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Honey for Your Sweet Tooth

Aug 17, 2007
Everyone likes a sweet treat now and then, but too much sugar can be a bad thing, particularly for your teeth. However, there is a natural alternative that might actually be good for your teeth: honey.

Thinking of honey as helpful for teeth may seem strange, especially since the bacteria in dental plaque, which cause tooth decay, need sugars to survive and multiply. But, according to researchers at the University of Waikato in New Zealand, honey may stop the growth of dental plaque bacteria and reduce the amount of acid that it produces. Since this acid is what causes cavities, honey may be able to combat tooth decay. So how does it work?

A potent antimicrobial agent

Honey is well-known for its antimicrobial qualities. In fact, it has been used in traditional medicine as a dressing for wounds, burns, and skin ulcers. The medical community is now rediscovering the therapeutic
value of honey.

Honey's antimicrobial power comes from an enzyme that produces hydrogen peroxide, a common antiseptic agent. Unlike most antiseptics that use hydrogen peroxide, however, honey is gentler on tissue and contains anti-inflammatory agents that reduce swelling and pain. It even helps cells repair themselves.

Of course, it's important to take things in moderation. While a little honey may be beneficial, too much may still cause damage to your teeth.

Types of honey

The color and taste of honey depends on what kind of nectar the bees used to make it. The lighter honeys have better aroma and taste, but the darker honeys have a greater nutritional value. The darker the honey, the more minerals it contains, including potassium, magnesium, phosphor, and iron.

The antimicrobial capabilities of the honey also depend on the what nectar it comes from. If you want to use honey for topical wounds, you can buy medicinal honey just for that purpose. You probably won't want to eat it, however. Specially made medicinal honey is not meant to be used as food.

Cooking with honey

Honey is sweeter than sugar, so you can use less honey in a recipe than you would sugar. Ideally, you should start with a recipe that calls for honey. However, you can substitute honey for sugar; use half the amount that is called for in the recipe. For example, if the recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar, use half a cup of honey.

You may also need to make a few other adjustments when you bake with honey:

. Reduce any liquid called for by 1/4 cup for each cup of honey used.
.Add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda for each cup of honey used.
. Reduce the oven temperature by 25F to prevent over-browning.

Storing honey

It's best to store honey at room temperature, in a pantry or out of direct sunlight on the kitchen counter. Refrigerating honey increases the crystallization process, in which honey becomes solid. If this happens, the honey is still usable. Simply place the jar in a warm water and stir until it liquefies again. Alternatively, place the honey jar in a microwave-safe dish, remove the lid, and microwave it slowly, stirring frequently, until the crystals dissolve. Be careful not to boil or scorch the honey.

Recipes

Honey-Orange Chicken

1 whole chicken with skin
1 orange, sliced in half
3/4 cup orange juice, fresh-squeezed if possible
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp paprika

Remove the giblets and stuff the orange halves into the cavity. Place the chicken in an oiled baking pan, preferably on a rack. Mix remaining ingredients and use a pastry brush to coat the chicken with the mixture. Bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour or until the chicken is cooked through (test with a meat thermometer).

Honey and Almond Cookies

1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1-1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup almonds

Cream the butter, sugar, honey, and egg. Add the vanilla and mix well. Mix the flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a separate bowl. Stir this mixture into the butter mixture and mix well. Stir in the almonds. Drop onto a greased cookie sheet by teaspoons. Cook in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

Honey Lemon Tea

1 cup tea
2 tsp honey
1 tsp fresh lemon juice

Make a cup of hot tea. If you're ill, you may want to use a good herbal tea. Stir in the honey and lemon juice until honey dissolves. This is a great way to soothe a sore throat.
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