Growing up in Communist Romania, Mihaela Gutman and her family lacked many basics.
Honey, however, was abundant.
“Honey was our dessert, our medicine, our everything,” said Gutman, who now lives in South Beach. “We didn’t have sugar; we didn’t have anything. But we had honey. I grew up fascinated with bees.”
Today, she is a nascent entrepreneur, having recently launched Sunny Honey Miami with her husband, Jorge Gutman, a Miami Beach contractor.
The company sells seven types of honey. But this is not the honey you squeeze out of a plastic bear. Imported from Canada, the honey is creamed and bottled in Florida, giving it a texture similar to crème brulée. The honey is flavored with vanilla, matcha, cacao, coconut, key lime or lavender for as long as two weeks. The company also sells a plain creamed honey, Gutman’s favorite.
It’s not cheap — $22.99 for a 12-ounce jar, sold on Sunny Honey’s website and at My Deli Market on Brickell Bay Drive. They are also marketing it at specialty food shows.
They’ve sold about $50,000 since launching three months ago, says Jorge Gutman, adding they have seven employees.
“What they have done is a change in the industry,” said Joaquin Mantovani, a honey importer in Florida who advises them.
Gutman grew up in Romania in a family of beekeepers. When she was young, Romania was ruled by the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, whose 22-year Communist rule was marked by killings of thousands of Romanians, drastic shortages of food and water and government corruption, including Ceausescu appointing his wife Elena as first deputy prime minister.
On Dec. 25, 1989 — after he and his wife were convicted of genocide in a military trial and sentenced to death — they were executed by firing squad. The northern part of Romania borders Ukraine.
Growing up, Gutman was told women didn’t work, that their calling was in the home.
That changed when Gutman left Romania for the first time in 1994. At age 20, she was selected to represent Romania at the Miss Universe pageant in the Philippines. Seeing life outside of a Communist country opened her eyes.
“I decided I was going to travel the whole world,” said Gutman, now 47.
Baker in Turks and Caicos
One of her stops was the Turks and Caicos, an archipelago southeast of the Bahamas in the Atlantic Ocean. In 2011, she was working in a bakery there when Jorge Gutman, vacationing in the islands, walked in.
“She walked out of the kitchen and I fell in love,” he said. “For me, it was love at first sight.”
Two years later, she moved to South Beach and the couple married. They bought a beehive for the backyard of their South Beach home, eventually leading them to create Sunny Honey. Gutman works full time at the business while her husband continues in real estate.
Gutman tested the recipes over three years, trying different honeys and infusing them with different flavors.
”What they have done is put a white gold on the shelf,” Mantovani said, noting they use a rare white honey.
White honey, unlike amber honey, has a milky, custard-like color. Mantovani says the lighter the honey, the sweeter it is.
“If you try theirs and then you try a Publix honey, you will taste the difference. It’s sweeter and not bitter.”
How many times have you heard from the dentist to limit the amounts of sweets you consume or you’ll end up with a mouth full of cavities?
It looks like you can cross honey off that list as honey doesn’t contribute to cavities says a new study. In fact, it appears to have significant dental health promoting properties.
Scientists set out to compare the effect of honey versus a chlorhexidine mouthwash and a xylitol chewing gum/chlorhexidine mouthwash combination on dental plaque levels in ninety dental health students.
Chlorhexidine is a common ingredient you see in mouthwash products and is designed to reduce dental plaque and oral bacteria. The issue I have with over the counter mouth wash products is that virtually all of them have artificial color or food coloring agents in them (there is a reason they are bright blue or yellow). Scope contains Blue 1 and Yellow 5. They also have chemical preservatives in them like sodium benzoate and benzoic acid and artificial sweeteners like sodium saccharin, again all contained in Scope.
Xylitol on the other hand, is a naturally occurring sweetener that is found in many fruits and vegetables. You can find it used in many natural toothpastes and mouthwashes and in sugar free recipes as it is a popular, low glycemic sugar alternative.
The subjects were randomly divided into three groups for the study:
- the honey group
- the chlorhexidine mouthwash group
- the combination of xylitol chewing gum and chlorhexidine mouthwash group
What the study found was that all three groups were effective in reducing dental plaque in the students. Honey however was significantly more effective than the chlorhexidine (over the counter mouthwash) group and was reported to cause a significant reduction of plaque over 30 days. The xylitol group was also more effective than the chlorhexidine group.
Why Is Honey Good for Your Teeth?
The study didn’t get into how or why honey works well for reducing dental plaque but I suspect it is related to the lactic acid bacteria found in honey. A study done in Tehran found that honey prevents cavities by inhibiting Streptococcus mutans.
The scientists set out to evaluate the antibacterial activity of honey on Streptococcus mutans and Lactobacillus. These bacteria are the evil little devils that cause cavities and a mouth full of fillings, not to mention the pain and suffering that accompanies the trip to the dentist.
Over the last several years, raw, unpasteurized honey has been shown to have very strong anti-bacterial activity. Could consuming honey contribute to fewer trips to the dentist along with much smaller dental bills?
In this study, solutions containing 0%, 5%, 10%, 20%, 50% and 100% natural honey were prepared in a test tube. The cavity causing bacteria were then exposed to the different concentrations of honey for 24 hours.
What the scientists found was that the honey had significant antibacterial activity on Streptococcus mutans in concentrations more than 20% and on Lactobacillus in 100% concentration.
So it seems that the antibacterial activity of honey could be used for the prevention and reduction of dental cavities. More studies need to be done but this is very promising as we discover more about the dangers of processed, refined sugars and convert to more natural sugars such as honey. Don’t go brushing your teeth with raw honey just yet but the day of honey infused toothpaste just might be closer than we think!
Honey and Your Teeth
So how can you use honey in your daily routine to limit plaque and reduce cavities? Easy. First off, ditch your bottle of Scope or Listerine and the toxic ingredients contained in those products. Switch to a xylitol toothpaste that is fluoride free and contains propolis. Next, try this home made honey mouthwash that I have created. It tastes great and only takes a minute to prepare:
Honey Mouthwash for Reduced Plaque
- 1/2 cup filtered water (luke warm if possible)
- Dissolve 1 tsp of our plain creamed raw honey into the water. It is very important to use unpasteurized honey. Pasteurized honey will have no living bacteria in it which I believe are the mechanism by which honey works to reduce plaque.
- Stir to help dissolve
- Bonus:add one packet OR 1/2 tsp of xylitol to the mixture.
- Pour the mixture into your mouth and rinse as you would a regular mouthwash.
- Since honey kills Streph, I recommend gargling with the rinse to keep your throat clear of infections.
- After thoroughly rinsing, spit the mixture into the sink.
- Do NOT rinse your mouth out after spitting. I believe there may be some value in having the honey (and xylitol if you use it) remain on your teeth for several minutes to let the ‘good bacteria’ do their work.