What Is Raw Honey, Exactly?
Honey is a near-perfect substance that requires no human intervention whatsoever, but somehow we've still managed to embellish it, complicate it, and create confusion about what exactly we're drizzling into our tea. This is not the bees' fault, of course, but the people who profit from misinformation about honey.
Take, for example, the concept of "raw honey" as opposed to ordinary supermarket honey. BEE&YOU, a brand specializing in bee products, sells its raw honey for a whopping $19.99 per jar. Without wanting to downplay the work of beekeepers and honey producers, but at $20 per jar, the term "liquid gold" had better be taken literally and not figuratively.
Or is that simply the cost of sourcing the "real" honey? The brand's Wildflower Raw Honey and Pine Raw Honeydew Honey are advertised as "pure, raw and unprocessed, rich in antioxidants, pesticide-free, gluten-free and non-GMO." Does that mean the bear-shaped bottle of honey I bought at Aldi is processed, riddled with gluten, free of antioxidants and laced with pesticides? It's time to decipher the marketing terms that are bandied about when it comes to honey.
How honey is made
The process of making honey is quite simple: bees fly to flowers and collect nectar, which is then filled into the honeycombs (the structures inside the hive where the bees live). The fanning of their wings helps to evaporate the water contained in the nectar and transform it into the honey we know and desire.
The differences between honeys depend mainly on the flower from which the bees take the nectar. Thus, there are different types of honey such as manuka, forest or acacia honey.
Raw honey vs. pasteurized honey vs. pure honey
Although the main difference between honeys is the nectar from which they are extracted, there are also some human interventions that can alter honey.
Raw honey goes directly from the comb to the jar, without any other intermediate steps. The honey may be filtered to ensure that the jars do not contain pollen, comb debris or dead bees, but otherwise it is untreated.
Regular or pasteurized honey is heated to high temperatures and sometimes filtered several times. This process serves to extend the shelf life of the honey and generally make it more transparent. Sweeteners and corn syrup may also be added to regular honey to make it last longer. In contrast, "pure" honey is pasteurized but contains no additives.
Before you scold me for my "unhealthy" teddy bear honey, know that the ingredients listed on the label are just honey, nothing else. Plus, there are no definitive studies to confirm whether raw honey is better for your health than regular or pasteurized honey," writes Medical News Today.
The National Honey Board conducted a study in 2012 that examined the levels of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in raw and processed honey. The study found that processing reduced the pollen content of honey, but had no effect on the nutrient content or antioxidants.
Back to the idea of "pure, raw, unprocessed, antioxidant-rich, gluten-free" honey. Well, all honeys are gluten-free, so my Teddy Bear honey, which costs well under $20, does well in that category. And we have found that your honey, processed or not, contains antioxidants. Finally, "raw" and "unprocessed" are basically just synonyms. The word "pure" is a contradiction in terms, since technically it can still be pasteurized - and thus processed.
Raw honey can be great, but it's not always the gold standard. Other honeys are fine for the vast majority of uses and are no less healthy (unless they contain corn syrup - check the label). The best reason to spend more money on honey is if beekeepers are using humane, environmentally friendly techniques. Don't feel pressured to break the bank by scare tactics from an expensive, unethical brand.
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