What Is Raw Honey?
If you pick up a jar of raw honey and place it next to a jar of regular honey, you will notice that raw honey is often significantly more opaque and cloudier. It also comes in a variety of colors and aromas, depending on the kind of flowers the bees that made that specific jar of honey pollinated.
Raw honey has all of these unique qualities because it is not pasteurized, meaning that it doesn’t undergo any thermal processing. Instead, it is drained directly from the honeycomb. The beekeepers will filter out the debris, such as pieces of plants, honeycomb, beeswax and bees, but there are even those raw honey varieties that have an entire piece of honeycomb suspended in the honey.
To find raw honey at a store or wherever you buy your honey, it has to contain the label “raw”, which shouldn’t be confused with “organic” or “pure” honey, as both of the latter can be pasteurized.
How Is Raw Honey Different From Regular Honey?
In the past, all honey was raw, as it is one of the rare organic substances that doesn’t spoil. However, nowadays, much of the honey we find on supermarket shelves undergoes thermal processing to improve its purity, smoothness, taste and appearance. It also has a longer shelf life, as pasteurized honey tends to crystallize slower than raw honey.
Simultaneously, it has been argued that together with the pasteurization, many antioxidants contained in raw honey (flavonoids and phenolic acids) and other beneficial additives (such as bee pollen and propolis) are lost or their effect is weakened. In addition, regular honey often contains added sweeteners (such as high fructose corn syrup and brown rice syrup) to bring down its cost, even if the label states that it’s 100% honey.
How Is Raw Honey More Beneficial For Your Health?
Unlike pasteurized honey, raw honey contains natural components that have been proven to be beneficial to humans’ health. It doesn’t contain any additional sweeteners, but it is the sweetener of choice of many health-minded people, as, apart from containing sugar, it is packed with other beneficial nutrients.
Raw honey has been argued to contain more antioxidants, as some of them may have been destroyed during the thermal processing. Apart from that, raw honey has some propolis and bee pollen, the benefits of which we discuss below.
Propolis is a sticky substance produced by bees. Essentially, it is the ‘glue’ that keeps a beehive together. Apart from its function as a building block for beehives, however, scientists believe it can be beneficial to human health, too. In particular, a 2017 review article found that propolis has the following benefits:
Apart from that, it contains many vitamins and nutrients, such as B vitamins, vitamin C and E, magnesium, potassium, and enzymes beneficial to human health.
Bee pollen is filtered out during the pasteurization process, but this substance has been found to have the following health benefits:
Apart from that, bee pollen contains the following beneficial nutrients: amino acids, vitamin A and C, and low levels of calcium, sodium and magnesium. And while honey itself has antibacterial and wound-healing properties, raw honey that contains more bee pollen may be more potent than the pasteurized kind. In summary, raw honey is more nutrient-rich than regular honey, and so it is a better alternative, especially for people who are looking for a healthier alternative.
A word of caution to those of you who have severe pollen allergies. Consult your doctor before eating raw honey, as it may cause allergy symptoms. Kids younger than a year of age should also stay away from any form of honey.