2016 seems to be the year of Manuka honey. And if you haven’t yet jumped onto the bandwagon, let me tell you why you should at least consider it, and not dismiss it as just another fad.
Manuka is a shrub or small tree that grows throughout New Zealand and parts of Australia. Manuka honey piqued my interest as it has actually been studied by the scientific community, and so has some actual evidence to support it. What makes Manuka so special, and what sets it apart from other types of honey, is a chemical called methylglyoxal (MGO). MGO is what contributes to Manuka’s non-peroxide antibacterial activity, which means its antibacterial properties are much more stable and less easily broken down. The combination of MGO, phenolic compounds, and carbohydrates in Manuka are the reason bacteria have so far been unable to develop resistance to it, in contrast to single-component antibiotics (which attack bacteria in one specific way). Because of this, Manuka honey has actually been shown to work against resistant bacteria like E. coli and MRSA.
Manuka also has high antioxidant activity as it contains a high amount of phenolic compounds which have the capacity to reduce free radicals and may have a protective effect on DNA damage. This antioxidant activity, combined with the antibacterial activity and high viscosity, mean that Manuka honey is great for wound treatment, as it provides a protective layer that prevents infection from external bacteria. It also has both pro- and anti-inflammatory effects, which encourage normal healing, and stimulates immune cells in your body.
In some studies, honey has been found to shorten the duration of diarrhoea in patients, has been effective against gastritis, and can lead to increases in certain types of gut bacteria.
Now let’s talk beauty. The antimicrobial properties and hydrating effects of Manuka make it a great face mask or even a hair mask. In some cases it can also help with acne – win win!
Manuka honey is graded according to the MGO concentration, in mg MGO per kg of honey. The higher the MGO rating of your honey, the more effective it is, as the rating is directly proportional to the MGO activity. The benefits of Manuka start at an MGO rating of 300, or a Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) rating of 10+, so make sure to check the label before you buy!
So which grade of Manuka honey is right for you? A jar with an MGO rating of 300+ is ideal for everyday use, including for simple things like sore throats, whereas higher grade honey (800+) is recommended as more of a ‘medicinal’ food, so for example when unwell. For everyday use you could try Manuka in salad dressings, smoothies, or drizzled on porridge. I decided to try it out on some roasted vegetables – drizzling it on only once the vegetables were already cooked in order to prevent the honey’s properties from becoming lost due to excessive heat. Honey roasted carrots are well known of course, but a surprising number of vegetables go well with honey, especially the more bitter ones.
150g baby topped carrots
250g parsnips (about 2 large), quartered lengthways
200g butternut squash, peeled and diced
250g brussel sprouts, with the ends chopped off
150g cauliflower florets
1 red onion, peeled and quartered
3 cloves garlic
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp Manuka honey
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
What to do:
- Preheat the oven to 180°C
- Prepare all the veggies and add them to a baking tray
- Peel the garlic and crush it with the side of a knife, then add to the baking tray
- Drizzle the whole tray with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Mix it all up so everything is coated
- Place in the oven for around 30-40 mins, or until all the veggies are done
- In the meantime, mix together the honey and balsamic vinegar
- When the veggies are ready, place in a serving bowl and drizzle the dressing on top