You’re probably interested in honey as a sweetener or a sugar substitute, but did you know raw organic honey is also a superfood with many health benefits? I hope your answer was, “No” so that you will keep reading 🙂
First of all you need to understand that most of what is called “honey” on the shelves at the average grocery store should not be considered real honey. The FDA has stated that honey which has been ultra-filtered so that it no longer contains bee pollen is not considered honey. The problem is that most “honey” that is imported into the U.S.(almost 400 million pounds a year) is not being tested to see if it contains pollen. Food Safety News did a test of honey sold at most grocery stores and found that over 75% of honey did not contain pollen!
Pollen is important because it contains many beneficial enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. Bee pollen is the richest source of vitamins found in nature in a single food. This fact though is not the only reason why it is important that honey should contain pollen.
The other reason is that pollen in honey can be tested to see which country the honey originated from. This is important because China has been trying to sneak in their tainted honey into the U.S. for years and testing the pollen is the only way to find out where the honey came from. The reason China has been trying to sneak their honey into the U.S. is because the U.S. started taxing Chinese honey(which was dirt cheap) that was flooding the market and putting beekeepers out of business. To get around the import tax, China started laundering the honey through other countries like India and Vietnam!
The process of ultra-filtering, where honey is heated, watered down, and then forced at high pressure through extremely small filters, removes all the pollen from honey which is why countries like China use it.
How else is the imported honey tainted?
A lot of honey made in countries outside of America is tainted with antibiotics and heavy metals(like lead). Some honey is even made up of mostly artificial sweeteners instead of actual honey! For these reasons, the European Union has banned honey from India(a country that China launders honey through) and yet the U.S. still imports 23% of their honey through India???
Chloramphenicol is the main antibiotic that has been used on the bees to fight foulbrood disease. The FDA has banned food with Chloramphenicol in it, but how would they know if this antibiotic was in the honey from these foreign countries if a huge portion of it is not being tested?
Chloramphenicol has been linked to leukemia, bone marrow depression, and in rare cases aplastic anemia(which can be fatal).
The other danger of imported honey is the heavy metal lead. The lead contamination comes from lead soldered drums that thousands of smaller honey vendors in China use. As you may already know, lead is a dangerous neurotoxin that accumulates in the body over time even through small levels of exposure. Lead is especially dangerous to children. The dangers include the impairment of the intelligence of infants and the learning abilities of children. This is permanent neurological damage.
Is there such a thing as organic honey?
Many people will say, “Honey cannot be organic because bees travel around in a 3 mile radius of their hive.”
It is true that hives which are near agricultural areas, golf courses, and landfills can be contaminated with pesticides and other toxic residues because the bees will fly around the area to forage, but there are beekeepers that purposely place their hives in an isolated area at a safe distance from these contaminants. This is a reason why “local” honey isn’t always the best option.
In addition to this, certified organic honey is produced without the use of antibiotics like tetracycline which can contribute to the problem of antibiotic resistance. Organic beekeepers also avoid using dangerous chemicals like miticides for Varroa mites, pesticides to kill hive beetles, or the product Bee Go which is made from the harsh chemical butyric anhydride used to chase bees out of the way.
What’s the big deal about “raw”?
Raw honey is simply honey that is not heated. Why does this matter? I’m glad you asked.
Processed conventional honey is heated to over 150°F (sometimes up to 180°F) which destroys beneficial enzymes. What are enzymes? Why are they important? Which enzymes are destroyed?
“Virtually all reactions in the body are mediated by enzymes, which are protein catalysts that increase the rate of reactions without being changed in the overall process. Among the many biologic reactions that are energetically possible, enzymes selectively channel reactants (called substrates) into useful pathways. Enzymes thus direct all metabolic events.” – taken from “Enzymes”, Lippincott’s Biochemistry
So what does that mean and why is it important in relation to honey?
It means that enzymes are important to the health of your body. The digestive enzymes that are found in honey help to break down or split things like proteins and carbohydrates which make them more easily digestible. Ingesting these enzymes reduces the burden on the body(specifically the pancreas) to produce these enzymes to digest food. This results in your body having more energy.
