Although there are some benefits of honey as a regular part of your diet, magically melting belly fat is not one of them. No matter how hard you wish for a naturally mystical potion to melt away that muffin top, the reality is that nothing will banish it but consistent exercise and a lean, nutritious meal plan.
But the truth isn't all sour. Honey is marginally better for you than other types of sweeteners because it contains trace amounts of micronutrients and powerful antioxidants. It metabolizes just a little bit slower than refined sugar which can help you avoid the crash that often comes after eating sweets.
So, while honey is not a miraculous belly fat buster, it is very versatile, easy to obtain and relatively inexpensive, especially if you can find it locally sourced. Get creative and enjoy its sweetness as part of an overall plan of eating right and moving more so that you can reach your goal of becoming your lean and healthy best.
Honey will not make you lose belly fat, but including it in a solid plan of healthy eating and consistent exercise certainly won't do you any harm.
Sugar Belly Secrets
That flub on your lower belly is caused be several factors, according to the health experts at Tufts University. Fat results when you take in more calories than you burn, but the types of calories also matter. Eating a diet high in simple sugars, such as those found in processed flour, refined sugar, white rice and white potatoes, puts an undue burden on your liver. If you take in more sugar then your liver can process, it must find places to store it as fat.
Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, dean of Tufts' Friedman School, explains that your liver can only process so much sugar at a time and can also only store so much fat. The excess must be stored elsewhere and that is where you get visceral fat. Too much visceral fat can increase your risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancer. It can also interfere with your normal organ functions.
Nikola McKean, PhD, also of Tufts' Friedman School, points out that people who drank sugary drinks every day had gained 30 percent more visceral belly fat in six years than people who stuck to water, tea, unsweetened coffee or other beverages not containing sugar. If you cannot cut all sweet beverages out of your diet, consider sweetening iced tea, hot tea, lemonade and whatever else you enjoy with honey instead of sugar or artificial sweeteners.
Facts About Belly Fat
There are two types of belly fat, explains assistant professor Jamie Bernard of Michigan State University. The first is called subcutaneous fat and is found just underneath your skin. The second is visceral fat, which gathers around the organs in your abdomen. It is this second type of belly fat that poses a danger to your health.
Bernard goes on the explain that visceral fat produces more of a protein called fibroblast growth factor-2 or FGF2 than subcutaneous fat does. This protein triggers certain precancerous cells into developing into tumors. Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center agree about the dangers of visceral fat and found that the best way to melt away belly fat is with exercise.
Rush University Medical Center concurs. Experts at Rush recommend that you do at least an hour of moderate exercise, such as walking, every day. This not only burns calories; it can help elevate your mood. The Texas experts go on to explain that moderate exercise is better than an intense workout schedule for burning belly fat because high-intensity exercise can release cortisol, which encourages the storage of belly fat.
The Stress Factor
Although you have probably seen hours of television and tons of magazine ads talking about the connection between the steroid hormone cortisol and belly fat, most of them are at best misleading as to expected results and at worst full of incorrect information. There is a possible connection between cortisol and belly fat, but it cannot be broken by taking a supplement or drinking a fad health shake.
According to experts at the University of New Mexico, stress triggers one of three responses in your body, which are fight, flight or defeat. The first two are instant responses, while the defeat response usually occurs over a period of long-term stress. While the first two release a burst of cortisol, the hopelessness of feeling defeated by circumstances that are beyond your control causes your liver to release a steady stream.
Columbia University's Go Ask Alice! informational website explains that elevated levels of cortisol can harm your white blood cells, weakening your immune system. It also raises the levels of free fatty acids in your bloodstream, leading to clogged arteries, and can also trigger stress eating. Honey has no provable effect on cortisol, though it has a positive reputation for its emotionally calming effect when stirred into a fresh, hot cup of herbal tea.
Benefits of Honey
Beekeeping has been practiced and celebrated by human beings as far back as 7,000 B.C. as depicted in cave paintings in Spain, according to the Honey Association, who also point out that bee fossils exist, which date back at least 150 million years. It was used for cooking, medicinally and as religious offerings in the Greek and Roman empires.
