Monday, June 9, 2014

The Lowdown on Raw Honey

It's honey week! Did you enjoy our week on the Chicken last week? Since we started blogging, we have wanted to do a week focused on this sweet treat. I feel like honey has always held a nostalgic place in my heart. There was so many different ways I used to enjoy honey as a kid-I can still remember licking the honey that spilled onto my little fingers when enjoying a toasted and buttered English muffin or that little sugar high I used to get after indulging in a flavored honey stick from the farmers market. Now that I am all grown up and make my own food decisions raw honey has become a staple, not only in my diet but it also in my medicine cabinet.

I had mentioned briefly in my post last Friday about some unwanted health issues I have been dealing with for the past six months or so... After some positive thinking and some real research I think I found the culprit! Friday night was my mom and step dad's 16th anniversary. My step dad was in Spain with his work so my sister, mom and I went out to celebrate. I had a glass of sparkling to honor my parents and half way through the glass my tongue got so swollen and painful I couldn't speak without slurring my words. I have never had such a strong allergic response to anything before but over the past couple weeks anything acidic has been irritating my mouth. The pain eventually subsided but continued to be an issue throughout the day Saturday. I finally mentioned the mouth pain to my mom and immediately her response was vitamin B deficiency. I am a pretty healthy eater and tend to get most of my vitamins through my food so I really felt like this shouldn't be a problem. Despite my skepticism, I decided to research it a little further and after exploring the symptoms and causes I quickly realized all of my resources were perfectly describing me! It just so happens that one of the best resources of natural b vitamins are in bee pollen which can be found in none other than raw honey. As I said earlier I have been dying to do a week dedicated to honey and I always find that when you seem to be super interested in something it ends up there is some reason for that feeling.

When shopping at your local grocer you will find honey in many different forms. There is honey comb, filtered, non-filtered, raw, raw whipped, etc.. I think some of the most challenging purchases at the grocery store tend to be wine, cheese and honey (and when paired these three are pretty miraculous together). These are challenging in the sense that there are so many diverse flavors, types, and options to choose from-- which can make it hard to choose just one to take home.  Honey is so diverse because there is so much that goes into creating that special syrupy substance. The flavor and chemical composition of the honey is dependent upon the environment it is created in. Honey bees are complex creatures and many different pollens are used in the production of honey.

Raw unfiltered honey is the best choice when making your honey purchase. This is especially true if you find a local honey. A lot of the commercial products you find are processed so much that essentially you are just buying sugar. To really reap the benefits you need to invest a bit more and find a local product you enjoy.

Raw honey is unheated, unpasteurized, unprocessed honey which can be very great for digestion. An alkaline-forming food, this type of honey contains ingredients similar to those found in fruits, which become alkaline when in the digestive system. It doesn't ferment in the stomach and it can be used to counteract acid indigestion.  Because the product has been unheated certain enzymes are also found in raw honey in large amounts. Specific enzymes present at high levels are diastase, glucose oxidase and invertase. Probiotic bacteria can also be found in raw unfiltered honey, including lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. These good bacteria can colonize in the gut and protect the body from invasive substances.

I had mentioned in my natural remedies for allergies post that local honey can be beneficial when trying to fight allergy symptoms. Phytochemicals such as quercetin and caffeic acid, which have antioxidant properties can help fight inflammation in the body. Also exposing yourself to the pollen found in many raw honeys can help build an immune response to those pollens. This is why choosing a local honey is key because you want to build an immunity to the specific pollens found in your area.

In addition to the health benefits, unfiltered honey has a more unique and interesting flavor profile. Dependent upon which season the honey was cultivated will affect the taste of the honey. For example a buckwheat honey will be darker and more rich in flavor where a spring honey will be lighter in color and more delicate on the palate. I tend to keep both in the house because each has its unique place in my kitchen- I find darker honey to be better for baking because the flavor tends to come through in the end where as the lighter honeys are nice for garnishing cheese plates or yogurt.

I also use honey for my skin. I find the natural anti-oxidants found in the honey help my acne by relieving pain and redness. I will be talking about this more on Thursday when I share a facial scrub recipe that is not only exfoliating but also composed of all things you can find in your pantry and fridge.

If you don't already keep raw honey in the house I highly recommend it. Wednesday this week we will be featuring an interview with a MN honey shop owner. His wife and him just recently sold their bee farm to open their shop and he has some really great facts about bees, honey and the cultivation process. Please keep checking back this week- Danielle will also be posting some great stuff tomorrow.

Be well and enjoy the sweet stuff life has to offer!


P.S. You can see the rest of our posts on honey here: Danielle's All Natural and Kid Friendly Honey Cough Syrup,  Interview with Local Honey Shop Owners,  Laura's Honey Face Scrub / Mask, and Danielle's Quick & Easy Honey Ice Cream.
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