, (and a food which aids longevity) but is honey, just like sugar; sucrose and fructose, something to be avoided?

I would understand if honey was used for medicinal purposes only, I would imagine hives were few and far between and were highly prized, so does that mean we should be taking honey in order not to get sick or only when we are sick?

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1822 · March 06, 2010 at 11:23 AM

Whether honey was consumed in Paleolithic times is immaterial. Even it was, it wasn't a core staple, and it wasn't widely enough available to have had a substantial effect on the evolution of human metabolism.

What we know today is that it contains large amounts of fructose, and should therefore be consumed in moderation, if at all, due to the negative effects of fructose on the liver.

Personally, I do eat honey, but I treat it like fruit: very small amounts (organic only), and very infrequently.

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655 · March 05, 2010 at 5:43 PM

I concur with Dr. Kurt Harris' positions:

  • While honey may be paleo and butter neolithic, butter is far less harmful to most people than honey

  • Fructose is something to be minimized or eliminated, regardless of the source. I would particularly avoid sugars if I were sick, rather than seeking them out.

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4059 · June 23, 2010 at 12:46 PM

There's no doubt that hunter-gatherers ate honey, and probably have done so for a good part of our evolutionary history. So I think that quality honey is fine, when eaten in the frequencies and quantities that our ancestors ate it in.

They couldn't toddle down to the local Wal-Mart and buy a five-pound bucket of industrial honey produced by bees fed on HFCS. They had to locate a wild hive, smoke it out, risk getting stung repeatedly, and quickly gather small quantities of it while the bees were still stunned before fleeing enraged swarms of angry stinging insects.

So a small bit of organic free-range [insert usual Paleo buzzwords here] honey from time to time? Perfectly Paleo. Regular everyday use of quantities of typical storebought stuff, not so much.

The usual caveats about my falling solidly into the re-enactment camp apply.

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803 · October 14, 2010 at 6:31 PM

Having just tried (with apparent success) some small doses of honey to help tamp down a case of GERD, I kind of feel like defending the stuff.

Chris Masterjohn says his next blog post will concern honey and had this to say about it recently:

"I haven't read these studies in full yet, but this one found that HFCS is worse than sucrose, despite similar fructose content:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20219526

This one showed that honey providing the same amount of glucose and fructose as a purified diet using glucose and fructose purchased from Sigma had effects mostly similar to the starch control, whereas the refined glucose/fructose diet increased oxidative stress and caused increases in triglycerides, characteristic of "fructose":

http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/full/132/11/3379

This suggests that honey does not have the harmful effects of refined fructose. The first study indicates there might be something specifically harmful about HFCS, but sucrose itself is harmful. Thus, the goodness of honey is probably largely due to its minor protective constitutents and in small part due to the possibly harmful nature of chemically isolated fructose (usually produced by isomerization from glucose).

I would not go consuming most of my calories as honey without further research, but I would consider this grounds for using honey as a sweetener in place of refined sweeteners.

[...]

Soon, probably tomorrow, I will be posting about how HFCS is worse than sugar and how honey is just fine."

source: comments section of http://blog.cholesterol-and-health.com/2010/10/sugar-bitter-truth-must-see-lecture-by.html

UPDATE: Masterjohn's post on honey is now up (cholesterol-and-health.com/cholesterol-blog.html) and he warns against "pulling a paleo" by lumping honey in with the dangers of purified fructose.

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40 · March 12, 2012 at 5:49 PM

From what I've read on the internet, honey has been around for 40 million years--long before homo sapiens sapiens. There are cave paintings of man cultivating honey dating back 8,000 years, so I don't agree with the comment that it was never a staple of man's diet. Just look at nature. Bears LOVE honey (not just the bees and bee larvae). Although they have thick coats, they are vulnerable to getting stung on their lips, near their eyes, and on the tips of the ears; nevertheless, they keep at it because it's worth their while.

Bees have been around for millions of years before man demolished their habitat, so from what I can see, HONEY HAS VERY LIKELY BEEN A STAPLE OF MAN'S DIET FROM THE BEGINNING. That said, old bears with access to lots of honey have been known to develop tooth decay, but I don't know too many diabetic bears or bears that develop obesity and/or premature heart disease.

