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Is Honey Good for You? | Mark’s Daily Apple

8 Feb

Suz’s post had me thinking about honey.  Ask and ye shall receive: This appeared in my inbox this morning.  I have been sweetening my coffee (I need coffee for my 4:30am CrossFit wake up calls) with a dab of honey.  Nothing like I used to do with the Agave Nectar in the morning, but I thought perhaps the honey would be better from the same standpoint as Suzanne thought – allergies.  Real, raw, local honey.  If you can’t find it, I will be happy to pick you up some.  There’s three different places on my way to Land O Lakes that have it…

This is pulled from Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple Paleo Lifestyle Guru.

Is Honey a Safe(r) Sweetener?

honey 1I pride myself on making the Primal Blueprint an easy lifestyle to follow. If you were just starting out, you could easily read a few articles, do a couple hours of research, and start making positive changes to your diet, exercise routine, sleep schedule, or daily life immediately. You could ditch grains or replace some chronic cardio with weights or switch to grass-fed meat, and even if you did nothing else, you’d have made a significant improvement to your life and eventually your health. I often receive thank you emails for putting together a program that Internet-illiterate grandmas and grandpas can get into and actually understand. That said, sometimes things get a little confusing.

Like with honey.

See, as a general rule, I am against the consumption of refined sugars, especially sucrose and high fructose corn syrup. To understand why – if you’re still wondering – check out my definitive post on the subject. But what about the preeminent unrefined natural sweetener – the rich amber nectar that’s been available to humans from the very start (albeit protected by barbed, flying suicide stingers)? How are we to approach honey? Because while refined sugar and particularly fructose are to be avoided, alone those are refined, manmade, processed “foods.” White sugar is just sucrose, which is just fructose and glucose. High-fructose corn syrup is just fructose and glucose. Isolated fructose is just fructose. Those aren’t even foods, though they can be eaten; they’re just disaccharides and monosaccharides, with zero minerals, vitamins, phytonutrients, flavonoids, and other micronutrients.

Honey, on the other hand, contains over a hundred different compounds, not just fructose and glucose. It has a small amount of minerals, amino acids, and vitamins, but the point is that it’s not just sugar. Entire colonies of honey bees thrive on the stuff. It’s food by any definition. And whole foods are different than refined foods, and especially refined food-like products. They have different effects when you eat them. Eating an almond is not the same as taking a shot of rancid seed oil. Eating a handful of berries isn’t the same as sprinkling an equal amount of berry-extracted sugar in your water and drinking it.

The question, then, is whether or not this holds true for honey. Is honey “better” than sugar or HFCS? Are some of the harmful effects of the sugar contained therein mitigated by the presence of bioactive compounds? Let’s take a look.

(Speaking of which, I won’t get into the individual compounds found in honey, because each batch of honey is unique. Besides the whole vomiting thing, honey bees don’t really have strict manufacturing standards, and which bioactive compounds end up in the honey depends on the variety of flowers visited by the bees, as well as the season. I might refer to different honey varietals, like buckwheat or wild flower, but keep in mind that buckwheat from area to area and even harvest to harvest will have different pollen concentrations, giving the honey different qualities.)

Humans have certainly been figuring out ways to get their mitts on the sticky mess for as long as we’ve realized it tasted good: a 6,000 year-old cave painting from Spain even depicts a honey hunter climbing a ladder, stick in hand and satchel at its side, gathering honey as bees swarm. Modern day people, like the San bushmen and the Ache of Paraguay, are honey hunters, with the Ache getting upwards of 10% of their calories from wild honey (and the larvae found in the honeycombs). For a visceral idea of the great lengths some people go to for honey, check out this incredible video of a tribesman from the Congo scaling a 40 meter tree to get at the hive. That’s dedication. After that climb, I imagine his muscle and liver glycogen stores were rather depleted and the honey was a welcome fuel source.

Studies on honey paint a pretty favorable picture, actually, especially when it’s compared to table sugar or other more refined sweeteners. Let’s dig in to a few, shall we?

