Ah, Honey

On the last post, a commenter asked how non-artificial sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit sugars affect the body. After a little research I found that stevia seems to be just fine, because unlike artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, it has no effects on blood sugar levels. Monk fruit, the actual fruit appears to be nice, but the powder/liquid no cal form may be naughty.

Personally, I use honey. Real honey that is.

The stuff sold in supermarkets is often “doctored” with high fructose corn syrup or other sweeties and is pollen free … but does contain pesticides and heavy metals because a lot of it is imported from China via India as a middleman to get around the ban on Chinese honey. Although large honey producers who sell to supermarkets INSIST that it is still honey after the pollen has been filtered out, but it is hard as hell to get all the pollen out without heating the honey and adding diatomaceous earth so the “honey” isn’t the same honey it once was. In fact, the honey in stores have gotten to the point where “the FDA has proposed new guidelines for clarifying the meaning of “honey” in food labeling. Under the new guidelines, food companies and other producers adding sweeteners to honey must notify consumers that a product is a “blend.” For example, a product containing mostly honey with added high fructose corn syrup should be labeled “blend of honey and high fructose corn syrup.” Get thee to a farmers market for thy honey!

Real Honey, however, is  an excellent sweetener, because not only is if “sweeter” than table sugar gram per gram, it has health benefits wherein table sugar has only harmful effects on the body. This is in part due to the way the fructose & sucrose in honey is digested compared to the simple sucrose in sugar. Sugar hits the liver so hard because:

“Sucrose (table sugar) passes through the stomach without any digestion happening because of its disaccharide (a sugar composed of two monosaccharides) composition. This means that the enzymes in the stomach cannot break down the glucose-fructose structure of table sugar until it reaches the small intestine. Then the liver utilizes a few enzymes to convert the molecules into glucose that is able to enter the bloodstream for further use.”

In contrast, “about 25 different oligosaccharides have been detected in the composition of honey.  Oligosaccharides are carbohydrates which have 3-10 simple sugars linked together.” The stomach can get into the game because it isn’t confronted with only disaccharides. Therefore sugars don’t flood into your bloodstream and raise your glycemic index through the roof.

Honey was the main sweetener in the Tudor Ear, naturally. Beekeeping, however, wasn’t just done for the sticky gold the buzzing beauties made. Nope. Bees also made wax, which was invaluable for the candles it made as well as other helpful products. Tudor beekeeping was practically part and parcel with Tudor housekeeping.

Native British Dark Honey Bees were the swarmers best known to Tudors, although they are a sadly endangered species today.  

native dark honey bees

Bees were kept in conical baskets called “skelps”, which were often covered with cow pats or straw cones called  “hackles” to keep the bees safe and warm and honey-making happy.

BeeSkep4

The skelps were also kept in “bee boles”, little alcoves built into the sides of dwellings. Bee it ever so bumble there’s no place like comb?

Bee Bole

All this talk of honey and bees has reminded me that my tea is finished brewing. I’ll be adding a big ol’ dollop of golden goodness and some milk to the aforementioned hot beverage, which will give me a tasty treat whilst I read oodles of things about Cleopatra (who is one of the subjects of my next book). Hmmmm … that makes me wonder …

*pause*

Why YES! Cleopatra’s people would have known all about beekeeping as well. In fact, they may have started the practice. Cool.

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