Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Fun with honey: an after-school snack & an experiment

First, the snack:

Cinnamon Honey Roll-Ups with Fruit

1 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon chopped raisins
1/2 of a banana, diced
1 tortilla, flour or whole grain

1.    Stir together cream cheese, honey and cinnamon in a bowl.
2.    Add raisins and bananas and stir until combined.
3.    Spread over tortilla and roll up.

*Use diced apples instead of banana.
*Use ¼ cup shredded carrot instead of banana. (“Surprisingly good,” reports my 6-year-old nephew.)

Now, the experiment:

Float or Sink Experiment*

Kids love to discover the floaters and sinkers in the colored layers of this fun experiment. Learn about density and liquids by dropping a variety of objects into the liquid layers and seeing where they settle.

Gather these items:
*Water colored with food coloring (any color)
*Vegetable oil
*Large clear plastic container or Mason jar
*Things to drop in: almond or other nut, Legos, grapes, dried pasta, metal nut or other small metal objects, and small tomatoes and anything else you are curious about.

1.      Pour honey into the container or jar to a depth of 1.5-2 inches.
2.      Slowly add the same amount of vegetable oil to the container.
3.      Slowly add the same amount of colored water to the container.
4.      Watch as the liquids settle into layers.
5.      One at a time, gently drop in the different objects.

Questions to ponder:
Which liquid was the top layer? The middle layer? The bottom layer? Where did the metal objects settle? Where did the Lego float? What about the almond or grape?

What’s happening?
Liquids separate by density with the least dense on top. Oil is lightest and floats above water; honey is heaviest and sits below the water. Objects will float or sink depending on how heavy they are. The metal nuts are more dense (heavier) than all the liquids, so they sink to the bottom. The Lego is less dense (lighter) than all the liquids, so it floats near the top. Which other objects ended up floating or sinking?

*Adapted from On the Level in My First Science Book by Angela Wilkes.

By Amber D. Stoner

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Honey. Oh sugar, sugar.

We humans love sweets. And with good reason: sugars taste great and give us energy. We have many more sweet choices than we ever have before: white sugar, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, sucralose, high fructose corn syrup, stevia, xylitol and more. How do we choose healthy options for ourselves and for our kids? Let’s look at two of those: How does honey differ from white sugar? Are there benefits to consuming honey rather than white sugar?

While both are simple sugars, honey and white sugar differ in important ways. White sugar is heavily processed and composed of sucrose, a molecule that our bodies quickly break down into its component parts of glucose and fructose. Honey is like ‘sugar plus’ because it’s composed of mostly glucose and fructose along with water and a bevy of proteins, enzymes, amino acids, minerals, trace elements, vitamins, antioxidants and oligosaccharides (slightly more complex sugars). The presence, benefits and amount of these additional nutrients in honey is dependent on the source of the honey and how processed it is.

So what are glucose and fructose and how does our body process each of them? Glucose is the body’s main energy source and all cells metabolize glucose. Fructose, the typical sugar in fruit, is metabolized by the liver. Glucose is what can lead to a surge in blood sugar, followed by insulin production, and then a resulting decrease in blood sugar (the sugar blues). To prevent that sugar roller coaster, whether from honey or white sugar, eat fiber and protein along with it. This slows the uptake of sugar into the bloodstream. That’s why we eat sweet stuff after a meal.

In addition to the absorption effect of the food that they’re sweetening, honey and white sugar are simply absorbed into your bloodstream at different rates. The glycemic index (GI) is an indication of that rate. GI ranges from 0 and 100 (pure glucose) and the higher the value, the greater the increase in blood sugar. Honey varies from 32 to 58, a low to medium GI value, depending on the type of honey. White sugar has a medium GI value of 65, white bread has a GI of 70, and potatoes are in the 80’s. Honey’s lower GI, relative to white sugar, means that honey produces a slower and smaller increase in your blood sugar levels.

Kids especially like their sweets. One study indicates that honey is less harmful to tooth enamel than other sugars, so that’s good news. More good news about honey and kids is that a recent study found a spoonful of honey a half-hour before bedtime was effective at reducing coughs and improving sleep for kids with upper respiratory infections. There are even indications that one or two teaspoons of raw honey before bed can promote better sleep in adults, due to honey stabilizing glycogen levels in the liver and contributing to the release of melatonin, a sleeping hormone.

As an energy source for athletes and kids in sports, honey is superb and much better than sugary sports drinks. An orange slice with a strip of honey can provide a good boost to football and soccer players and any athlete in need of some quick energy.

When choosing a sweetener, honey can be a great choice, not least of which is because of the variety of flavors available. Beware of most of the honey found in grocery stores. Many commercial honeys are treated at high temperatures, ultra-filtered and diluted with other sweeteners. This strips the honey of its important nutrients. A study in 2011 by Food Safety News concluded that more than 75% of the honey sold in groceries, drugstores and big box stores had its pollen filtered out making it impossible to determine its source. Without the pollen, it’s not even technically honey according to the FDA. At the Minnesota Honey Company, honey is minimally processed and 100% honey.

We are learning more and more about honey all the time, especially about that bevy of proteins, enzymes, amino acids, minerals, trace elements, vitamins, antioxidants and oligosaccharides and the health benefits those confer to honey lovers. Also, honey’s medical benefits (treatment for wounds, burns, infections, reducing duration of diarrhea) can’t be matched by white sugar.

Honey is a type of sugar and as with any sugar too much is not healthy. Therefore, choose local, minimally-processed honey, opt for great flavor, and use it on fiber- and protein-rich foods in moderation. And look to honey and other beehive products (lip balm, salves, skin care products, allergy relief) for benefits and tastes that white sugar can never provide.

By Amber D. Stoner