In one study (PDF), researchers compared the effects of honey and refined fructose feeding on rats. Using equal amounts of fructose – just different sources – the authors explored the effects on several health markers. Feeding fructose raised triglycerides more than feeding honey. Feeding fructose decreased blood levels of vitamin E, while honey did not, suggesting less oxidative stress. Feeding fructose also promoted more inflammation than honey. All in all, honey did well for itself.

Another set of studies compared the effects of honey, sham-honey (a mix of fructose and glucose), dextrose (which is just glucose), and sucrose on several health markers in various groups of people. There’s a lot to wade through, but the gist is that honey performed well. Honey resulted in smaller blood glucose spikes (+14%) than dextrose (+53%). Sham honey increased triglycerides, while real honey lowered them (along with boosting HDL and lowering LDL). After fifteen days of honey feeding, CRP and LDL dropped. Overall, honey improved blood lipids, lowered inflammatory markers, and had minimal effect on blood glucose levels.

In rats, honey produced lower triglycerides, less body fat, and greater satiety (as indicated by the spontaneous reduction in food intake) when compared to sucrose.

Looks like wildflower honey might go well in a meat marinade, too: wildflower honey inhibited lipid oxidation in ready to eat beef patties. I’m not sure what a ready to eat beef patty is, and I don’t think I want to know, but the honey info is good to have. Wildflower honey, which comes from bees dining on a wide variety of wild plant life, outperformed clover honey in the study.

Although discerning the full effects of individual honey-based compounds is many research years out, it looks like honey with lower levels of bioactive compounds acts more like regular sugar while honey with higher levels of compounds acts more like a whole food. In one study (PDF), buckwheat honey was found to be the richest in phenolics and flavonoids, while rapeseed (yes, canola) honey was found to have the lowest number of compounds. The researchers didn’t explore the metabolic effects of the two honeys, but another study did find that people who ate rapeseed honey, but not acacia honey, displayed highly elevated levels of serum fructose. The same thing happens when you eat HFCS. That tells me the bioactive compounds are probably responsible for the “benefits” of honey.

Darker honeys are typically higher in bioactive compounds and show greater antioxidant activity. They also taste better, if you ask me. Buckwheat is a personal favorite of mine and ranks quite highly in antioxidants, even showing some beneficial effects on serum antioxidant status in those who consume itWhen in doubt, choose the darker honey.

Now, I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, so I don’t go out of my way to dip my paws in a jar labeled “Hunny,” but I keep some raw buckwheat honey around. The last pound I bought has lasted me well over six months, and there’s still plenty left in the bottle. And in the past, it has certainly proven useful. Can you eat it? Sure; you can do just about anything you want. Should you eat it? That depends. Are you active and in need of liver glycogen repletion like the guy who climbed the Congolese tree? Then raw honey might be a nice choice for a treat. It’s clearly superior to refined sugar, and the extent of the damage we normally see from sugar intake doesn’t seem to occur with honey.


The Perfect Smoothie Formula

7 Feb


I am completely in agreement with Suz about keeping the smoothie in the mornings well after our Clean Start is “over”.  Which btw, I will sign up for another if y’all are up for it!  I get more nutrients in the morning smoothie than I probably did all day previously.  I ran across this months ago, and thought about it yesterday.  This is a great way to concoct something new, courtesy of Matt Frazier from No Meat Athlete.  If you are doing the paleo gig, some of this won’t work for you, but if you are doing the paleo gig, you already know how to tweak.  Just throw some bacon in it.  Kidding!!!!   Enjoy!

The Perfect Smoothie Formula

“Give a man a smoothie recipe and he’ll be healthy for a week, teach a man the Perfect Smoothie Formula and he’ll be healthy for a lifetime.” – Me

The way I see it, you only need to eat healthy twice during the day.  While you’ll certainly eat more than twice a day, just two healthy meals make it pretty hard to screw up the rest of them.iStock 000003942941XSmallOnce is in the afternoon, when a big salad loaded with greens, other raw vegetables, and nuts will fill you up and give you more veggies than most people eat all day.  And as a bonus, it’ll give you the chance to get even more good stuff, when you dress it with quality oil, lemon juice, and a little sea salt.

