In the vast world of food and health there are often some controversial opinions to consider, which can lead to some confusion or uncertainty about the food product in question. However, one thing that is agreed on by most is that honey is a powerhouse of nutritional and medicinal properties, packed with plant compounds that are sure to boost one’s overall health.
Still, there are many varieties of honey to consider. With so many different options on the market, how are you meant to choose? Which type of honey will truly deliver the best health benefits and which type is not quite what is being advertised?
As honey is often used with a variety of meals, from toast to tea and so many in between, it is worth considering the specifics of what you are consuming. While convenience might make processed honey sound appealing, it does not offer the full health benefits of raw honey. Virtually unaltered and thus natural, raw honey can do a lot more for the body’s health.
What is raw honey?
Raw honey can best be described as honey that is as close in composition to what would be found within a beehive as possible. Without added sugar, sweeteners, or several rounds of filtering, raw honey is created by first extracting it from the honeycombs, and then straining it to separate any impurities such as debris from what will later be consumed. The straining of raw honey is typically done by pouring the substance over a mesh cloth. Then, it is bottled and ready for consumption.
In comparison, processed honey may contain more than just natural honey and less of its natural components. Undergoing several rounds of filtering, one of the main focal points of processed honey is aesthetic value and appeal.
When filtered, the honey is rid of most suspending particles and lingering air bubbles, which then makes the liquid substance appear to be clear as well as smooth. It is also commonly pasteurized to kill the yeast and prevent rapid crystallization. However, this is done at a cost – filtering and heating the honey to achieve that smooth, long-lasting texture means that many of the natural health benefits within the substance are also removed.
This means that the product will be more appealing to the eye, but will be lacking nutritious components such as pollen, propolis, and enzymes. Furthermore, processed honey is often laden with added sugars, which lessens the cost, but also contributes to its lack of nutritional value.
Benefits of raw honey
Packed with different minerals, amino acids, and plant compounds, raw honey has many benefits to it. The plant compounds in particular – which are also referred to as polyphenols – are known to have antioxidant effects. Antioxidants work to reduce inflammation in the body, whilst also contributing to overall health. They are also contributors to lowering the risk of certain cancers, as well as heart disease.
Raw honey also contains various micronutrients and enzymes. Some of the notable vitamins and minerals within raw honey include riboflavin, niacin, calcium, manganese, magnesium, zinc, and potassium.
Matters of digestion and honey’s impact are up for debate, but there is no denying that raw honey is a potent prebiotic. Prebiotics aid in digestion by nourishing the healthy bacteria within the intestines. As such, raw honey can contribute to healthy digestion.
Another interesting aspect to consider is that unlike processed honeys, raw honey still contains bee pollen. Showing such healing properties that it is considered a type of medicine in certain parts of the world, bee pollen in raw honey only contributes to its health-boosting properties. Like the polyphenols, bee pollen can also act as an antioxidant, whilst also containing enzymes, fatty acids, and of course, even more vitamins.
Raw honey also possesses remarkable antibacterial properties and can encourage wound healing and tissue regeneration. In addition to that, some studies have discussed the possibility of natural honey contributing to brain health, as the antioxidants it has can aid the hippocampus in fighting inflammation.
The bottom line:
Unlike filtered and processed honeys, raw honey boasts many health benefits. With a considerable amount of enzymes, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and polyphenols, this natural goodness is packed with the nutritional value one expects of real, natural honey. There are plenty of reasons to get yourself a jar of raw honey and enjoy its delightful sweet taste with a cup of tea or whatnot.
Raw honey will often be labeled as “raw” and/or “unprocessed” and would not appear as clear or smooth as processed honey, but looking beyond the visual appeal, raw is definitely the healthier and smarter choice to go with the next time you go shopping for the golden sweet nectar.