Bee Prepared: Raw Honey VS Processed Honey
Dr. Oz calls it “liquid gold,” touting raw honey’s many healing properties. Raw honey is honey in its purest form – it isn’t filtered, strained, or heated above natural hive temperatures (usually 46 degrees Celcius), a format used in commercially-processed honeys. Raw honey is an alkaline-forming food, containing ingredients similar to those found in fruits, which become alkaline in the digestive system. Raw honey is the healthiest choice amongst the various forms of honey as it has the most nutritional value.
What is honey made of?
Honey, raw or heated, is primarily fructose (38%), glucose (31%), water (17%), and maltose (7%). It also contains small amounts of trisaccharides, other carbohydrates, sucrose and minerals. Raw honey contains more nutrients and healthful components than heated honey, including vitamins, enzymes, pollen and propolis. Most commercially-processed honeys contain no propolis because it is removed during processing. Raw and unfiltered honey is relatively low in moisture content (14% to 18%) and has a high antioxidant level. Most commercial honey farmers harvest when the moisture content is above 19% and heat it to evaporate the moisture.
Most of the honey found in the supermarket is not raw honey but “commercial” regular honey, which has been pasteurised (heated at 70 degrees Celsius or more, followed by rapid cooling) and filtered so that it looks cleaner and smoother, more appealing on the shelf, and easier to handle and package. Heat deactivates enzymes in honey and greatly diminishes or destroys many of its nutrients, and antioxidant properties.
In fact, commercially processed (heat treated), clarified honey loses from 33 – 50% of its original vitamin content. Pasteurisation kills any yeast cell in the honey and prevents fermentation. It also slows down the speed of crystallisation in liquid honey. On the downside, when honey is heated, its delicate aromas, yeast and enzymes which are responsible for activating vitamins and minerals in the body system are partially destroyed. Hence, raw honey is assumed to be more nutritious than honey that has undergone heat treatment.
Honey as superfood
One of the major benefits of raw honey is that it’s nature’s own multivitamin. Vitamins such as B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and even antioxidant-rich vitamin C are found in raw honey. It also contains minerals like magnesium, potassium, calcium, sodium chlorine, sulphur, and phosphate.
Raw honey can be used internally and externally for a variety of common ailments. It has been used in many skin care products, health products and as a vital ingredient in many home remedies. Eating honey that is grown in your region helps stimulate your immune system, which can help in the treatment of allergies. Here are some of its many excellent benefits:
Sugar can be substituted with honey in many food and drinks. Honey contains about 69% glucose and fructose enabling it to be used as a sweetener.
According to USDA, honey contains about 64 calories per tablespoon. On the other hand, one tablespoon of sugar will give you about 15 calories. Hence honey is used by many as a source of energy. Also, the carbohydrates in the honey can be easily converted into glucose by even the most sensitive stomachs. Hence it is very easy to digest honey.
Though honey has more calories than sugar, honey when consumed with warm water helps in digesting the fat stored in your body. Similarly, honey and lemon juice and honey and cinnamon help in reducing weight.
Improving athletic performance
Honey is an excellent ergogenic aid and helps in boosting the performance of athletes. Honey facilitates in maintaining blood sugar levels, muscle recuperation and glycogen restoration after a workout.
Source of vitamins and minerals
Honey contains a variety of vitamins minerals. The type of vitamins and minerals and their quantity depends on the type of flowers used for apiculture. Commonly, honey contains vitamin C, calcium and iron.
Antibacterial and antifungal properties
Honey has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and hence it can be used as a natural antiseptic.
Honey contains nutraceuticals, which are effective in removing free radicals from our body.
Milk and honey are often served together as both these ingredients help in getting a smooth soothing skin.
Honey possesses antimicrobial properties to speed up the healing process by stimulating wound tissues. It also helps in initiating the healing process in dormant wounds.
Dental care and mouth sores
Cleans teeth, mouth and dentures and stops bleeding gums. Canker sores, blisters and mouth ulcers respond to application of unstrained raw honey.
A teaspoon of honey in a glass of warm milk before sleeping is calming and induces sleep.