The other time is in the morning, when a smoothie made from fruits (and even vegetables) will not only set the tone for the entire day, but act as a vehicle for other superfoods or supplements you want to work into your diet.

That’s it. Just two healthy meals.

Even if you ate whatever you wanted the rest of the day, I’d be willing to bet you wouldn’t get fat, as long as you made sure to drink a smoothie and eat a big salad every single day.

Sure, if you were to eat at McDonald’s for lunch and Outback for dinner the rest of the time, you could probably succeed at packing on a few pounds.  But here’s the thing.

The smoothie and salad act as “anchors” that keep you on track, to remind you just how great it feels to put real, fresh fruits and vegetables in your body.  After you start the day with a smoothie, McDonald’s for lunch doesn’t seem so good anymore.  And when it’s time to start thinking about dinner, the salad does the same.

In this way, those two healthy meals become three or four—which doesn’t leave much time for junk.

Why people suck at making smoothies

Most people are alright when it comes to the salad.  But there’s something about the alchemy of throwing a few fruits, ice, liquid, and whatever else into a blender and ending up with a perfectly smooth and delicious drink that causes lots of people to struggle.

Since nearly everyone has a blender, I suspect that the reason most people don’t make smoothies consistently is that it’s overwhelming.  There are too many possible ingredients, and too many variables to tweak to get the proportions just right. And if someone should stumble upon a good recipe, they end up making it so often that they get sick of it and never drink it again.

We need a formula

Over the past few years, I’ve had a smoothie almost every single day.  I’ve constantly tweaked it, experimented with new ingredients, and kept track of what worked and what didn’t.

What follows is my version of the smoothie genome project.  It’s a formula you can follow to create nearly endless variations.  And the best part is that the uncertainty has been taken out of it for you.  You’ll need to experiment with different flavor combinations, of course, but the guesswork about proportions has largely been removed.

The recipe below specifies general amounts and types of ingredients (like “2 tablespoons binder”) and then below, you are given a menu of several recommended ingredients of each type from which to choose to make your smoothie.

The Perfect Smoothie Formula

(makes 2 smoothies)

  • 1 soft fruit
  • 2 small handfuls frozen or fresh fruit
  • 2-4 tablespoons protein powder
  • 2 tablespoons binder
  • 1.5 tablespoons oil
  • 1.5 cups liquid
  • 1 tablespoon sweetener (optional, less or more as needed)
  • optional superfoods, greens, and other ingredients
  • 6 ice cubes (omit if soft fruit is frozen)

Select one or more ingredients of each type below and add to blender in specified proportions. Blend until smooth.

Recommended Soft Fruits

  • Banana
  • Avocado

(If you have a high-speed blender that can puree, say, a whole apple or carrot without leaving any chunks behind, then the puree of almost any fruit or vegetable can act as your soft fruit.)

Recommended Frozen or Fresh Fruits

  • Strawberries (you can leave the greens on if you have a powerful blender)
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Peaches
  • Mango
  • Pineapple

Recommended Protein Powders

  • Hemp
  • Sprouted brown rice (tastes chalkier than hemp, but packs more protein per dollar)
  • Pea

(Soy and whey are higher-protein, generally cheaper options, but for a variety of reasons I don’t recommend either for long-term use.)

