The real reasons why we should eat more good honey

  • Is honey really ‘lethal’ to babies?
  • Good news for diabetics
  • Protect your brain from dementia with these vegetarian sources of omega 3 fatty acids


I like to think that each of my Good Life Letters can be put to use in some way or another.

Mind you, I think that about every bit of information I come across.

That’s why my office is piled with books, newspapers and reports… shelves groan with boxes of paper…
My wife hates my hoarding so much she wants to relocate my writing operation to a  shed at the bottom of the garden.

But I have to say, today’s is a REALLY important letter for you to read, especially if…

  • You’re a parent, grandparent or even GREAT grandparent worried by stories in the media that warn you should NEVER give honey to babies… (I’ll give you the controversial view of one of my favourite food writers).
  • You’re a diabetic and want to try out honey as an alternative medicine… (follow this strategy and you can’t go wrong)
  • You’re vegetarian and want to know to get the health benefits of omega 3s without eating fish or fish oils… (I’ve got some alternatives to help keep you mentally alert, fit and healthy)

Today I’m going to approach these worries with a bit of common sense.

Okay, so first up today… A food critic who knows the truth about honey.

She is called Bee Wilson and has authored several books about food, and in particular honey, her most popular was called Swindled: From Poison Sweets to Counterfeit Coffee – the Dark History of the Food Cheats and it revealed how profiteering corporations adulterate, mislabel, and fake the foods we eat.

So, I am sure you begin to see why I rate her so highly.

In her career she has been the food critic for the New Statesman, written prolifically for the Sunday Times, Guardian and Times Literary Supplement and is currently the Chair of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery.

What a woman!

This woman knows her honey. Like me she’s a bit of an evangelist about it.

Her first book was called The Hive: The Story of the Honey Bee and Us (John Murray, 2004.)

Strange that someone called Bee should write a book about bees. But then again, it also makes sense.

If I was called Woody, perhaps I would write a book about trees.

Anyway, back to the point…

What I like most about Bee is that she’s not afraid to go against the crowd and speak her mind.

For instance, when it comes to the question, ‘Can you give honey to babies?’ she’s a shining beacon of common sense.

Why Wilson believes honey is NOT baby poison

A few years back, officials from the European Commission officials issued formal warnings about feeding honey to children under 1 year old.

This was after they discovered that honey was ‘implicated’ in nearly 40 cases of infant botulism – a potentially lethal bacterial infection. Babies are vulnerable to this because they’ve not yet developed their own bacterial defences.

So here we have something that’s IMPLICATED, not proven. What’s more, these warnings were based on the fact that 40 cases have occurred throughout the last 25 years!

That’s less than 2 cases a year.

Wilson was so incensed by this that she wrote a piece in The Guardian. She said that these warnings about feeding honey to babies were ‘ludicrous’.

‘In the UK, there have only ever been six cases of infant botulism,’ she wrote. ‘None of which implicated British honey. In the most recent case, in 2001, contaminated formula milk was to blame.’

Even in the hugely, ridiculously unlikely event that a baby contracts botulism, it’s not the end of the world. Infant botulism isn’t anywhere near as severe as adult botulism.

What happens is that the baby becomes constipated and listless.

Wilson claims that when taken to the hospital, the baby’s chances of recovering are just under 99%.

Three examples from history

Throughout history babies have been fed honey, which were identified in her article.

  • In ancient Friesland in Germany they smeared honey on a child’s lips as a spiritual ritual.
  • In the 1930s doctors in Finland and the US published studies showing the benefits of honey to babies. Why? Because it’s more easily digested than refined sugar.
  • During the US Depression, public health officials would use honey to restore the health of undernourished infants.

Hopefully this will tip the balance back in favour of molten gold and kick some of the scaremongering stories into touch. At least for us Good Lifers.

There’s another common worry regarding honey.

And well worth addressing.

‘Can diabetics use honey as an alternative medicine?’

The short answer is, ‘Yes’.

Honey and fructose are both ‘nutritive’ sweeteners (as opposed to non-nutritive stuff like saccharin).

They have carbohydrates and calories in them.

So they CAN be eaten by people with diabetes.

But be aware that they CAN also raise your sugar levels.

Diabetics react differently depending upon the extent of the condition and the state of your general health, so the only way to find out is to experiment safely. Here’s the safety strategy you need to follow.

  • IMPORTANT! Talk to your doctor first before you begin to include honey into your diet.
  • Next, start with very small amounts. Again, check with a doctor. Observe what happens after you eat the honey. Keep a food diary to track any changes that may occur.
  • Test your blood sugar levels before you eat and two hours after you eat. You  should quickly learn how well your body copes with honey.

Another benefit for diabetics

Interestingly, I read a story on New about a diabetic who suffered leg sores and infection after an accident.

When 8 months of conventional antibiotic treatment failed, she used honey as a topical medicine. Within a few months the sores had healed completely.

Persistent sores and ulcers are a common problem for diabetics. So honey could be a powerful alternative medicine for sufferers.

And finally today…

Three alternatives to fish oils

A few weeks ago I wrote about the benefits of fish oils as protection against dementia and other age- related diseases.

A few vegetarians have asked me about alternatives to fish oil that also provide doses of omega 3 fatty acids.

Here are 3 I’ve found for you:

  • Eat plenty of nuts. Walnuts are especially high omega 3 fatty acids.
  • Green leafy vegetables also contain essential fatty acids. Include green veg with a meal every day, and make sure it’s lightly steamed and not boiled to death.
  • Linseed (or flaxseed) and rapeseed oil (canola) are another good source.

Of course these are also good alternatives if you don’t like fish, have allergies to them or simply don’t like the idea of taking them.