Honey contains a natural presence of botulinum endospores, therefore, children under one year old should not be given honey. Before the age of twelve months, a child’s intestinal tract is not mature enough to inhibit the growth of clostridium botulinum, which is often found in honey. No honey, in any form, should be given to babies younger than one.
How do bees make honey?
As a honeybee buzzes from flower to flower, it collects a sweet liquid called nectar. The bee stores the nectar in a part of its stomach. There, the nectar mixes with proteins and enzymes to convert it into honey. Back at the hive, the bee transfers the honey to a worker bee. This bee feeds the liquid honey to bee larvae or transfers it to the cells – called honeycombs – in the hive. The bee uses its wings to fan the honey in the comb. This evaporates the water in the honey and makes it thicker. Once the honey is thick, the worker bee caps the honeycomb with wax to store it for use later.
Forms of Honey
A homogeneous mixture of two or more honeys differing in floral source, colour, flavour, density or geographic origin.
Honey in which part of the natural glucose content has spontaneously crystallised from solution as the monohydrate. Also called “Granulated Honey.”
Honey processed by filtration to remove extraneous solids and pollen grains.
Honey produced, processed, and packaged in accordance with State and Federal regulations on honey and organic products, and certified by a State Department of Agriculture or an independent organic farming certification organisation.
Honey as it exists in the beehive or as obtained by extraction, settling or straining without adding heat.
Commercial Raw Honey:
Honey as obtained by minimum processing. This product is often labeled as raw honey.
1) Storage or exposure to either ambient (environmental) or applied (deliberately added) heat influences the character of honey.
2) Enzymatic activity, antimicrobial properties, microbial quality, colour and chemical composition are all influenced by heat and storage.
3) There are an infinite number of time and temperature combinations that will affect the raw state of honey.
4) The definition of “minimum” processing can be set by purchasing standards.
Honey which has been passed through a mesh material to remove particulate material (pieces of wax, propolis, other defects) without removing pollen.
Honey processed, by controlled crystallisation, to a smooth spreadable consistency. Also called “Creamed Honey,” “Spun© Honey,” “Whipped Honey,” “Churned Honey,” “Candied Honey” or “Honey Fondant.”
“Not all honey is REAL honey. And not all real honey is RAW honey.”
If given a chance to speak her mind, this is what Cathie Tan, owner of The Bee Shop – the only mobile bee farm in Malaysia – would say to honey consumers out there.
To the untrained eyes, all honey look the same. Raw honey is simply honey harvested after maturity and as it exists in the beehive or as obtained by extraction, settling or straining without adding heat. Processed honey is honey harvested before maturity. Raw means that it’s closer to what it would be in its natural state inside a beehive.
To increase yield, many commercial farmers harvest honey weeks prematurely and then heat it (which only takes around 30 minutes) to extract the excess moisture to prevent it from fermenting. This process however destroys honey’s healthy enzymes, nutrients and antioxidants; even altering the taste, aroma, colour and consistency.
Feeding bees with syrup
As trees don’t flower all year long, bees move away to other flowering trees to look for nectar. But stationary bee farmers usually feed them with syrup or sugar to keep them from (migrating) looking for new flowers. So obviously, what you harvest from the beehive is not original honey but syrup honey. “Our method is different. As the only mobile bee farmer, we move our bees to where the flowers are; to help the bees search for nectar, at times traveling from one state to another every month. This calls for precision in planning and timing. We harvest only once a month to protect and nurture the bee eco system”, say Cathie.
How to know the difference?
It’s not easy but there are a few ways you can try. Raw honey becomes soft and easily absorbed into your skin when rubbed on it because of the glucose and fructose in raw honey. Doctored honey, however, is made of sucrose and is therefore thicker, and the more it’s rubbed on the skin, the stickier and courser it becomes.
Processed honey can dry throats, make you thirsty, has a strong aroma, with a flat taste, unlike raw honey. Unprocessed raw honey has the natural tendency to crystallise, become solid. It is a guarantee of honey quality and purity.
For more information on The Bee Shop, please visit: thebeeshop.blogspot.com