Health Benefits of Raw Unfiltered Honey
If you think of honey as just a natural sweetener, you’d be missing a huge part of what honey really is. What you’d be missing is the fact that honey is also one of the world’s oldest medicines. It’s been used for generations to treat wounds, ulcers, eczema, respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases, infection, and dandruff – just to name a few. Honey.com states that honey has a history that goes back 8,000 years.
The Truth About Raw Honey vs Processed Honey
I wanted to start off by citing some of the beliefs about raw honey vs processed honey. Some manufacturers and producers would have you believe that raw, unfiltered honey is far superior than processed honey. The truth is, it depends. Honey contains minerals, antioxidants, and enzymes.
It is true that heating and filtering will cause some, not all, enzymes to degrade or be destroyed, but that depends on how high you heat it. Under 42 degrees Celsius, minerals and antioxidants are not destroyed by heating and filtering and are, in some cases, actually increased!
Heating honey over 42 degC (107^F), will destroy the enzymes and nutrients it naturally contains. Beehives produce honey at an ideal temperature of 35 degC (95^F), so honey should not be heated much over this temperature.
It is also true that filtering removes pollen count from the honey. A process called “ultra-filtering”, which some consider illegal, can remove all of the pollen. This is mainly done to increase shelf-life and provide a clear color, rather than a cloudy or murky appearance.
Some unscrupulous manufacturers also remove pollen from the honey so it cannot be identified as to where it came from. Pollen is the only sure-fire way to identify what part of the world the honey actually came from.
Filtered Honey Myths
Some people believe, mainly in North America, that clear honey is the best, as all the “impurities” have been removed. But this is not entirely the case either. Honey should not have bee parts and pieces of wood from the hive floating around in it, but it should contain the pollen that it is naturally associated with.
So if you are someone that is looking to have more enzyme and pollen benefits to your honey, then raw and unfiltered is definitely the way to go. But if you don’t care much about enzyme or pollen content, then you won’t do any worse either way with processed or raw honey.
One main point you should keep in mind is that different kinds of honey, and their antioxidant abilities, can vary widely depending on which flowers it was manufactured from (where you cannot tell if the pollen was completely removed), and how it was processed, so getting an exact bead on these would be difficult and very expensive, because it would involve third party testing.
For the purposes of this article, I am going to be referring to raw, unfiltered, or crystallized honey, simply because its the type I prefer most. I like a good, quality honey and I personally believe that the less “processed” it is, the better it is, since that’s usually the case with most foods.
I also just like to get as close to nature as possible and I believe it also tastes better than processed honey – but that is for you to decide when you try it for yourself. Overall, honey is just one of those foods that tastes great without the need for very much processing.
Benefits of Raw Honey
Remember those minerals, enzymes, and antioxidants I was talking about? Well, honey contains atleast 181 of them – including polyphenols and oligosaccharides, which are good for the colon and intestines, increase the amount of good bacteria in the stomach, help prevent constipation, and help lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
Honey is an anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and an anti-viral agent. It also contains salicylic acid and tocopherols, which are a form of Vitamin-E. These types of substances all working together are what gives honey its health power and why it is also considered a Superfood.
Just remember that buying honey which has had its pollen content removed, or over-processed by heating it up past 42 degC will not give you the same health benefits, since most or all of the healthy nutrients will have been removed or destroyed by the heating process.
Honey and Antioxidants
The phenolic content of honey depends on the type of pollen collected by bees. So even though there are many types of honey, one way to tell the differences in antioxidant content is by their color. The general rule being: the darker the color, the higher the antioxidants.
Here in New Jersey, where the “blueberry capital” is located, I have been able to sample pure, raw blueberry honey, made from the flowers of blueberry bushes and pure, raw orange honey, made from orange blossoms in Florida. The blueberry honey is darker than the orange.
I prefer the blueberry because not only are blueberries superfoods in themselves, but I think it also tastes a little bit sweeter and more robust too. Without testing it myself, I think I can safely assume that the blueberry honey also contains more antioxidants than the orange type.
These are the type of differences you are going to find, especially since there are more than 300 types of honey in the United States alone.
So consuming honey will increase antioxidant activity in the body, which is one of its greatest benefits. With processed sugars being a major cause of diabetes around the world, substituting honey for some portion of this sugar intake could have an impact on decreasing this current epidemic that is also effecting children more and more.
How to Use Raw Honey at Home
Many of us can remember having a parent or grandparent that use to give us warm honey and milk to help you fall asleep. There’s something about honey that increases melatonin levels in the body and produces this effect.
How about that sore throat when you’re catching a cold? Try some hot green tea with a dash of cayenne pepper and a dash of real lemon juice to sooth inflammation in the throat.
I also like to slice up some apples, warm them up in the oven and drizzle honey over them sprinkled with cinnamon. Talk about a healthy snack – cinnamon also helps decrease or maintain healthy sugar levels so its good for diabetics or pre-diabetics.
Some people like “comb honey”. This is honey that is still in a piece of the original honey comb. To use this, cut a piece of the comb honey and place it in a cup of your favorite hot tea.
Pure raw unfiltered honey will naturally crystallize in its jar so don’t keep it in the refrigerator. If you want to know how to soften crystallized honey, just place a glass jar of honey in a pan of water and gently heat it up. Don’t use the microwave either as this can change the taste.
Being from New Jersey, there is one place I like to go get my raw unfiltered honey from and that’s Fruitwood Orchards. They have a variety of raw honey from their own bees, both filtered and unfiltered, and processed right there on their own orchard farm in Hardingville, NJ.
From the labels they put on their jars of honey, “…..you are buying pure, raw, unfiltered honey, containing all the enzymes, pollen, minerals and vitamins that Mother Nature, with honey bees, put into this honey.“
That’s the way I like it!
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