Sweet Straight from the Bees
When I think about honey, I am reminded of the scene in Fried Green Tomatoes when Idgie waltzes right up to a tree with a beehive inside, reaches in with her bare hands and grabs a chunk of honey-laden beeswax. She calmly walks away unscathed, while Ruth stands back in awe. Wouldn’t it be lovely to have such direct access to honey? If you do, tell the rest of us how wonderful it is in the comments below!
Honey has most assuredly been a part of human food culture since the beginning of time. Historically, honey has been used for many more uses than solely a food product. In history, it has been recorded that honey was used for digestive ailments, ulcers, skin ailments and skin burns. Because honey contains anti-microbial properties it was found highly useful.
Religious significance was also attributed to honey in several people groups. For the Jewish people, honey is a symbol of the Jewish New Year and is a dip for apples to bring in a new year. Buddhists use honey in the festival of Madhu Purnima, a day that celebrates when Buddha made peace with his disciples. In the Quran, honey is promoted as a healing food, and in the Bible there are many references to honey both in the Old and New Testaments, symbolizing prosperity and health.
Classification of Honey
You have probably been to the store and seen quite a selection of honey and wondered why they are different. Let me shed a little light on this for you!
Honey is classified by the floral source, meaning the flowers from which the bees took nectar. While is it possible to limit bees to one floral source by containment to produce a mono-floral (one flower) honey, free-living bees feed on many floral sources and produce blended honey (or polyfloral, many flowers).
Grading of honey is optional for honey producers, so if you do not see a grade on your honey do not be alarmed.
Producers are required to pay a fee for having their honey graded and some simply choose not to do so. Grading level standards were established by the USDA to establish some consistency of marketing.
Honey is graded based on many factors: soluble solids, flavor, aroma, consistency, appearance of defects, and clarity. Grade A is the highest quality grade with the best flavor and aroma, least amount of defects and the highest clarity. Reduced clarity may be from retained pollen, air bubbles or other small particles.
Honey is sold both raw and pasteurized, and both types are graded under the same standards. Raw honey may be packaged filtered or unfiltered. Filtering raw honey does not involve heating but will aid in removing some of the particles.
Honey and Your Health
Plant nectar is comprised of sucrose and water, but when the bees harvest the nectar they contribute enzymes that break down the sucrose to fructose and glucose. Bees make honey with the intent of it being a food source for their hive during the winter months when flowering plants are dead, and fructose and glucose are simple sugars that yield easy energy for the bees.
The nutrient profile of honey varies depending on the source of the nectar, but generally you will find B6, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, certain amino acids, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zinc. Honey also contains anti-oxidants that you won’t find in sugar!
As a source of sweetener, on the average honey contains approximately 50% fructose. All sucrose-based sweeteners have a similar effect on the immune system, so excess consumption of even honey is not recommended. It is not considered a “healthier sweetener” from the point-of-view of the sugar content.
Raw honey, however, has benefits that sugar does not have. The sugar content of raw honey is no different that pasteurized honey, but it does retain the enzymes. It is believed that the enzymes present in raw honey are what give it its anti-microbial properties. The natural enzymes also allow for honey to be fermented to make honey wine. This short paper details honey’s enzymes and potential benefits.
Manuka Honey is a True Healing Gift from Nature
Manuka honey is so named from the Manuka bush from which bees retrieve the nectar. Manuka honey is particularly unique in that its nutrient profile contains up to four times as many nutrients as other raw honeys. Manuka honey naturally contains more enzymes to create increased antimicrobial properties that exceed other raw honey products.
But if you find the right Manuka honey, it contains even MORE enzymes that create natural hydrogen peroxide to give it much more effective anti-microbial properties. UMF, or Unique Manuka Factor (also called KFactor), is the global standard that identifies and measures the antimicrobial strength of this unique Manuka honey.
UMF honey is also graded based on its UMF factor and benefit to your health. Grading is determined by comparing the anti-bacterial properties of manuka honey to the disinfectant called phenol. The following grading scale is:
4-9: Maintenance level with general honey health benefits
10-14: Supports natural healing and bacterial balance. This level is considered useful for your health.
15+: Superior levels of phenols that are highly therapeutic but shouldn’t exceed taking 1 tbsp at a time
Genuine UMF honey will be labeled with the UMF trademark label, be from a New Zealand UMF licensed company, have the UMF company’s name and license number on the label, and have a UMF rating number of 5-16+.
To find genuine Manuka honey, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the link to my Manuka Honey review blog.
GMO in honey?
It is a possibility. Bees harvest nectar to make honey, but while they are harvesting the nectar there is a likelihood that they will also carry pollen spores back to the hive as well. If these bees are feeding on plants that have been genetically modified, they are picking up pollen from GM plants. Pollen is where the genes for the plant are located, which means that those genes are the same ones that have been genetically modified.
So, as innocent as it seems, bees may very well be depositing GM pollen into the honey to contaminate it with GM plant material.
Research has shown that bees have been found to carry soybean pollen, maize pollen and rapeseed pollen into their hives. All three of these crops are over 90% genetically modified.
Where to find Non-GMO Honey
Visit my Non-GMO Honey Review Blog to find your perfect honey! (The bee kind)
Visit my Non-GMO Manuka Honey Review Blog to find this excellent healing food!