Honey makes me happy. I like the way it tastes on my warm oats, the way it nourishes my skin and soothes sore insides.

I have written before about cutting back on sugar. I have been avoiding the stuff for about six months now, mostly. I have been known to sample a spoonful of a friend's creme brulee and treat myself to a homemade cookie at morning tea.

And I haven't wiped honey off my radar. First thing in the morning I add half a teaspoon of manuka to a glass of warm water with lemon and ginger. This brew wakes up my insides and gets them ready for digesting the day. A few hours later - for desk-side breakfast - I add another half a teaspoon to my oats, warmed up with a handful of frozen blueberries, almonds and chia seeds (sometimes mixing it up with linseeds, flaxseeds, goji beeries, whatever I'm giving a go that week).

The sticky stuff makes me feel good. And that's the way I like to live - embracing what makes me feel my happy and vibrant. However, since my honey love goes against my sugar-free philosophy, I decided I'd dig a little deeper in to its benefits.

Local dietitian Kath Fouhy says honey is certainly sugar, but a teaspoon a day is "absolutely fine".

"It's only an issue when it's really thick," she says. If you can make teeth marks in it spread on your toast then you're going overboard.


And if you think that subbing in honey for sugar is doing you good - then you've got the wrong end of the stick.

"In terms of calories, it's no less. It's not going to make you skinny," Fouhy says.

Dr Ralf Schlthaver has been studying honey for six years and says manuka honey "is incredible".

He's watched the way manuka heals wounds and believes "you can see that the honey is extremely likely to cure what's on the inside." Although he admits it's tricky to observe that.

See, manuka has the greatest antimicrobial power of all honeys. There's a compound in there that comes from the nectar of the plant that's not found anywhere else. It prevents bacteria from growing. It's one of the only natural products in the world that can boast this quality - and most of it's exclusively grown in New Zealand.

At the moment, Dr Schlthaver is researching the anti-inflammatory properties of manuka and other dark, forest honeys. This means if you have a sensitive belly and digestive woes manuka honey can help ease this pain.

Clever manuka also works its magic on your skin. In the last fives years stacks of research has been done to back up the beauty benefits, NZ cosmetics company Living Nature says.

"I think manuka honey is one of those gifts to humanity that we've only just learnt to exploit," says Living Nature research and development engineer Brett Alexander.

"Natural products have moved from hippie to mainstream."

* What do you think about honey? How do you use it?
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