Honey: Health Benefits vs Negative Impact on Our Eco-System

Honey: Health Benefits vs Negative Impact on Our Eco-System

I absolutely love honey, it’s something I’ve always considered “natural” and healthy (if consumed with moderation, of course… like most things). Many years ago, I met a vegan guy who told me that honey was a no-go in their diet. I thought it made no sense… Bees produce honey anyway, right? It’s a very natural thing for them to do, so we might as well include it in our diet. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to explain to me the reasons why they didn’t consider it ethical. It’s only now that I’m wondering how I have stayed in the dark for so long. Information is key, so I finally tried to find out more on the matter. What are the health benefits and what impact does it have on the planet? Does it compensate? Shouldn’t we care?

Honey has health benefits

On top of its appealing golden texture and delicious taste, honey is good for many things. You would have to get a high-quality one to get the most of it though, as in not mixed with syrup – just be careful and read the label properly before buying it. Honey is rich in antioxidants and is a great alternative to sugar, or is “less bad” for diabetics. It can help reducing the risk of heart disease by lowering blood pressure but also help to lower cholesterol. Honey can help with your throat when you catch a cold too (in your tea, as a form of a sweet you can find in the pharmacy, etc).

Note that the health benefits of honey are counterbalanced by the fact it’s very high in calories and sugar, so moderation is always key! Otherwise, it is known that honey is a good antibacterial and can treat burns, wounds and other conditions when applied directly to the skin.

Why honey is not vegan

People would often assume honey is vegan-friendly, but it’s not. I used to think it was purely because this product came from bees (insects do matter too, you know) and in my opinion, it was pushing the will to “defend nature” a bit too far and at the time I simply discarded the idea, shrugging my shoulders at it. I was convinced bees would produce honey for us anyway so what was the issue?

Today, I know that was a common misconception that couldn’t be further away from the truth… Honey is something bees produce for themselves as a source of energy to survive during winter months, not for humans. But as the health benefits of honey are becoming common knowledge, the whole industry needs to meet increasing demands. It means that beekeepers, like any other businesses, will aim to increase their revenue and decrease their costs to maximise profit. How do they do that?

  • They specifically breed honey bees to increase productivity. This selective breeding narrows the population gene pool and increases susceptibility to disease. So, if you thought honey production was good for the environment, the diseases spread to the thousands of other pollinators we rely on would show otherwise.
  • When they remove honey from a hive, they replace it with a sugar substitute for the bees, who don’t even get the essential micro-nutrients of honey they produce for their survival.
  • They clip the wings of the Queen bees so they can’t leave the hive and produce a new colony elsewhere, as it would reduce their profit.
  • Post-harvest, it’s common to cull the hives to keep the costs down.

We’re basically using bees as our slaves to produce food that is not even meant for us. We’re disrupting our eco-system by artificially increasing production so we can steal away something that is not ours (and not even in a nice way). Veganism doesn’t just seek to exclude cruelty but also exploitation. Good news is there are several good alternatives to honey that are plant-based: date syrup, maple syrup, agave syrup, golden syrup, butterscotch syrup, etc.

Why bees are so important

We actually owe many thanks to these hard-working and under-appreciated insects! Some plants can rely only on the wind to pollinate but the big majority of them have to rely on animal pollinators such as bees, but also bats, moths, butterflies, hummingbirds, ants, and beetles. They need their help to produce fruits and seeds. If bees were to disappear, our food options would look much different. Do you want to know what would be missing? Foods that rely on bees include: apples, avocados, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, green onions, honeydew, kale, leeks, lemons, limes, mangos, onions, watermelons and zucchini (just to name a few!). At least a third of our food supply would no longer be available… In short, bees are easily amongst the most important insects to humans on Earth, and if they’re in danger, we have a big problem.

Further reading & Useful resources

So… Should we eat honey?

Whether you’ve decided to go vegan or not, honey stays a debatable topic that raises ethical questions. On my end, I’ve decided to finish the big pot of honey left in my cupboard and then replace it with maple syrup in the future. The rule is quite simple for me: if it’s an easy swap, then it’s definitely worth doing. What matters the most is to ask yourself the right questions, so you can be in a position to say that you know exactly WHY you’re choosing to consume this product – or not. Just remember that everything you buy is a vote for the industry which made it.

Would you replace honey with a vegan alternative?

Big Girl x

Various Health Benefits of Matcha Tea, a Powerful Ingredient

Japanese matcha tea

I don’t remember how I discovered matcha but I’ve been a huge fan since. Matcha latte, matcha tea, matcha pastries, give me matcha in any way, I just love the earthy taste of it. Talking about the many benefits of matcha will give me the opportunity to talk about Japan indirectly, as this is where it comes from. With my Japanese roots (thanks mum!), I went to a tea ceremony in Japan when I was a kid and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was matcha… but at the time I probably didn’t like it. Japanese have been making and drinking matcha for centuries. I’m not saying it’s thanks to this ingredient alone but they have the highest “healthy life expectancy” in the world. They must be doing something right!

