Our family embarked on the Whole30 last Wednesday. It's been a mixed bag of results so far, some really good and some not so good. I'll be posting about some of the not so good results during the week and talking about the adjustments we'll be making to our plan. But one of the adjustments I knew we would make from the outset was to reach for honey as a “touch of sweet” in our cooking as opposed to fruit juice. Let me give you my three reasons why.
- Honey is a whole food. Fruit juice is not. The originators of the Whole30 are very clear that a major part of this program is to remove sugar and things that break down easily into sugar from the diet. You can read their book, It All Starts with Food, if you'd like to understand the fundamental workings of this priority. But suffice it to say, too much sugar wreaks havoc in pretty much every system of the body. And “too much sugar” is a lot less than what we might think. So the founders of this program say it's okay to use fruit juice as a sweetener in dishes where it's an absolute must, and they say it's because they “had to draw the line somewhere.” But I would argue that this is not where the line should be drawn. The line should exclude fruit juice and include honey. Because honey is a whole food and fruit juice is not. Fruit juice is a component of juice. When the juice is extracted it leaves behind all of the fiber and some of the other important components that are found only in the plant structures that we consume when we eat the entire piece of fruit. The fiber and other components help us to properly digest and utilize the sugar found in the fruit. Honey, on the other hand, is a whole food. It is a very complex substance that has been around since God was a child. Actually, since before Jesus was a baby, if we want to get technical. The reason it's important to eat foods in their whole form is because we do not have enough science to fully understand what absolutely every substance is and does in a food. So by taking out pieces of the food, we fail to reap all of the benefits that the whole food was designed to deliver, even though we don't know yet what all the parts do. So, in short, we should eat the food the way God designed it. You might argue that this would mean we should eat walnut shells or banana peels, but then I'd say you're just plain silly. Because I have to draw the line somewhere.
- Fruit juice is primarily fructose which can be damaging to the body in moderate doses. As noted in this Harvard study article, fructose has a dire effect on the liver and is very quickly transformed into fat in the body. The body, and specifically the brain, runs on glucose sugar. So when there is an overabundance of fructose in our systems, the liver will process it, convert a minimal amount to energy, and store the rest as fat. Sometimes around our middles and a lot of times inside the liver itself. It's why we are seeing more and more fatty liver diagnoses in people who do not even consume a lot of alcohol. And don't even get me started on the havoc fructose creates for our hearts and our hormone balance.
- Honey is chock full of healthy substances, and we're learning about more of them all the time. I recently read this article by Dr. Mercola which does a fantastic job of outlining a number of the amazing benefits of honey. But in brief: honey is antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal, it can perform as well or better than traditional cough medicines to soothe a cough, it can be used to dress wounds as a healing balm and it can reduce allergy symptoms. Honey also provides various vitamins, micronutrients and antioxidants. One important note: you must be consuming raw honey to get all of these benefits. The processing of honey removes most health benefits and renders it to about the same nutritional profile as table sugar. So make sure to read the label. Better yet, find a local farm or farmers' market that offers local, raw honey!
For these reasons, Team Pyle will be using raw honey when we slightly sweeten our sauces or smoothies during this diet journey. Let me know how you are handling that slight touch of sweet on your diet journey by commenting below!