Used in baking, as an alternative to sugar for sweetening hot drinks and smoothies, or enjoyed as a spread on bread, raw honey is an age-old remedy commonly used to promote digestive health. Picture: Pexels (Adonyi Gabor)
Used in baking, as an alternative to sugar for sweetening hot drinks and smoothies, or enjoyed as a spread on bread, raw honey is an age-old remedy commonly used to promote digestive health. Picture: Pexels (Adonyi Gabor)

Are you consuming ’healthy honey’?

By IANS Time of article published May 17, 2021

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There is no dearth of honey brands claiming to be pure, healthy and immune boosting. Are all the products really as healthy as they claim to be? Is the honey you consume pure, unadulterated and unaltered from its natural state?

To ascertain the goodness of honey, one must know that honey is most beneficial and healthy when consumed in its most natural state.

However, when the honey extracted from beehives is processed, heated and laden with additives, it loses its health benefits and may even become unhealthy to consume. If you want to consume honey for its myriad health benefits, it’s best to look for raw, unprocessed honey.

Health benefits of raw honey

Honey has been long known to be a super food with near-miraculous medicinal properties.

Ancient medical literature from across civilisations shows how honey has been used as a healing agent. Among his diverse observations, Greek philosopher Aristotle referred to honey as "good as a salve for sore eyes and wounds''. The benefits of ''madhu'' find mention in the Vedas, suggesting how our ancestors swore by its medicinal properties.

Modern research has attested to the fact that, when consumed in its pure form, honey indeed has miraculous medicinal properties. Its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and wound-healing properties have become well-known. Pure honey also has immuno-modulatory properties, meaning it helps modulate the body's immune system and boosts immunity.

A growing body of evidence in recent years has indicated that honey may have potential anti-cancer benefits. The pollen derived by bees from the nectar of vibrant and diverse flowers helps improve digestion, vitality and longevity. It is rich in amino acids and may help achieve health goals such as weight loss, fighting off allergies, improving respiratory health and providing anti-ageing benefits.

Raw honey is packed with phytonutrients and antioxidants and has antibacterial and antifungal properties. In current times, when the only way to really protect yourself from a contagious virus is to boost your immunity, a cup of pure honey-lemon tea can go a long way.

Unfortunately, many of the benefits are lost when honey is processed, heated and pasteurised. It loses its natural curative qualities and is reduced to a mere sweet syrup. This is why it is not a given that the honey we find in stores has all the health benefits.

Raw honey versus processed honey

Raw honey is what is derived directly from the bees in its most natural form. It is neither heated nor pasteurised. It is not processed and does not contain additives. Rather, it comes with the immense benefits of bee wax and bee pollen.

The process of mechanical filtration, pasteurisation and bottling improves the texture and appearance of honey but it also kills most of its benefits. Pasteurising honey can increase its glycaemic index which has adverse effect on diabetics.

Heating honey deteriorates its quality and results in a loss of essential enzymes and nutrients. Worse, the principles of Ayurveda suggest that when cooked, the molecules produce toxins that contribute to health problems such as congestion, obesity, indigestion, respiratory diseases and blood glucose imbalances.

Unfortunately, most of the mass-packaged honey we get in our stores is preheated and processed. Some producers also replace honey with sugar cane, corn or rice solutions while many beekeepers replace the honey in the hive itself with sugar substitutes.

A study conducted by a leading Indian environment watchdog recently threw up startling revelations. It concluded that many leading honey brands in the country were adulterated with sugar syrup.

What to look for while buying honey?

If you are buying honey for its health and immune-boosting benefits, look for raw and unprocessed honey.

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