Raw honey is the sweet liquid that honeybees produce from the concentrated nectar of flowers. Honey collected straight from the honey comb extractor is totally unheated, unpasteurized, unprocessed honey. This is an alkaline-forming food which contains ingredients similar to those found in fruits, which become alkaline in the digestive system. It doesn’t ferment in the stomach and it can be used to counteract acid indigestion. Raw food lovers use raw honey for its exceptional nutritional value and its amylase, an enzyme concentrated in flower pollen which helps predigest starchy foods like breads.
Isn’t all Honey Raw?
A lot of honey found in the supermarket is not raw honey but “commercial” honey. This honey has been pasteurized (heated at 70 degrees Celsius or more, followed by rapid cooling) for easy filtering and bottling so that it looks cleaner and smoother, more appealing on the shelf, and easier to handle and package. Pasteurization kills any yeast cells in the honey and prevents fermentation which is a concern when storing honey over a long period of time especially in warm weather. While fermentation does not pose a health danger (mead is fermented honey), it does affect the taste of honey. Heating also slows down the speed of crystallization in liquid honey.
Downside of Commercial Honey
On the downside, when honey is heated, its delicate aromas, yeast and enzymes which are responsible for activating vitamins and minerals in the body system are partially destroyed. Among manufacturers there exists no uniform code for using the term “raw honey”. There are no strict legal requirements for claiming and labeling honey as “raw”. Suppliers, with consumers’ health in mind, understand that honey would not be as nutritious after having undergone pasturization. They would, therefore, ensure that their honey is only slightly warmed (not pasteurized), just enough to allow the honey to flow for bottling. Thus, you may also find raw honey that is unprocessed but slightly warmed to retard granulation for a short period of time. This would also allow for light straining and packing into containers for sale. Using as little heat as possible is a sign of careful handling.
Usually raw, unfiltered raw honey can only be purchased directly from the bee farm. Characterized by fine textured crystals, it looks cloudier and contains particles and flecks made of bee pollen, honeycomb bits, propolis, and even broken bee wing fragments. Raw and unfiltered honey has a high antioxidant level and will usually granulate and crystallize to a thick consistency after a few months. It is usually preferred as a spread on bread and waffles or dissolved in hot coffee or tea. However, as most consumers are naturally attracted to buying and eating crystal clear and clean honey, unfiltered honey which looks cloudy and unappealing, is not commercially available on supermarket shelves.