I am not sure how the Paleolithics felt about it, but these days no meal is considered complete unless wrapped up with a dessert of some sort. True that the Paleo philosophy advocates only natural foods and stays away from all things refined and processed, but even nature has its variant sweeteners to satisfy the sweet tooth cravings that many of us experience. There is the array of rainbow colored hearty fruits which are sources of natural sugars and then there’s honey.
Raw honey in its most natural form is as close to a natural sweetener as it can get on the Paleo diet. Yes, it does provide substantial amounts of fructose and glucose, but then it also caters to many other compounds that contain small amounts of minerals, vitamins, enzymes, proteins and amino acids. The health benefits associated with this translucent golden hued extract are plentiful and many other sweeteners pale in comparison.
An occasional treat
While orthodox Paleo dieters will immediately shun any form of fructose in the diet, there are those who allow honey to be used in moderation. The point why the diet is named after our Paleolithic ancestors is to follow their way of eating since it is considered to be the correct and most beneficial way of doing so. Going back in time it has been seen that honey was hunted as far back as 10,000 years ago so it was something that was included in our ancestors’ diet. It was nature’s way of providing a sweet option and its use was regulated by availability of region.
Because gathering honey was limited to how much was accessible in a given location, it was not the primary ingredient in the ancestral diet. It was limited in consumption only by location, season as well as climate. Plus gathering honey involved a long process of searching for the hives, smoking out the bees and then collecting the golden nectar. It is no surprise that honey was simply an occasional treat that the Paleolithics indulged in and not something they consumed on a regular basis.
Look for darker varieties
Honey that was taken in by the hunter gatherer ancestor was not in the refined form that we mostly find today. Instead what the hunter-gatherer collected was raw, natural and totally organic honey. There are many varieties of honey which are available in the market but most have gone through an extensive refining process before being bottled up in jars or containers. The processed version available in the market has been stripped of most of its nutritional value. It is recommended that raw, local and organic honey should be included in the diet as this is closer to what the Paleolithics ate. Therefore, purchasing the darker varieties will promise a closeness to the real thing and offer greater health benefits as well.
Some versions of the Paleo diet allow the use of honey but all stress on its consumption in moderation. It is given preference as a natural sweetener over others like agave nectar, stevia or maple syrup. Raw honey definitely fares better when tested for causing smaller blood glucose spikes and regulating LDL and HDL levels. It is known to act as a natural preservative, can treat wounds effectively by speeding up the healing process as well as fight allergies and build immunity. It has both antibacterial and antioxidant properties and while all honey is not created equal; the darker varieties seem to offer more potential health benefits.
How much honey?
So how much honey should ideally be incorporated within the Paleo diet? Well that would depend on the dieter. If you are dieting with the goal of losing weight then you would fare well to stay away from honey and satisfy your sweet tooth with carbs from a selection of fruits instead. If on the other hand, you have decided to adopt the Paleo way of eating as a lifestyle change, then you will want to add in a sweet treat occasionally into your meal planning. Honey is definitely the preferred sweetener to add to your Paleo recipe of cookies, brownies or pies.
Remember that most of honey’s benefits are reaped in its raw, unfiltered state so when purchasing honey, opt for the local, raw version, most likely available at a farmer’s market rather than at a big grocery store.