I'd say the rest of the crap we're doing to ourselves and our environment is what's killing us. Remove the toxins and other anti-nutrients, restore the proper ones, and honey shouldn't be a problem as a staple in our diet as long as it's consumed in moderation. In fact, I believe it is an underrated/valued food source for many of us. I won't sweeten anything with table sugar, organic or otherwise. I only use honey and occasionally maple syrup; just like a caveman should!

Ps...no, I do not sell honey in any way, shape or form, but I do think it should be a part of the paleo diet!!!

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40 · June 01, 2011 at 1:17 PM

Honey is marvelously healthy with loads of nutrients, minerals, and vitamins. But... in the end, it consists primarily of sugar (a bunch of different sugars), so you have to eat it in moderation.

So, eat it in moderation. It is also great for wound dressing (toss out that neosporin), lingering coughs (toss out that DM), etc. Effects your liver? Nope. Maybe if you consumed many many many many gallons of it.

The sugars in honey are different. For example, High Fructose Corn Syrup on the surface may have a similar fructose:glucose profile as honey, but... HFCS is toxic to honey bees if heated. Not so with honey. It's different.

Bee pollen: It is the perfect food -- for honey bees. It's probably a decent additive for humans, but... there is no real science supporting anything beyond that.

From the beginning of time, honey, brood, and pollen were prized and eaten in great quantities, but sporadically. Not "paleo" if you are being pedantic, but... it was eaten way back when, and by some populations, fairly regularly.

-todd

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1302 · March 06, 2010 at 2:38 AM

Fructose is much worse than glucose. Table sugar is 50% fructose/50% glucose. High fructose corn syrup is 45% - 55% fructose. Honey is about 70% fructose - one of the worst sweeteners.

In paleo times, honey was probably a very occasional treat, maybe a few times a year. It's supposed to be good to put on wounds and rashes, but I wouldn't eat it.

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2557 · June 23, 2010 at 4:07 AM

Why is honey being equated with high-fructose corn syrup? They are completely different things. HFCS is corn syrup, so it's a lot different than honey.

If you want extensive reading on why honey can be part of a healthy diet, read this.

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18909 · October 16, 2010 at 5:42 PM

Some people will go to a lot of trouble to get their hands on some honey...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zRngOJc62oY

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60 · October 16, 2010 at 1:58 PM

Honey is a no go for me and I won't expand on everyone's explination of why to avoid it however honey does have one redeeming factor ... small daily doeses (1tsp) of raw, unfiltered, organic, locally grown honey can really help with allergies. I can vouch for both myself and my wife on this. It's not an overnight thing but it will help build up the immune system by introducing small amounts of the local irritants that the body can handle.

That being said do I take it? No. I did for a while but my allergies have never been that bad and when I changed my diet they got even better.

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50 · March 31, 2010 at 2:31 PM

This is another honey related question, not an answer. Does anyone know about 'Manuka' honey? Apparently manuka honey with a high UMF is very good for when you are sick. It originates in New Zealand. Any thoughts?

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993 · September 27, 2013 at 10:13 PM

I imagine Grok probably didn't eat all that much honey. It was like a paleolithic Cinnabon. I have no idea of knowing, but maybe a 3-4 times a year tops. Although honey is accepted as paleo, only use the highest quality honey you can find (raw local wild honey is widely accepted as best), only now and then. As for taking it medicinally, a teaspoon-tablespoon should be enough (depending on what you're treating. For cuts and burns and beauty treatments applied topically, there's no worries, but if you're trying to treat your allergies, a teaspoon of raw local wild honey (which helps expose you and immunize you to local pollens) shouldn't be bad as long as you're exercising and avoiding other carbohydrates, and if you're treating cold symptoms with honey, don't sweat it, since hopefully you shouldn't be getting sick too much on paleo ;) but for cooking and baked goods, probably best as an occasional treat.

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0 · September 26, 2013 at 4:53 PM

I know this thread is old.. but I wanted to add a link about

http://www.adventureclassroom.org/cultures/bushmen.htm

"During the wet season when animals are not always available, the diet is composed mostly of honey, available fruit and tubers, and occasionally meat. Availability of meat increases in the dry season, when game is concentrated around water sources..."

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996 · March 05, 2010 at 5:30 PM

I am sure it was a risk vs reward proposition. Is it worth the stings to get the honey? The advantage of man is that he could have worked in a team
to devise a clever way to get the honey vs. a bear that would just absorb all the stings to get to the sweet treat.

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77348 · February 22, 2011 at 7:32 AM

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