Various health benefits

There are tons of health benefits associated to matcha. What I like about it is the fact that you consume the entire leaf, unlike traditional green tea when you discard the leaves afterwards. The plant is ground down into a very fine powder, which is mixed in hot water (you need a bamboo whisk to dissolve it properly) before consumption. Because it contains the nutrients from the entire tea leaf, it results in a greater amount of caffeine and antioxidants than typically found in green tea. I would say it’s an acquired taste though, it’s probably a good idea to try it with some sort of sweetener first, until you get used to it. Here’s a few things about matcha:

  • It contains a concentrated amount of antioxidants (good to help prevent cell damage and even lower your risk of several chronic diseases), so including it in your diet is a quick and easy way to increase your antioxidant intake!
  • It contains 70 mg of caffeine per cup (1 teaspoon of powder), which is higher than a can of Coke (and much healthier). Caffeine can boost brain functions with faster reaction times, increased attention, and enhanced memory.
  • It helps speeding up metabolism to increase energy expenditure and boosts fat burning.

And that’s not it! See below all benefits explained by Full Leaf Tea:

health benefits of matcha tea

A must-have in your kitchen

I personally like matcha products from PureChimp, delivery is free if you are in the UK but they do deliver worldwide. I also like the fact that they are part of 1% for the Planet and give 5% of their profits to charities. They only use natural ingredients and they’re environmentally friendly with their packaging. I love it when a company wants to give people the best quality and wants to do good for the planet at the same time. Matcha is a great ingredient you should have in your kitchen anyway, I have tons of ideas how to use it! I like to add it as a flavour in my protein shake for example. But you could also use it as an ingredient for:

  • a hot drink (latte…),
  • a cold drink (frappuccino, iced tea…),
  • baking (cakes, tarts, pancakes, cookies, muffins, brownies… possibilities are endless),
  • dessert cream,
  • a smoothie (with fruits like bananas, kiwis, strawberries… anything you fancy),
  • ice cream (probably my favourite),
  • chocolate (yummy),
  • skin care (it has anti-inflammatory benefits, especially good for sensitive skin),
  • …do I carry on?

Matcha tea has become a trend recently and you can find it easily pretty much anywhere. You just have to watch the quality depending on how you intend to use it (by itself or as an ingredient). Any other matcha lovers among you? As it’s Christmas soon, a matcha gift box could be a good idea for tea or even coffee lovers around you!

Big Girl x

Why I Decided to Adopt Intermittent Fasting

intermittent fasting

When it comes to weight loss, it’s important to choose the right diet for you. I mean “diet” in a broad way, the kind of eating habits that will not frustrate you or make you feel miserable. You get it, the best way to succeed and reach your goals resides in the “how” you’re doing it.

Intermittent fasting doesn’t focus so much on what you eat but more on when you eat and how your insulin levels respond to the voluntary abstinence of food. It doesn’t mean you can binge-eat during your feeding window though. I still stay on top of my calorie budget because it’s an easy way for me to control my intake, until I’m able to listen to what my body needs without checking calories. I’m on my fourth week and the adaptation period is roughly 4 weeks so I’m already nearly there. I haven’t found it hard at all so far, but I’m staying home without any obligations to go out so that probably helps a lot (thanks covid).

What is intermittent fasting and how does it work?

There are different ways to fast, here are seven methods of intermittent fasting but I’m going to focus on the 16:8 method as it’s the most popular and the one I’m doing myself. I only eat between 12.00pm and 8.00pm, fast for the remaining 16 hours of the day (I sleep during most of the fasting window and I’ve never really felt I needed breakfast to kick start the day anyway).

I like the fact that no food group is banned and the restriction resides mostly on the eating pattern. You can adapt your feeding window based on your own lifestyle but it’s best to stay consistent every day as much as possible if you don’t want to confuse your hormones and make it harder for you to stick to the program. While you’re fasting, it’s very important to stay hydrated. Some say you are allowed diet soda and sweeteners in your tea/coffee but if you want a clean fast I would recommend to only drink water, tea or coffee and nothing else.

What are the health benefits?

Fasting increases the body’s responsiveness to insulin, which regulates blood sugar and helps control hunger. Lowering levels of insulin dramatically when fasting makes stored body fat more accessible, improving fat loss and limiting the loss of lean body mass. It also gives more time to body cells to initiate important repair processes, reduces the risk for type 2 diabetes, stroke, and certain types of cancers. Many studies have been done and if you want more information I suggest reading this article from Huel or this article from Healthline which explain further the evidence behind these benefits. Fasting works better when you eat the right food and get the right amount of sleep.

Are there any side effects?

Well, if you’re used to eat “breakfast like a King”, you may experience excessive hunger before lunch time, which is not a pleasant feeling. Fasting can also trigger eating disorder behaviour, and binge-eating during your feeding window will not give you any benefits. It could also give headaches, light-headedness or dizziness, but it should be temporary as your body needs some time to adapt your new meal schedule. I’m unsure how fasting would work with intensive workouts, I haven’t tried it myself but the type of food you consume would have an impact on your energy levels. Also, a number of studies have suggested that intermittent fasting doesn’t work as well for women than for men (especially those trying to conceive) with a risk of irregular periods or even infertility. Here’s some advice especially for women who want to try intermittent fasting.

Is it a good method for everyone?

Shall I start by saying it’s not suitable for children, teens or anyone underweight? It’s also not recommended for anyone who has history of eating disorder, as well as pregnant women or breastfeeding mums. If you are diabetic or require medication at specific intervals with food, this is also not for you. Intermittent fasting has been studied mostly for overweight or obese adults who are otherwise healthy. I’m not a doctor so you should definitely seek professional help to find out what would be the best weight loss program for you.

Have you ever tried any Intermittent Fasting’s method? What do you think about it?

Big Girl x