Is honey good for your brain? In short, yes, honey is great for brain health. This is mainly thanks to its antioxidants that protect your neurons, boost blood flow to the hippocampus area of the brain, and improve serotonin levels – helping you feel better and fall asleep faster.
For thousands of years, people have treated honey as sacred food – using it to achieve youthful and vibrant health.
When you consume honey, you get a full spectrum of nutrients, including the brain-nurturing polyphenols. These are known to protect our neurons from damage.
Three biggest honey brain benefits are:
- Improved sleep
- Elevated mood
- Better memory
Unlike table sugar which causes inflammation, honey has more nutrients and delivers unique cognitive and mental benefits. (8, 9, 10, 11)
Below we’ll break down everything you need to know about honey and brain health, including memory, mood, sleep and more.
Related: 12 Best Vegan Foods for Memory
Is Honey Good For Your Brain?
Honey belongs among the best brain foods. This liquid gold, as it’s often called, contains natural antioxidants that bees collect from various plants.
The potent mix of antioxidants in honey protects your brain cells from inflammation, supports your mood, and improves blood flow to the hippocampus. This is the area of the brain critical for your memory. (3, 4)
If you’re afraid of honey due to its high carbohydrate content, here are some good news:
Since it contains half fructose-half glucose, honey doesn’t spike your blood sugar like refined carbs. Instead, it provides you with a sustained source of energy, nutrients, and antioxidants. (1, 10, 11)
That said, calories are still calories, and it’s easy to overindulge in honey. In which case it will probably do you more harm than good – just like most foods. But consume it responsibly and you’ll enjoy many of its brain health benefits.
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Honey Brain Benefits
The sweet nectar in honey is packed with polyphenols. These are a group of plant antioxidants which protect your brain from cellular damage and memory loss.
A study from 2011 tested the effects of tualang honey on postmenopausal women who suffered from hormone-related cognitive decline. (2)
The researchers split these women into two groups:
- The first group took 1 spoonful (20g) of tualang honey daily
- The second group took just hormone pills
See, honey helps your body absorb calcium. (3) This is important because your brain needs calcium for processing thoughts, firing signals between neurons, and making decisions.
Experts suggest that the poor intake of vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, increase the chances of dementia. (3) And honey appears to be an effective insurance policy against it.
Related: 5 Surprising Sage Brain Benefits
Protects Neurons & Reduces Inflammation
As you saw, honey has some of the strongest antioxidants in nature.
And besides improving your memory, these polyphenols will help you:
- Reduce inflammation
- Protect the brain from the ravages of free radicals and oxidative stress
- Improve blood flow to the brain
An animal study found that consuming honey can protect the brain from lead exposure. (7)
What’s more, a clinical review suggests that raw honey helps your brain fight inflammation in the hippocampus. This is the part of the brain involved in pleasure, cognition, and memory.
Helps Fight Cognitive Decline
According to a clinical review, long-term supplementation of honey significantly decreases lipid peroxidation in the brain. (4)
Lipid peroxidation is the degradation of lipids in your cell membranes, which damages the brain cell. This is caused by oxidative stress, where unstable molecules called ‘free radicals’ damage your healthy cells.
Honey can help fight this as it contains antioxidants. If free radicals are the bad guys, antioxidants are the good guys.
Antioxidants have extra electrons on them, which they donate to the ‘evil’ free radicals, making them stable, or turning them into ‘good guys’ if you will.
In addition to providing external antioxidants, honey also boosts your body’s native antioxidant network. (4)
- Superoxide dismutase (SOD)
- Glutathione reductase
Thanks to these effects, honey helps your brain defend itself from cell destruction, which plays a massive role in cognitive decline.
The study review concluded (4):
“Honey decreased the number of degenerated neuronal cells in the hippocampal CA1 region, a region that is known to be highly susceptible to oxidative insult. Theoretically, the cumulative macromolecular destruction by free radicals due to an imbalance between the prooxidant and antioxidant defense systems is implicated in aging.”
Just recently in 2019, another paper confirmed these findings, explaining that:
“Antioxidant properties of honey quench biologically-circulating reactive oxygen species (ROS) and counter oxidative stress while restoring the cellular antioxidant defense system. Antioxidant properties of honey may complement its nootropic effects to reduce cognitive aging.” – PubMed
Helps You Sleep
Does honey help you sleep? The answer is yes; honey is a natural sleep aid. This is because it contains tryptophan, an amino acid that your brain needs to make hormones that enable you to fall asleep.
After you eat honey, your insulin levels rise. This opens the door for tryptophan to enter the brain. (3)
In the brain, tryptophan converts to serotonin, which then converts to melatonin, the sleep hormone. As a result, you’ll find it easier to fall and stay asleep.
Stronger memory and better sleep aren’t the only honey brain benefits. Honey also supports your mood.
Since it raises your serotonin levels in the brain, honey is able to regulate how you feel. Which can reduce the occurrence of depression and anxiety. (5, 6)
To cite a study review (4) :
“Raw honey possesses nootropic effects, such as memory-enhancing effects, as well as neuropharmacological activities, such as anxiolytic, antinociceptive, anticonvulsant, and antidepressant activities.”
Speaking of mood, depression and anxiety, these are all closely associated with stress.
Studies have shown that chronic cortisol release, which is the main hormone of stress, can change the very structure of your brain over time. This can lead to premature cognitive decline.
Not to mention that when you’re stressed, your mood dips and you feel more anxious overall.
So, is honey good for stress? According to the latest research, yes.
Honey and Serotonin
As you saw above, honey can be helpful for supporting a balanced mood. But this goes beyond just honey and serotonin. While it’s true that honey will help to absorb L-Tryptophan which will indirectly raise your serotonin levels, there’s more to it than meets the eye.
Honey also provides your brain cells with glucose. Glucose is fuel for your brain cells, and the brain thrives when it has a steady supply of fuel. In other words, you’ll feel mentally sharper with the ability to remember facts and information more easily.
Honey Brain Benefits FAQ
Here we have some of your commonly asked questions regarding honey and the brain:
Is honey good for your nerves?
Honey helps the brain produce more serotonin, the neurotransmitter that regulates your mood. As a result, honey helps relax your nerves. (3)
Is honey good for memory loss?
Honey can help against memory loss. It contains polyphenols which are natural antioxidants. They boost your brain blood flow, reduce cell death, and diminish inflammation. (4)
Can honey cause anxiety?
Honey shouldn’t cause anxiety, if anything, it’s the opposite. Honey helps with the absorption of l-tryptophan in the brain, which leads to higher serotonin levels. As a result, honey can help reduce anxiety. (3, 4)
Is honey good for stress?
Honey is an excellent food choice for stress. It raises insulin levels which enables your brain to produce more of the feel-good neurotransmitters. And it helps you sleep too. (3, 4)
Conclusion on Honey Brain Benefits
Honey is a brain food in the full sense of the word. Not only does it curb stress, it also improves your sleep, mood, and memory.
Don’t be afraid to consume it in moderation; it won’t make you gain weight. Raw honey has a relatively low glycemic index, which means it won’t spike your blood sugar as refined carbs do. It will, instead, provide you with stable energy and antioxidants for peak brain function.