Friday 16 November 2018

Ireland is home to the latest 'superfood' - and it's to rival manuka honey

Research: DCU PhD student Saorla Kavanagh, who led the study, with some heather honey
Research: DCU PhD student Saorla Kavanagh, who led the study, with some heather honey
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Move over manuka - Irish heather honey has now been described as the new "superfood" and is overflowing with health-boosting compounds.

A team of Irish scientists who spent two years probing whether heather honey is good for us found it is high in disease-fighting antioxidants.

The modestly priced jar may even steal the crown of the expensive "liquid gold" manuka honey, which has had medics abuzz for years.

Irish heather honey has a similar level of antioxidants, known as phenolic compounds, as the manuka variety, the scientists from Dublin City University (DCU) and Trinity College Dublin revealed.

A jar of Irish heather honey can be bought for €15 compared to a premium manuka pot at between €70 to €90.

Antioxidants may help in protecting against cell damage and have been touted in the prevention of cancer, heart disease and even dementia.

Honey is also known to have antibacterial properties helping with skin repair, coughs, colds and stomach ulcers. It also has anti-inflammatory properties which can help in controlling blood glucose levels among people with diabetes.

Heather honey, which comes from nectar collected by bees from a tiny purple bell-shaped flower, is most powerful if it is made by bees in the city rather than rural areas.

This is because of flower diversity and the abundance of surrounding hives.

Prof Jane Stout, from Trinity College, said: "A difference in honey composition between urban and rural hives probably reflects the difference in flower availability in urban and rural areas in Ireland."

Heather honeys with a dark colour typically have a higher antioxidant quota. Ivy honey, which is made when bees collect nectar from the flowering ivy plant, was the darkest Irish honey analysed and had less of the healthy compound than heather and manuka varieties.

The research focused on honey produced in Ireland and the majority of the 131 samples came from small private producers in Ireland.

Dr Blánaid White, of DCU, said: "Our research shows Irish honey is a high-quality product and something we should really value."

Irish Independent

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