Well friends, we are on the last week of the Super Foods series! It’s been a good way to organize the ol’ blog for 15 weeks, but I’ll be glad to be finished at the same time. I have lots of other ideas to share with you! As with dinner and dessert, I’ve saved the best for last: cinnamon, raw honey, and dark chocolate. It’s always fun to have health benefits when you’re eating something delicious, don’t you think? I happen to LOVE all three of these items, so maybe I’m a little biased. Whether you’re a big user or not, you’ll want to squeeze more of these super condiments in your diet after you read how they can help your overall health.
What can Cinnamon do for my Health?
- Lowers LDL cholesterol; helps heart disease
- Regulates blood sugar*
- Treats tough yeast infections
- Improves digestion/colon health
- Reduces inflammation; treats severe arthritis when used regularly
- Aids digestion
- Treats common cold
- Cures headaches
- Scent helps memory and brain function (bring on the cinnamon potpourri!)
- Source of manganese, fiber, iron, and calcium.
- One caution: pregnant women shouldn’t have too much cinnamon. ?? I don’t know how much is too much, but don’t take it in capsule form for sure if you’re expecting.
*This is great news for my family, as my mother-in-law is a diabetic recovering from heart bypass surgery. We’ll try to use more cinnamon in carb-heavy foods especially, because it slows the rate at which the stomach empties after meals, reducing the rise in blood sugar after eating. Read more here if you’re interested.
Is Raw Honey Good for Me? What is Raw Honey?
Most supermarket honey is pasteurized (read: heated) in order to save us from bacteria. In the process, beneficial enzymes in honey are killed as well. If you can find a source of raw honey, especially if it’s local (within 100 miles), get some! Around here our health food store and farmer’s market are two great sources, and sometimes you can even find raw honey in a regular grocery store. All of the following benefits only apply to raw honey:
- Anti-Bacterial, Anti-Viral, Anti-Fungal
- Treats coughs/upper respiratory infections
- May promote better blood sugar control*
- Experimental evidence indicates that consumption of honey may improve blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity compared to other sweeteners.
- Improved HDL cholesterol
- Boosts immunity
- Some research shows that taking a Tbs of raw honey made within 100 miles of your home fights off seasonal allergies. The reason is something about the bees processing the same pollen that is making you sneeze, and you consuming the processed pollen…Sounds like a fun remedy to me! “Here, honey, take your spoonful of honey to fight allergies!” Better than a prescription med if it works.
*Another benefit near and dear to my heart. (Although other research says honey is just as bad as sugar for diabetics, and just as high on the glycemic index, so don’t go hog wild!) Here’s the “why”, from World’s Healthiest Foods: Experimental evidence indicates that consumption of honey may improve blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity compared to other sweeteners. Proper fueling of the liver is central to optimal glucose metabolism during sleep and exercise. Honey is the ideal liver fuel because it contains a nearly 1:1 ratio of fructose to glucose…
**I’m pleased to link into Food Roots at Nourishing Days this week, because I’m intrigued by the local-necessity of the raw honey for so many of these health benefits. Where does your food come from?
Using Honey as a Substitute for Sugar in Baking Recipes
You can substitute honey for sugar in most baking recipes, but be sure to take the following steps:
- Use 1/2 – 3/4 cup of honey for each cup of sugar in the recipe.
- Reduce the liquid by 1/4 cup for each cup of sugar replaced.
- Reduce cooking temp by 25 degrees (honey will make your baked good brown more easily).
- If the recipe doesn’t already include baking soda, add 1/4 tsp for each cup of sugar replaced.
See my granola and granola bars for two easy recipes to use honey right now. Sarah’s honey-sweetened preserves were my favorite new honey recipe this summer. This fall I’ll post a super pumpkin muffin recipe that I have adapted to use honey instead of sugar, too.
UPDATE: Cooking or baking with raw honey does kill the enzymes (poor little guys!), so if raw honey is more expensive for you, buy some supermarket stuff and use it accordingly. I have learned even more about honey since this post…here’s info on the nutrition of honey and some new honey recipes.
This may be a little off-the-grid for me, but there are some nifty natural remedies for a range of maladies including hair loss and the common cold using a honey and cinnamon combo here
Can Dark Chocolate Really Help my Health?
Dark chocolate has flavanoids (a.k.a. plant phenols) that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. There’s a bit of conflict on whether dark chocolate is “healthy” for you or not, but here’s my breakdown:
- Dark chocolate is always healthier than milk or white chocolate
- If you’re eating sweets anyway, try dark chocolate instead
- Higher cacao content = more health benefits and less junk
- Less processed = more health benefits
- The last two probably mean that more expensive chocolate is better for you than your standard Hershey’s dark or Dove dark chocolates…but those are still better than other candies.
- Some companies delete the flavanoids because they taste bitter. Unfortunately, there’s usually not a way to tell this by the packaging. If you get some bitter chocolate, just think, “Mmmm, flavanoids!”
- Remember that dark chocolate still has calories, so if you’re eating it as a “health food”, you have to reduce those calories in another unhealthy area of your day.
- Milk chocolate doesn’t count, and even drinking milk with your dark chocolate will reduce (negate?) its positive impact.
Dark chocolate has been shown to decrease blood pressure, reduce cancer and improve heart health. For a dessert, that ain’t half bad!
Here’s a list of ALL the Super Food Health Benefits, in case you missed some!
- Chicken Stock/Broth
- Cruciferous Vegetables
- Garlic and Onions
- Super Fruits
- Monounsaturated Fats: Avocado, Peanut Butter and Olive Oil
- Omega-3s: Salmon and Flax
- Oatmeal and Sunflower Seeds
- Orange Veggies: Carrots, Sweet Potatoes, Pumpkin
- Walnuts and Almonds
- Artichokes, Pomegranates, Green Tea, Cranberry Juice