Recommended Binders

  • Ground flaxseed
  • Almond butter or any nut butter
  • Soaked raw almonds (soak for several hours and rinse before using)
  • Rolled oats, whole or ground
  • Udo’s Wholesome Fast Food

Recommended Oils

  • Flaxseed oil
  • Udo’s Blend or other EFA blend
  • Hemp oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Almond, macadamia, or other nut oil

Recommended Liquids (unsweetened)

  • Water (my favorite)
  • Almond milk or other nut milk
  • Hemp milk
  • Brewed tea

Recommended Sweeteners

  • Honey (not technically vegan)
  • Agave nectar (high in fructose, so choose this only before workouts)
  • Stevia (sugar-free natural sweetener, the amount needed will vary by brand)

Optional Superfoods, Greens and Other Ingredients

  • Cacao nibs (1-2 tablespoons)
  • Carob chips (1-2 tablespoons)
  • Ground organic cinnamon (1-2 teaspoons)
  • Chia seeds, whole or ground (1-2 tablespoons)
  • Greens powder (1-2 teaspoons)
  • Whole spinach leaves (1-2 handfuls)
  • Maca powder (1-2 teaspoons)
  • Jalapeno pepper, seeds and stem removed (one small pepper)
  • Ground cayenne pepper (small pinch)
  • Sea salt (pinch)
  • Lemon or lime juice (1 tablespoon)

There’s plenty here to get you started.  But you certainly don’t have to stay within these guidelines if you determine that you want more or less of a certain ingredient, or more than one ingredient from each category. (For example, almond butter and ground flaxseed are both in the “binder” category, but I sometimes include both in my smoothie.)

Also, note that which ingredients you use from one category often dictate how much you need from another.  For example, if you’re using avocado instead of banana as your soft fruit, you’ll need more sweetener than you would with the banana, and you’ll probably want to go light on other fatty ingredients, since avocado provides plenty of good fats.

So be creative, and don’t worry if at first you like more of the sweet ingredients and not so much of the healthier ones. Over time as you eat less and less processed and sugary foods, your tastes will change and you’ll actually crave the healthy stuff.

This is an excerpt from my vegetarian guide to your first marathon, but I’d like to turn this concept into a more comprehensive “database” of smoothie ingredients.  Leave a comment with some of your favorite smoothie ingredients or tips that I haven’t included, and maybe this will turn into something cool!

Day 15 = Star Fruit Smoothie and Progress Update

7 Feb

Two weeks into the Clean program, and day 15 of a green smoothie for breakfast every morning;  I’ve discovered my favorite smoothie blend yet, the Star Fruit Smoothie:

  •  Apple
  • Star Fruit – Carambola
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Ginger
  • Chia Seeds
  • Local Raw Honey
  • Coconut water

Half the fun of star fruit is finding a tree in the neighborhood to harvest from; and most trees are overfilled with ripe fruit this time of year.  This smoothie is light and refreshing with a great sweet, citrus taste.

So two weeks into this Clean program and I believe I’m going to try to adopt the Smoothie for Breakfast plan permanently.  I enjoy the feeling of lightness and energy in my body that the smoothies seem to be creating.  It is nice to have much of the energy usually used for the digestion process available for other uses; and I like the idea of front-loading each day with a large dose of macro-nutrients found in the greens, the fruits, the seeds.

Two weeks of Clean means my clothes are all looser, my sleep is better and I’ve not yet been hit with seasonal allergies.  Usually, I’ll start noticing allergy symptoms as soon as the first azaleas bloom; and so far, none.   To combat seasonal spring/oak allergies, I’ve been taking local raw honey daily since mid-January, started taking nettles when I feel congested and made quercitin (via apples and red fruits/veggies) part of my daily diet.  My goal is to use diet to manage seasonal allergies; hopefully by having a diet without meat, dairy, soy, wheat, corn, caffeine and sugar, my body won’t need to have so many allergic reactions.

All that stands between me and the perfect diet are all these cravings; and so my attention in week 3 on the Clean program will be on using all my accumulated meditation and yoga tools to better manage my cravings.

So here we go – week 3!


Suzanne Andrew is a Thai Yoga Massage Therapist, Reiki Master, Yoga Teacher and Anxious Devotee of The Clean Program.  Visit her websites at: or

Alkaline Foods: What’s in Your Smoothie this Morning?

