Super Food of the Week: Raw Honey

What can be sweeter than adding honey to your favorite cup of tea, bowl of oatmeal, or onto your morning toast? In addition to being a natural alternative to white sugar, honey’s unique composition yields some pretty healthful benefits, making this food the bees’ knees. The health benefits of honey (like any other food) depend heavily on the quality of honey. The more processed the honey is the less nutrients will be found in the final product.

Honey, in the raw form, is a natural anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal substance. The substance propolis, or “bee glue”, can be found in raw honey. It’s a mixture of resins and other substances that honeybees use to seal the hive making it safe from bacteria and other mico-organisms. This particular resin only represents a small part of the phytonutrients found in propolis and honey. Other phytonutrients found in honey and has been shown to possess cancer-preventing and anti-tumor properties. Researchers have discovered that these substances prevent colon cancer in animals. When raw honey is over processes, or refined, these phytonutrients are largely eliminated.

On January 8, 2008 speakers at the first International Symposium on Honey and Human Health presented numerous research findings on honey. One of the findings presented suggested that honey may promote better blood sugar control due to the delicate ratio of fructose to glucose. Researchers also found that honey may improve blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity compared to other sweeteners as well as honey being a more effective cough suppressant for children ages 2-18 than regular cough syrup. Researchers also found that the daily consumption of honey raises blood levels of protective antioxidant compounds in humans helping to keep free radicals a bay.

Raw honey also has benefits outside the body as well as inside the body. Many of us curlies have discovered the benefits that honey has on our hair. Honey is a humectant, which means that it holds on to water molecules imparting moisture. Many of us have used honey in our homemade deep conditioning treatments with great results reporting more moisture, shine and softness. The anti-microbial properties in honey may also help to eliminate any harmful micro-organisms on the scalp. One thing to keep in mind with making your own products or with purchasing products with honey is to make sure that you don’t use too much or that you’re not trying to detangle your hair with a conditioner with too much honey. Honey is very sticky and too much may make it really hard to comb through your hair or difficult to rinse out.

To select honey with the most healthful benefits look for raw honey or 100% pure honey. This can be found in most health food stores or farmer’s markets. Typically the darker the color of honey, the richer the flavor will be. Honey should be kept in an air tight container (to prevent the absorption of moisture from the air) and if kept in a cool dry place will keep almost indefinitely. So next time you enjoy a cup of tea try adding a teaspoon of honey to sweeten the deal.

Fit Tip of the Week: Toning Shoes-Are they really worth it?

Let’s be honest, in the world of fitness there is a new fad about every 5 months or so. Half of the products that promise to “do it all” really don’t even come close to doing anything. It seems like the latest fad are toning shoes. Sketchers has the ShapeUps, Reebok has the EasyTone, and so on. They all claim to “tone your body without setting foot in a gym”, to “burn more calories, tone muscles, and improve posture,” and let’s not forget all the “major university research studies.” It is possible to tone your body without going to a gym, but how can the same happen with a single pair of shoes?

When I first saw these shoes I had to laugh out loud and of course my laughter gained quite a few glances from the other customers in the store. My “if it’s too good to be true” radar was practically screaming at me. Then I saw the price tag and laughed even harder. These shoes sold at a price from $100-$245! REALLY!? That much money for shoes that aren’t even cute, for shoes that look like something Herman Munster would go stomping around in? But of course, if they work wouldn’t it be worth it? Now, please don’t misunderstand me, a good supportive athletic shoe that is activity specific is essential to a fitness routine, but when the shoe company starts making such bold claims, I kind of have to scratch my head (or laugh myself silly). So the question is: do these shoes really work? Are they really worth it?

Well, we have an answer. The American Council on Exercise recently conducted a study on various brands of toning shoes to evaluate the claims. Using various pieces of equipment to measure calories burned, oxygen consumption, muscle activity, and other physiological factors, they compared the toning shoes to regular running shoes. The researchers concluded that none of the shoes tested (Sketchers, Reebok, and Masal Barefoot Technology) showed any significant increase in calorie burning or muscle activation (or any other physiological factor) versus regular running shoes during treadmill trials. The researchers weren’t able to produce any evidence to support the claims that these companies are making. That’s right, people! Those $100-$245 “toning “ shoes don’t do anything different than a $50 pair of New Balance running shoes. Yes, it is true that you may feel different when you wear the toning shoes and may even have some soreness after wearing them, but researchers concluded that this is due to using different muscles and a change in walking mechanics (like the difference you may feel when you go from wearing flat comfortable shoes to stiletto heels). Bottom line: don’t bother! Use the money to buy yourself a legitimate pair of athletic shoes, some comfy clothes and go for a walk or bike ride. I can’t say this enough: If something looks or sounds too good to be true, then keep your hard earned money in your pocket!

To read the research study in its entirety visit: http://www.acefitness.org/getfit/studies/toningshoes072010.pdf

Until next week!

KinkySheaPT