Monday, February 03, 2014

wholefood step-by-step: #5 switch to real honey

Here we are, step number 5. How are you going with putting the steps into practice?
One little change each week is pretty easy, yes?

The next step is saying goodbye to heat treated, filtered honey you find on the supermarket shelf and seeking out the real stuff. Gorgeous, golden, raw, unfiltered honey is nutritionally wonderful food. (update 21st Feb 2014 - Bee farmer Stephen Lechner has pointed out in the comments that all honey is indeed filtered and it is the 'raw' part that is the most important as far as health benefits are concerned. Thankyou Stephen!)

That said, honey is still a form of sugar, mainly fructose, so keep the quantity you eat in perspective and balance with the rest of your diet - don't go crazy with it!

Savour a spoon on your porridge or buckwheat pancakes, in your favorite smoothie or eat a spoon alongside a cup of ginger and lemon tea when you have a cold. In her fabulous wholefoods book Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon writes that honey is "an ideal sweetener for porridge or toast, as the amylases in raw honey help digest grains". (p.536)

Let's take a look at the differences between raw honey and heated honey.

From hive to shelf - raw honey compared to heat treated honey

Bees work really hard to make honey. One bee flies between 100 to 1500 flowers to get their fill of nectar before returning to the hive to deposit it with the 'worker' bees who chew it, and fan it with their wings to turn it from runny nectar into the thick consistency we know as honey.

Ideally, we would all buy honey directly from the apiarist, the person who looks after the bees. If you shop at a farmers market there is a good chance you can do this, but if you miss the farmer's market and don't know someone with hives in their backyard then head to your local health food store and see what's on offer there. Even some health food stores stock local honey, the main thing is you want it to be raw, not treated with heat.

Commercially processed honey is heat treated to kill any naturally present bacteria, to make it easier to filter and pour, and to delay natural crystallisation. The problem with pasteurising and heating honey, is that it kills the natural enzymes, antioxidants, minerals, anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties present in raw honey so you are left with an inferior version with no nutritional value:
empty calories.

Why eat raw honey?

For me the answer to this is because if you are going to include sweetener in your diet, raw honey is a natural food. It is a food that traditional hunters and gatherers have eaten for thousands of years and has been celebrated for its rejuvenating and healing properties as listed above; natural enzymes, antioxidants, minerals, anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties.

Is raw honey safe for everyone?

Honey, raw or heated, is not recommended for children under 12 months of age. This is because their digestive systems are too immature to digest any potentially harmful bacteria that may be present in minimal quantity in honey, whereas children and adults are able to digest honey safely because their digestive systems are stronger.

For a detailed explanation of the differences between raw honey and heated treated honey and how it is processed go here.

Do you eat raw honey? What is your favorite way to include honey in your wholefood diet? Do you have bee hives in your backyard? Talk to me, tell me your thoughts about honey - yes or no?


  1. I really like this post. I prefer to buy honey from my farmers' market. I ran our a while ago, and my husband woke this morning feeling under the weather. I thought I'd stop by the grocrey store after work to get some honey for him, but I won't bother. You're right, it does not have the same properties and it would really be a waste of money, the way I see it. I should stop by a less convenient store and get the good stuff. It will be worth it.

    1. Thanks Lori. You touch on a very important point about convenience, everyone today is very conscious of time and many people consider that sourcing and cooking wholefoods is time consuming. To that I say the time spent is well worth it, because being sick is time consuming too! And I know I would prefer to make time to go to a farmer's market or health food store than make time to be sick! I hope your husband feels better soon x

  2. Finally, I have scrounged some time away to sit and read all these beautiful posts i have missed or only just skimmed of late. I kept feeling guilty that so much of your time and effort was sitting here and i hadn't had a chance to devour it yet, never mind that phone call, agh one day. I am loving your gentle and step by step posts on whole food, what a brilliant idea. I also really enjoyed the Hungry Girls post, I have long been a fan but only through friends, i have yet to purchase my own copy, I think now may be the time. Big love to all your lovelies, xxx j

    1. Thank you sweet Jay for taking the time to read my posts. Oh we women, what else can we find to feel guilty about?! I feel the same when I don't have enough time to dedicate full attention to reading the blogs I love :) Hungry Girls vol. 2 is my favorite. Talk soon. Really! Xxx

  3. Just a quick note to clear up some widely held misconceptions about honey. First, ALL honey is in fact filtered. I repeat, ALL honey has been filtered at some point during the journey from harvest to bottling. Honey labeled as "Raw" does not mean that it has not been filtered. In fact, honey that is labeled as "Unfiltered" has most certainly been filtered and thereby mislabeled most likely to garner some better positioning in the marketplace and the consumers mind. News stories reporting that pollen and other nutrients are removed when honey is filtered are simply not true. The main thing of health benefit regarding "Raw" honey is that it has not been heat treated or pasteurized - it has nothing to do with it having been or not having been filtered.

    Steven Lechner
    Busy Bee Farm
    Larkspur, Colorado

    1. Thankyou Steven for taking the time to point this out. I will amend the post so that it is accurate. Thanks again for sharing your expertise.

  4. This is a lovely series, Nikki. I am looking forward to following it. One thing I can add is that from an ayurvedic perspective, cooked honey (commercially processed and raw honey that is cooked with such as in cakes etc) is considered to be toxic in the body. It creates ama, which is a form of toxic sludge. Raw honey is also considered to be very nourishing for the body. xxx


Thanks for your comments. I read every one!

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