We’ve all heard that honey has some amazing health benefits. It’s like liquid gold for the body. But what if the honey you’ve been buying actually isn’t good for you at all? Turns out, only a certain type of honey contains all of these amazing health benefits. And that’s raw honey.
What is Raw Honey? And What it’s Not…
Essentially, raw honey is exactly what the beekeepers take out of their beehives: a viscous substance that bees generate from the concentrated nectar of plants. This honey is collected, put into bottles, and sold as is.
So what exactly is this other “honey?” Well, it is still the substance collected from beehives. However, this substance is not simply bottled and sold. Rather, it is put through an extensive process, called pasteurization. This is essentially heating the honey to about 160º F.
There are a few main reasons why this heating is done. One of them is to kill any latent yeast cells present from the nectar, preventing fermentation, which is generally not a concern when considering such a low-moisture product. The main reasons that honey is pasteurized are to ease the bottling process, to make the color more uniform, and to prevent crystallization, in the hopes that it will appear more appealing to potential customers. However, through this process, all of the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants naturally present in the honey are destroyed. A huge part of this is removing the bee pollen, which provides many of honey’s medicinal properties.
Health Benefits of Raw Honey
Honey has an unbelievable amount of health benefits. It’s amazing that this sticky substance is naturally occurring and so easily accessible! Honey contains antioxidants called phenolic compounds. These powerful mixtures help eliminate free radicals in the body, which can slow aging and prevent disease.
Honey also contains phytonutrients, which have antioxidant properties as well. These nutrients help to keep plants safe from harm, and in turn, do the same for us when we ingest them.
Honey has also been shown to have antibacterial properties, naturally containing hydrogen peroxide, which is an antiseptic. This helps prevent unwanted bacteria that enters our bodies from spreading and reproducing. It can also benefit our bodies externally, and has been known to treat open wounds.
One of the most incredible ways that I think honey can benefit us is by soothing our throats. Honey naturally contains a compound called dextromethorphan, which is a common ingredient in various cough suppressant medications.
Lastly, honey may also help reduce pollen allergies and aid with digestion.
Important Note: If you haven’t already noticed from the numerous warnings on every honey bottle in existence, it’s very important to never give unpasteurized honey to children under 1 years old. This is because a harmful bacteria called botulism could be present, and children at such a young age do not yet have the proper immunity to ward off infection.
What to Look For When Buying Honey
Once you become aware of the two different kinds of honey, pasteurized vs. raw, it’s easy to find the right one when you’re shopping. There are a few specific things you should look for when rolling down the grocery store aisle or strolling through the farmers’ market. Firstly, and most importantly, look for honey that is labeled raw or unpasteurized. This ensures that the honey you are buying still has all of the incredible health benefits that I listed above. Another things that I like to look for when buying honey is a local beekeeper. Buying from a small, local beehive makes it more likely that the honey is completely unpasteurized and uncontaminated. Lastly, if you are very particular about where you shop, you may be able to find honey that is completely unfiltered. This means that the honey still contains larger pieces of pollen, as opposed to just smaller specs found in other raw honey, further enhancing the health benefits.
How To Use Honey
If you’re reading through this and thinking “How the heck should I be using honey anyway?” then I have some suggestions for you! There are tons of ways to incorporate honey into your diet. (It’s just important to keep in mind that honey, though nutrient-dense, is still very high in natural sugars. Considering this, honey, like everything else, should be used in moderation.) A few of the ways that I like to eat honey are by adding it to tea or coffee, mixing it in with yogurt, or topping a smoothie bowl. You can also drizzle it on pretty much any food to add some sweetness. The possibilities are endless.
I want to note that honey’s natural enzymes and nutrients start degrading around 98º F. So if you are putting it in tea, coffee, or hot foods, this will likely degrade the raw honey and essentially start pasteurizing it, making it no longer raw. This is something that is widely overlooked when using raw honey.
So there you have it! Now you know which honey you should be picking up on your next trip to the grocery store or farmers’ market. What’s your favorite place to buy honey? What are your favorite recipes that involve honey? Leave me a comment and let me know!