Honey is a little bit more nutrient dense than refined sugar, but not by much. The main micronutrients in honey are:
According to the USDA, 1 tablespoon of honey contains 64 calories, 0.4 grams of protein and no fiber. The darker the honey, explains Clemson University's Cooperative Extension, the more antioxidants the honey contains. You should never feed honey to children younger than 1 year old — especially raw honey — because of the risk of botulism.
Counting on Calcium
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in your body and is the main ingredient in your bones, explain the experts at the University of Rochester Medical Center. They go on to explain that calcium is also necessary for healthy muscle and nerve functions, supporting your exocrine and endocrine glands and making sure that your blood clots properly. It also helps to build your teeth.
Lack of calcium can lead to osteoperosis, which is a loss of density in your bones. When your bones loose density, they can become brittle, making it easier for them to be broken. You lose bone density naturally as you age, especially if you are a post-menopausal woman. Regular exercise along with a diet high in calcium and vitamin D can help keep your bones from losing more density than is safe. One tablespoon of honey contains 1 gram of calcium.
Understanding Dietary Iron
Iron comes in two types, according to Oregon State University's Linus Pauling Institute. Heme iron is found in animal products and is easier for your body to absorb. Non-heme iron is found in plants and also in honey. This type of iron is slightly more difficult for your body to absorb.
Iron is necessary to support hemoglobin, which is a component of your red blood cells, which carry oxygen from your lungs to every part of your body. If you do not have enough iron in your system, you cannot produce enough healthy red blood cells to keep your brain, skin and other organs healthy and functioning at their peak. One tablespoon of honey contains 0.09 grams of protein.
All About Antioxidants
Antioxidants, according to Michigan State University, clean your cells of free radicals which are the byproducts of exposure to environmental pollutants such as smoke or exhaust fumes as well as your normal metabolic functions such as breathing and digesting the foods you eat.
Free radicals are similar to rust on iron patio furniture or moss on a tree. If allowed to develop unchecked, they can damage the DNA in your cells, which increases your risk of heart attack, stroke and certain types of cancer. Free radicals may also contribute to the visible signs of aging such as wrinkles and liver spots.
Busting Belly Fat With Honey
If you have heard the old folk tale that honey with milk makes you fat, ignore it. If you consume so much of it that you exceed the number of calories you burn over time, it can certainly put weight on you, but there is no synthesis of the two things that suddenly creates fat.
Once you have committed to a consistent program of moderate exercise and have formulated a meal plan that includes fresh vegetables and fruits, lean protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats, you can afford to get a little bit creative. Honey lovers suggest that you take advantage of the culinary benefits of honeycomb by crumbling a small amount on a fresh green salad along with a sprinkle of goat cheese.
You can also add honey to smoothies and use it to make homemade salad dressings, which allows you to control the amount of salt and sugar. Add honey to balsamic vinegar and heat it on low until the liquid reduces to a thick syrup. This is excellent drizzled on chicken, fish and fresh watermelon.
- The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center: "The Dangers of Hidden Fat - Exercise Is Your Best Defense"
- Michigan State University: "This Is How Belly Fat Could Increase Your Cancer Risk"
- Rush University Medical Center: "Is There Really 'One Trick' to Losing Belly Fat?"
- Tufts University: "Eating to Beat Belly Fat"
- Clemson University Cooperative Extension: "All About Honey"
- Columbia University - Go Ask Alice! "Cortisol, Depression and Weight Loss"
- University of New Mexico: "Cortisol Connection: Tips on Managing Stress and Weight"
- University of Rochester Medical Center: "Calcium"
- Oregon State University - Linus Pauling Institute: "Iron"
- Michigan State University: "Food Micronutrients Explained - Antioxidants, Anti-inflammatories and Phytochemicals"
- The Honey Association: "A Brief History of Honey"
- USDA: "Basic Report - 19296, Honey"