You might have heard of manuka honey, a trending food product created by bees that pollinate the New Zealand native plant leptospermum scoparium, also known as the manuka plant. But what makes manuka honey unique?
In some ways, manuka honey is just like any regular honey: thick, gloopy and great on your porridge. But as a result of its high methylglyoxal (MGO) content, in addition to the presence of some other interesting compounds, manuka honey has some unique qualities that have raised the interest of nutritionists.
Katie Lane, a nutritionist at Inspired Health, says: “Manuka honey products are typically rated according to the amount of methylglyoxal (MGO) that they contain. A higher rating correlates to a greater amount of MGO. The natural qualities of this compound have got many people excited.
“In recent years, honey — not just manuka honey — has even become a weapon in fighting resistance to antibiotics. Health bodies including Public Health England recommend honey and cough medicines as a first line of defence against a cough, sore throat or runny nose, rather than antibiotics.
“Manuka honey itself is the subject of extensive research highlighting its unique properties. It has even been touted as a wellness superfood during the winter months, combining plant power and bee ‘magic’.”
When it comes to purchasing this rare honey and ensuring you’re getting the real deal, Katie’s advice is to look for certifications. ‘The most common are MGO and UMF. To have the best chance of attaining manuka honey’s unique properties, look for a medium-to-high strength — at least UMF 10 or MGO 250+. The higher the rating, the greater the amount of wellness-inducing MGO in the honey.’
So, other than getting your fix straight from a spoon, what creative ways are there to use this special honey as part of your winter wellness regime?
Create a honey mustard glaze for your root veggies
Here’s a simple winter wellness idea: blend the health benefits of your 5-a-day with those of manuka honey by using it to coat your vegetables!
Mix two tablespoons of your finest manuka honey, two tablespoons of olive oil and two tablespoons of dijon mustard in a jam jar (or similar container) to create a sumptuous, sweet honey mustard glaze.
Cook some parsnips (peeled and chopped) and carrots (chopped) on a baking tray for around 30 minutes, then drizzle your manuka honey mustard glaze over them and cook for a further 15 minutes. Et voilà — a healthy, manuka-infused side dish to accompany your favourite winter warmer!
Work manuka honey into your baked treats
Homemade bread, gingerbread cookies, banana bread — it wouldn’t be wintertime without some indulgent baked goodies. Add in a small amount of manuka honey for a wellness kick.
Or, if you’ve already got some finished treats — freshly-baked muffins or a nice sponge — slightly warm up a little manuka honey and use the back of a teaspoon to glaze the top.
Compared to your regular honey, most people say manuka honey has a stronger, earthier and slightly more medicinal taste.
Create a manuka honey vinaigrette or chilli jam
For a manuka-filled winter brunch solution, take two minutes to create a vinaigrette that’s bursting with goodness.
Grab a jar and toss in a tablespoon of manuka honey, a tablespoon of dijon mustard, 150ml of olive oil, 50ml of apple cider vinegar and some lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Give it a good shake and you’ve got a delicious manuka honey mixture – ideal as a marinade or salad dressing.
For an even more indulgent use of your manuka honey, work it into a chilli jam recipe which can then be smeared, dolloped and spread over your favourite meats, cheese, fishes, sandwiches and wraps — or even used for making pizzas.
Use in your breakfast as a natural sweetener
It sounds simple, but where you may currently have sugar, syrup or standard honey, bring in a drizzle of manuka magic for a true wintertime breakfast winner. As a sweetener, manuka honey is all natural — nothing artificial here.
Stir it into your tea, mix it with porridge, dollop it on wheat biscuits, pair it with fruit or whack it into some natural yoghurt — or even use it as a sweetener in a smoothie or protein shake.
As ever, because of its sumptuous natural sweetness, consider reducing the number of berries on top of your pancake stack, or the volume of yoghurt in your bowl or glass.
Essentially, see manuka honey is a health-inducing sugar alternative!
Fashion a manuka face mask
Why not give your winter-weary skin a spot of honey-based TLC? As we all know, the dry air at this time of year can cause the upper layers of our skin to lose their moisture.
That’s right – the wonders of manuka honey don’t have to be consumed. For a moisturising, reinvigorating treatment, apply an even layer of manuka honey directly to your skin, making sure to spread it with your fingertips. Leave it to soak into your pores and work its magic for around half an hour before gently rinsing.
You don’t have to go for pure manuka, of course: feel free to work it into your own DIY face mask. One popular recipe combines a tablespoon of honey with a teaspoon of turmeric (for its antioxidant active ingredient, curcumin) and some yoghurt (to help mix the ingredients).