Raw organic honey looks, smells and tastes much different than most processed brands that line the shelves of mainstream grocery stores. It’s typically thicker, richer tasting and milkier looking than commercial brands. Of course, it’s usually more expensive too, but you might be able to save some money if you shop at farmers markets or county fares. Raw organic honey is the most natural form of honey and likely the most beneficial.
Raw Organic Honey
Raw honey is taken directly from the hive’s honeycomb and then loosely filtered or strained, which is why it often contains bits of bee pollen and waxy honeycomb. To be considered organic, the beehive cannot be exposed to flowers that are sprayed with pesticides or other chemicals. In contrast, most commercial brands of honey are pasteurized, which means heated to high temperatures, as well as fine-filtered, processed and mixed with additives to keep the honey from crystallizing or clumping. The minimal processing of raw organic honey allows it to keep its high levels of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and other nutrients, which are the basis for its various benefits.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of buying raw organic honey is the deliciously rich and creamy taste. Most commercial brands of honey are usually syrupy sweet, which may be fine as a sweetener for coffee or tea, but raw organic honey is typically full of subtle flavors and textures. As such, it’s a great addition to toasted whole-grain bread or an English muffin. The lack of pasteurization and processing preserves heat-sensitive plant compounds that contribute to taste and aroma. The dominant flavor of raw organic honey is variable and directly related to the types of flowers that the beehive have access to.
In addition to being rich in glucose and fructose sugars, raw organic honey contains many B vitamins, amino acids, enzymes and various minerals in trace amounts. B vitamins are important for metabolism, energy production and healthy blood production. Amino acids are used by your body to build protein-based structures such as muscle tissue, skin and hair. Enzymes are helpful for food digestion. Most of the nutrients in raw organic honey come from the bits of bee pollen and larvae.
Potential Health Benefits
Raw organic honey has antimicrobial properties because it contains an enzyme that produces hydrogen peroxide, which kills many pathogens such as bacteria and viruses. Consequently, raw honey has traditionally been used to treat minor wounds and reduce the symptoms of sore throats, chronic coughs and stomach irritation. Raw honey also has antioxidant properties, which means it’s able to eliminate or neutralize free radicals and reduce the risk of tissue damage. Raw honey is also a good humectant because it draws moisture to the skin and combats dehydration. It can also be used as a facial mask to exfoliate skin and unclog pores.
Raw organic honey has a variety of benefits, but you should avoid giving it to infants who have not yet developed their immune systems. Unpasteurized honey may contain bacteria that are harmless to adults, but dangerous to young children.
- Encyclopedia of Human Nutrition; Benjamin Caballero et al.
- Superfoods: The Healthiest Foods on the Planet; Tonia Reinhard
- Textbook of Nutritional Medicine; Melvyn Werbach and Jeffery Moss
Sirah Dubois is currently a PhD student in food science after having completed her master's degree in nutrition at the University of Alberta. She has worked in private practice as a dietitian in Edmonton, Canada and her nutrition-related articles have appeared in The Edmonton Journal newspaper.