One enzyme found in honey is amylase. Amylase helps to break down starch(a carbohydrate) into simple sugars. This helps with digesting things like wheat, corn, and potatoes. Amylase also helps to fight against diabetes and cancer.
Proteolytic enzymes, which break down protein into amino acids, are also found in honey. Two of these proteolytic enzymes are trypsin and chymotrypsin. Trypsin cuts the protein chain at the lysine and arginine area while chymotrypsin cuts the chain at the phenylalanine, tyrosine and tryptophan areas. These enzymes help to fight against indigestion and food allergies especially from foods high in protein.
Other enzymes in honey actually have medicinal value. Honey contains the enzyme glucose oxidase which produces hydrogen peroxide, giving honey antibacterial properties that can be used to dress wounds and burns. Honey was also proven to be as effective of a cough suppressant as DXM(dextromethorphan).
These benefits from the enzymes are lost when honey is heated. Most enzymes start to become denatured(inactive) at 104°F and rapidly degrade at 140°F. Since most honey is heated over 150°F, you cannot get the benefits from the enzymes unless you buy raw honey.
Should you buy local honey?
It depends on where you live. If you live in an area surrounded by GMO cornfields, it’s probably not a good idea. At that point the benefit of being “local” really loses it’s value because the bees will forage in an area contaminated with pesticides, herbicides, and genetically modified crops. This is not conducive to healthy honey.
What about the notion that ingesting local honey will help fight against seasonal allergies?
Sorry to burst your bubble, but this is a total myth. The real culprit of seasonal allergies is pollen from trees, weeds, and grasses, not the flowers that bees get pollen from. Trying to build up immunity by consuming local honey does not work because it’s not the pollen in honey that causes most people’s allergies in the first place.
If you really want to get to the root of the allergy problem, I would suggest you focus on your gut flora health. An excellent resource is “Gut and Psychology Syndrome” by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride which explains the important role of gut health in relation to your immune system. If your gut bacteria is out of balance, it can cause allergies.
Is honey no different or worse than white sugar?
This myth is propagated by mainstream media. The argument basically is that your body reacts the same to white sugar as it does honey.
Well first of all, which type of honey? They are referring to the most widely consumed form of honey which is the non-organic and pasteurized variety. I would agree with them that there is not much difference between those two products and that people are deluding themselves if they think they are eating healthier by pouring on this type of honey on their food.
Commercial honey scores a little lower on the glycemic index than white sugar, while raw honey scores even lower than commercial honey. So the comparisons that a lot of people do are misleading and leave out many factors that make a difference. (On a side note, the glycemic index is not without it’s faults and I will be writing about it in the future)
In addition to this, table sugar(sucrose) is made of glucose and fructose like honey, but because it contains no enzymes, our bodies have to use their own enzymes to break sucrose down into glucose and fructose, whereas raw honey already contains the enzyme(invertase) necessary to break down the sugar into glucose and fructose. This makes honey easier for the body to digest.
White sugar is also completely devoid of any nutritional value and actually leaches nutrients out of your body like calcium, whereas raw organic honey has many different vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants not to mention the other health benefits already mentioned in this article.
Honey has more calories than white sugar, but because honey is sweeter, you need less of it. Plus if you actually exercise and don’t sit around all day, this is no big deal.
Saying that raw organic honey is the same as a heavily processed substance such as white sugar is stupid, dishonest, or both depending on the person.
Other benefits of raw organic honey
Energy – Honey contains fructose and glucose in a balanced ratio that provides both a quick energy boost from the glucose and sustained energy from the fructose. This high carb fuel is great for exercise like running.
Sleep – Taking some honey about 30 minutes before bed helps to feed your brain while you sleep giving you a better night of uninterrupted rest.
In the future I will write other articles about the benefits of pollen, propolis, and royal jelly as well, but for now we have seen the many benefits of raw organic honey.
I hope that this information has helped you to get to the bottom of this issue and see the true value of raw organic honey as opposed to commercial, processed, pasteurized “honey”.
Those that should avoid raw honey:
Infants under the age of one
People with an immunodeficiency disorder
This is because of possible bacteria in the honey, but it is safe for everyone else.