28 Jan

Here’s a great article outlining the 7 most alkaline foods; and most of them can be easily added to a morning smoothie.  If you can’t wait to scroll down and read the article, here they are:

1.  Spinach

2.  Kale

3. Cucumber

4.  Broccoli

5.  Avocado

6.  Celery

7. Bell Peppers

Eating more alkaline foods is one of the foundations of the Clean Program.  Inviting more alkaline foods in the body helps us avoid acidosis, which is an underlying condition of many chronic diseases.  Further an overly acid system makes it difficult for the body to absorb nutrients, to detoxify, and to repair damaged cells.   Environmental toxins, chemical build up and emotional stress all contribute to a less alkaline, more acid state in the body.    So we can use the food we eat to help us maintain balance.

Here’s the article about alkaline foods, plus the author encourages the morning smoothies:

Here’s to a celery, cucumber, kale smoothie for breakfast!


Suzanne Andrew is a Thai Yoga Massage Therapist, Reiki Master, Yoga Teacher and Anxious Devotee of The Clean Program.  Visit her websites at: or

Making each decision just a lllliiiitttttlllle bit better than the last one?

23 Jan

When embarking on a new eating program, like Clean, it is tempting to think of your eating as all-or-nothing.  Either I’m eating Clean or I’m not, goes the train of thought in most of our heads.  As easy as life would be if everything was one or the other, black or white, old or new; the reality is, most things are shades of grey. And so it is with our participation and choices while following The Clean program.

Here’s the dilemma I worked through to accept the shades of grey:  Saturday was a long work day for me, and I decided to eat Clean all day as a way to prepare for the full start of the program on Monday.  So Saturday for breakfast I ate fruit, nuts and coconut; lunch was a clean version of sweet potato stew.  I worked hard all day, then decided to unwind before dinner with an hour bike ride.   By the time I returned home from riding, I was ravenous and light-headed.  Quickly I became dizzy, and I recognized all the feelings and symptoms of low blood sugar that I used to struggle with years ago.  In that moment, I knew that to feel better I needed food – preferably carbohydrates – in my stomach fast, and everything would quickly right itself.

So while the Clean program advocates eating just three meals a day, slowly and mindfully; I stood in my kitchen and shoveled crackers & hummus into my mouth until the dizziness and nausea passed.  In the past, when I struggled with low blood sugar (triggered by a chronic auto-immune disease that is completely under control currently) failure to quickly correct it caused me to pass out.  And after the fact, I felt really bad about myself for having stood in the kitchen, eating whatever was handy until the situation passed.

In the day since this happened, I’ve tried to rewrite the story in my head to tell myself I made a good choice given the circumstances.  I did not make the best choice; nor one of the worse choices; I made an okay choice.  I ate hummus and quinoa crackers; not a bagel or cookies.  In the future, if something like this happens; I expect to have a better solution at my fingertips; but if not, I’ll make the best possible choice given the circumstances.

Now the difficult part is not allowing myself the luxury of retreating from the program just because I’ve made one bad choice.   So here I am; showing up for another day of trying to make each choice just a little bit better than the one I would have made in the past.  And that’s me embracing the shades of grey in this program.

Suzanne Andrew is a Thai Yoga Massage Therapist, Reiki Master, Yoga Teacher and Anxious Devotee of The Clean Program.  Visit her websites at: or

Juicing Tips from Williams-Sonoma

19 Jan

Juicing Tips


Start slow. When you first start juicing, don’t add many leafy greens or other “earthy” vegetables, and when you do, combine them with sweeter flavors you like, such as apples and carrots. The deep color gives green juices a stigma, even though their flavors can be sweet and balanced — and can even be kid-friendly. Gradually increase the amount of greens over your first couple of weeks to introduce and get used to the new flavors.



Brighten up. Fresh lemon juice is a key ingredient in homemade juices, punching up the flavors of almost any combination. Lemon juice can also help balance the acid levels in the body and reduce inflammation. Don’t actually run the lemon through the juicer; instead, squeeze it into the finished juice and stir to mix the contents Similarly, fresh ginger will bring out the natural flavors of the fruits and vegetables you use. Start with a very small amount (about a half-inch knob), adding more as desired.



