Before we delve into the honey pot it is worth considering and reflecting on the fact that in order to produce approximately half a kilo it would take over 500 bees to visit two million flowers and fly about 90,000 kilometres. And one little honey bee will only produce the equivalent of one twelfth of a teaspoon in its entire existence! That is some seriously hard work and may make you think a little when drizzling it all over your breakfast.
The flavour of honey depends on what types of plants the bees are foraging from and so there are limitless variations as to what it can taste like. The intricacy of which has been compared to that of different grapes for flavour of wine. Also the method by which honey is processed strongly influences the taste and quality as well as the potential health benefits we can reap from all that grafting.
We need to opt for raw honey, meaning it has not been pasteurised, as this is the one with all the goodness still remaining – when pasteurised a great deal of the honey’s natural magic (nutrient-wise) is destroyed due to the intense heat involved. So basically if you’re going to the supermarket and buying the regular stuff on the shelf it is more than likely filtered and lacking in any form of goodness, and more than likely not ethically produced.
What is it good for?
Raw honey, however, is well documented throughout history as being useful within medicine and general health. Certain raw honeys are packed with the chemical compounds or phytonutrients that are found in the plants themselves (those from which the honey was generated), and provide it with an excellent source of antioxidants, or polyphenols, which protect our bodies from free radicals that can contribute to the development of chronic illnesses. This also delivers the antibacterial and anti fungal properties as it contains the natural antiseptic, hydrogen peroxide.
Some types of honey are used in the treatment of wounds to eradicate germs and assist in, as well as speed up, cell regeneration. For these reasons raw honey is also considered to boost our immune systems and prevent cancerous cells from developing.
Honey also contains probiotics (see our previous blog on probiotics and prebiotics) which nourish the healthy bacteria within our gut. As well as these amazing attributes honey is also used throughout history, and to this day, as a soothing remedy for sore throats, coughs and colds, best served hot in a lemon tea. Raw honey contains bee pollen which is full of protein, and used in Chinese medicine to balance nutrition, improve vitality, longevity and energy, as well as weight control, anti-ageing and allergies.
Taking into account all these factors, as well as the fact that honey is an excellent and versatile ingredient for countless dishes and recipes, we researched into finding the best honeys out there and how to select them.
How to choose your honey
You may have become aware of Manuka honey due to its recent flare in popularity. The reason behind its fame came with the supported claims that the nectar made from the Manuka tree in New Zealand is believed to have higher concentrations of components that are good for our health. For this to prove true we need to acknowledge and understand the potency of the honey and so producers have developed a scale called UMF (unique Manuka factor) for rating this. For it to be the genuine article the Manuka honey has to be of a rating higher than 10 UMF which is known as UMF Manuka Honey or Active Manuka Honey and must have origins in New Zealand.
Another big issue when considering your honey purchasing is ensuring that it is ethically produced.
Organic raw honey is a bit of a myth in that bees travel many kilometres in the pursuit for nectar and so in the process they may well come across plants sprayed with chemicals.
You definitely want to avoid honeys containing high fructose corn syrup, or HFCS, which many producers add to their honey. The syrup is made from genetically modified corn and has been linked to many negative health issues such as the build up of plaque, liver damage and the narrowing of blood vessels. Avoiding mass-produced honey from the supermarket is essential as they are often mass produced in other countries and can be blended – in America there have been cases where honey came from India or China and was contaminated with a harmful chemical called chloramphenicol.
The only way to truly know where your honey has come from, and what is in it, is to shop locally. Source a local honey maker who knows the bees and their surroundings, they know what their bees tend to forage on and will be able to give you a far better insight into the product than checking the label on the back of a supermarket jar. They will be able to outline the process the honey has undergone and you can ensure that you are getting raw, unfiltered, unadulterated REAL honey. If this is not a reality for you then there are plenty of excellent honeys available online, just be sure to check all the right boxes when making your selection.
Bottom line; keep it real and enjoy the buzz!
Online courses in nutrition
Here at the School of Natural Health Sciences we are really into nutrition! We offer eight different courses in the field, all of which will result in a qualification that is accredited in 26 countries worldwide (if you pass your coursework successfully, of course!):
- Child & Adolescent Nutrition
- Ethical & Sustainable Eating
- Clinical Nutrition
- Advanced Nutrition
- Nutrition for Age 50 Plus
- Plant-Based Nutrition
- Sport & Exercise Nutrition
- Vegetarian & Vegan Nutrition