You see it on our bottles, we talk about it a lot. Heck, it’s something we are really proud of. Our honey is pure, raw honey. But what does raw honey even mean?
Basics. You know that honey is a thick, sweet syrup made by honey bees.
It’s loaded with healthy plant compounds and has been linked to several health benefits AND it is delicious. But what makes honey raw honey?
Raw honey is most easily explained as honey “as it exists in the beehive” or as we like to say, “Just like the bees made it.”
This minimalist hands-on process involves extracting honey from the honeycombs of the hive and pouring it over a mesh or nylon cloth to separate the honey from larger pieces of beeswax and um–how do we put this gently–dead bee particles.
Once strained, for wax and the occasional bee wing or arm the raw honey is bottled and ready to be enjoyed. Simple, right?
On the other hand, the production of regular honey involves several more steps before it is bottled—such as pasteurization and filtration.
Pasteurization is a process that destroys the yeast found in honey by applying high heat. This helps extend the shelf life and makes it smoother.
Also, filtration further removes impurities like debris and air bubbles so that the honey stays as a clear liquid for longer. This is aesthetically appealing to many consumers. Some commercial honey are additionally processed by undergoing a process called ultrafiltration. Ultrafiltration further refines the honey to make it more transparent and smooth, but it can also remove beneficial nutrients like pollen, enzymes, and antioxidants.
Moreover, as we’ve discussed at length in our Fraudulent Honey Blog post some manufacturers may add sugar or sweeteners to honey to reduce costs.
So what does the additional processing mean to you as a consumer?
As we explained, raw and regular honey is processed quite differently. These processes can lead to a variety of distinctions between the two, especially in quality.
Raw Honey Is More Nutritious. Raw honey contains a wide variety of nutrients that often are stripped away in ultrafiltration processes.
Raw honey has approximately 22 amino acids, 31 different minerals, and a wide range of vitamins and helpful enzymes. However, the nutrients are only present in trace amounts. What’s most impressive about raw honey is that it contains nearly 30 types of bioactive plant compounds. These are called polyphenols, and they act as natural antioxidants.
Many studies have linked these antioxidants with health benefits, including reduced inflammation and a lower risk of heart disease, and have even been shown to reduce the risk of certain cancers.
On the other hand, commercial honey may contain fewer antioxidants due to processing methods.
One recent study compared the antioxidants in raw and processed honey. They found that the raw honey contained up to 4.3 times more antioxidants than the processed variety.
Regular Honey May Have Hidden Sugars or Sweeteners
Approximately 400 million pounds of honey are consumed in the US each year. Because honey is so popular, it’s hard to meet this high demand from local suppliers alone. This is why approximately 70% of the honey consumed in the US is imported. While there are many, many amazing beekeepers across the globe producing raw honey, there is a serious concern worldwide about regular or commercial grade honey being contaminated with sugar or other sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup.
For the most confidence when buying honey, if you are looking for potential health benefits, look for “Raw, Pure” honey on the label.
Is raw and organic the same thing?
The simple and accurate answer is no. We recently had to turn business away from a company that was adamant about marketing everything on their online shop as organic. The seller was using the term “Organic” as something interchangeable with “Natural” and this is neither accurate nor honest. Raw and organic honey is subject to different regulations in different countries.
Honey that is classified as raw is not allowed to be pasteurized or processed.
Conversely, organic honey must simply come from a bee farm that meets the organic livestock standards of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). As of this publication, honey is not eligible to be certified as organic in the United States. If you are buying organic honey is either not certified or imported.
Just because it is raw, doesn’t change one recommendation. Just like regular honey, Raw honey should not be fed to babies.
Raw honey can contain spores of the bacteria Clostridium botulinum. This bacteria is especially harmful to babies or children under the age of one. It may cause botulism poisoning, which results in life-threatening paralysis.
However, botulism is very rare among healthy adults and older children. As the body ages, the gut develops enough to stop the botulinum spores from growing. That said, if you experience side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea soon after eating raw honey, you should see your doctor immediately.
Note that regular honey may also contain Clostridium botulinum spores. This means babies or children under one year old should also avoid it.
When it comes down to it, raw and regular honey is mostly a differentiation of the process of processing. Raw honey is only strained before it’s bottled, which means it retains most of the beneficial nutrients and antioxidants that it naturally contains, on the other hand, regular honey may undergo a variety of processing, which may remove beneficial nutrients like pollen and reduce its level of antioxidants.
When it comes to choosing healthy honey, your best bet is to go raw so you know exactly what you are getting. At World Honey Market all of our honey is pure, raw honey. Visit our shop at www.worldhoneymarket.com/shop to try the difference for yourself!