Be adventurous. You may be surprised which vegetables take well to juicing — like sweet potatoes! The root vegetables take on a velvety texture and rich flavor, giving your juice body and structure. Also, hearty, starchy veggies like these will keep you full longer. Fennel also has a clean taste that works well with other flavors, such as apple and lemon.



Prep matters. Wash and roughly chop all of the produce you’re planning to use in your juice. The chunks do not have to be small or fancy, just able to pass through the juicer easily; in fact, most juicers don’t require you to peel or seed ingredients before juicing. To get the most juice from your greens, roll them tightly into a ball before passing through the juicer. For easy cleanup, line the refuse bin of your juicer with the produce bag your ingredients came in.



Make the most. Some fruits and vegetables contain naturally higher water content than others, thus producing more juice. For greater juice volume, try cucumber, celery and sweet potatoes, which yield a surprising amount of liquid.



Drink up. You’ll get the maximum nutritional benefits from your juice if you enjoy it immediately after making it. If you must store it, do so in a tightly sealed jar in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. The juice may separate since different ingredients have varying densities, so shake well before drinking

Local Harvest / Farmers Markets / Family Farms / CSA / Organic Food

19 Jan

We are getting CLEAN – you are going to need veggies! This is a great resource. Enter your zip code.

Prepare for Clean: Easy Detox Tips

7 Jan


Preparing for the Clean program, it is helpful to gently detox the body.  This great article outlines 4 simple ways to detox that anyone can easily add to any schedule:


Pay close attention to tip number 4 and exhale…..ahhhhhhhh!



Welcome to the Clean Start in 2012

3 Jan

What does it take to succeed at making substantial, lasting change in your body, mind or spirit?  Most professionals now agree that the best way to create lasting change in humans is to make small, cumulative changes.  It is generally better in the long run to start by exercising 5 minutes a day, every day; than to do one hour once a week.  Further, most effective changes we make in ourselves require preparation, planning and support.

So instead of jumping head first into the Clean eating program on January 1, 2012; we are waiting to start the actual eating program on Monday January 23, 2012.  So we have the next 3 weeks to prepare for the the following 3 weeks on the program.  Let’s get started:

1.  Do you have a copy of the book “Clean”?  If not, here’s a link:


Alejandro Junger

Best Price $8.39
or Buy New $10.19

2.  Are you physically able to do the program?  Detoxing and following the Clean program should not be done by pregnant women, anyone with Type 1 diabetes, anyone with advanced cancer, you’re taking an anti-clotting medication, or you have anyother disease that needs close monitoring for changes in body chemistry.  If you have any doubts, consult your doctor before beginning the Clean program.

3.  Is your kitchen ready?  Do you have a blender/food processor?  Have you reviewed the recipes to ensure you can obtain all the necessary ingredients?

4.  Is your schedule ready?  Preparing fresh food may take a bit more time in the kitchen than you’re used to spending there.  It may also be good to get a few back-up plans in place for those days your schedule is hectic, or those times you must eat out.

5.  Do you have support?  If you live with others, are they on board with supporting you?  Do you have some friends or buddies you can chat with?  We’ll be blogging regularly during the actual Eating part of the clean program, and invite everyone to join in.  But a support network, a cheerleader or at least some sympathetic loved ones can make all the difference during those tough days.

Finally, we’ll be spending the next 3 weeks tapering off all the ‘non-Clean’ food in our diets; back to that idea of making small changes gradually, then counting on the snowball effect.   Debbie is going to be following the Paleo diet for the next few weeks.   Sadly, I’ll have family in town then a birthday; so I may be making the really challenging leap from birthday cake to ‘Clean’ without much of a gentle transition.

We invite you to get in touch with us and share your stories, regardless of how much you’re following the Clean program.

Here’s to a Clean Start in 2012!

Debbie –

Suzanne –