Around the globe, honey has been historically used as a commodity. The history of honey shows us that it has been used for religious practices as well as for healing purposes for thousands of years. Today, North Americans primarily use honey as a “healthy” sweetener in teas, baked goods, and other foods. However, what if the honey we now buy in supermarkets and drugstores is not the same honey our ancestors once treasured? The Food and Drug Administration is only now exposing that the product we think is pure honey is actually adulterated with added sugar and fillers, particularly corn syrup. Ah, the infamous corn syrup. The debate about corn syrup is ongoing and always heated, but for the purpose of this article, corn syrup does not equal honey and is most definitely not as healthy.
During the extraction process, honey is filtered in order to remove debris. The pollen, which contains all the health benefits, is left intact during this process. Companies abroad in countries like Mexico and China, who supply many of the drugstores in North America, are using an ultrafiltration process that heats the honey at such a high temperature and pressure that all the beneficial pollen is removed. Without this pollen, it is virtually impossible to determine where in the world the honey was extracted. In addition, these companies are diluting the already pollen-deprived honey with added sweeteners and even antibiotics.
So what are the health benefits of pure natural honey and how do consumers know if the honey they buy is the real deal?
1) First and foremost, honey is a natural sweetener and source of fast-acting carbohydrates good for fueling athletic performance. In non-athletes and diabetics, honey has been shown to raise blood sugar less than fructose and sucrose.
2) Honey has antibacterial properties that can prevent infection. It is used to sooth sore throats, heal cuts and open wounds, and even aid in healing burns.
3) The pollen in natural honey can actually reduce allergy symptoms. Consuming the pollen builds up a tolerance and immunize your body against seasonal allergies.
4) Cancer research has been unveiling the benefits of honey to preventing radiation-induced symptoms.
5) Honey works as a fabulous moisturizer and is found in all kinds of beauty products.
The list goes on and on. The only way to get these wonderful benefits is by using the pure product. First thing to check when buying honey is the label. Make sure there are no listed additives. The next thing to look for is the presence of pollen. Natural honey should not look completely clear when held up to the light. If pollen is present you will see a familiar white frothy rim at the top of the jar. Finding out who produces the honey will definitely help in determining its authenticity. Buying honey at local farmer’s markets and natural food stores allows you to go as far as to find out who the beekeeper was that produced your honey. Lastly, when the honey is finally purchased and in your pantry, you may place a tablespoon in a cup of water. Pure honey will remain lumpy while the fake stuff will dissolve. Over time in your pantry real honey will also crystallize. The fake stuff will maintain a longstanding syrupy consistency.
Hopefully, spotting a honey imposter occurs prior to purchase and consumption. There may also be some promise of help from the FDA. The FDA is politely asking companies producing honey that is not 100% pure to label their product as a honey “blend.” Consumers will have to decide for themselves whether they believe a polite request is good enough to get the job done.