Want better-for-you baked goods? Swap refined sugars for nature's sweetest treat. Produced from flower nectar by industrious worker bees, honey provides more health-boosting antioxidants than white sugar or corn syrup, according to research reported in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. "The darker the honey, generally the more antioxidants it contains," says Beverly Hills, Calif.—based Barry Lomax, ND. Unfiltered raw honey is particularly rich in antioxidants, as well as enzymes that aid digestion. Honey also helps soothe sore throats and coughs by coating irritated tissues.
Eat It Up
For distinctive, top-quality fragrance and flavor, look for raw, varietal honey from a local farmers' market. In the U.S. alone, there are more than 300 varieties: from light and floral to dark and assertive, depending on the bees' nectar sources. Pair light varieties, such as alfalfa and orange blossom, with yogurt, tea, muesli, delicate yeast breads, dressings, and poached fruits. Dark-hued types, including buckwheat honey, are best for baked beans, smoothies, barbecue sauces, fruitcakes, hearty breads, glazes, and chocolaty treats.
Spread a generous tablespoon of buttery creamed honey, such as Royal Hawaiian Honey, on English muffins, scones, or whole-grain crackers. A slice of comb honey—honey sealed in (edible) beeswax—adds interest to a cheese plate.
Because honey retains moisture, you can expect honey-baked muffins and other treats to stay moist longer. In recipes, substitute up to half the sugar with honey, and cut the liquid by one-quarter. Also add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda for every 1 cup honey used, and reduce oven temperature by 25°F to avoid overbrowning.
A couple of caveats: "As a concentrated source of sugar calories, consume honey in moderation, especially if you're diabetic," advises Lomax. Children under age 1 shouldn't be fed honey because of the risk of infant botulism, a form of food poisoning.
For a scratchy throat or nagging cough, Barry Lomax, ND, recommends 1 to 2 teaspoons raw honey mixed with 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, and 8 ounces warm water. Take every 2 to 3 hours as needed.