For the last twenty years or so, natural remedies and flavor enhancers have been all the rage: natural deodorant versus commercial deodorant; Stevia versus Sweet’N Low. The list of healthy, naturopathic products is endless. One “product” that’s been around so long as to be almost forgettable is raw honey. Among natural sweeteners, it’s the quiet little engine that could. Best of all, it’s not just delicious; there are also many health benefits of raw honey.
Below is everything you need to know about how raw honey can improve your health, and how best to incorporate this superfood into your diet.
What is raw honey?
Raw honey is a natural sweetener made by honeybees. It has a remarkably long shelf-life and is packed with essential vitamins and minerals. Unlike regular honey, raw honey is not heated, pasteurized, or filtered — so it remains in its purest state. As such, it’s a preferable alternative to sugar and other sweeteners that lack its powerful health benefits.
How do you identify raw honey?
Because it’s made directly from the honeycomb, raw honey has a unique flavor. It contains all of the natural vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and phytonutrients found in flower nectar, and because it’s neither heated nor filtered to remove pollen grains and other particles, it retains its natural color and nutritional content. So, how do you know if you’re getting the real deal? Here’s how to identify raw honey:
Tip #1: Check the label.
Raw honey will be labeled “raw” or “unpasteurized.” If it reads “honey” with no additional descriptors, it’s likely been pasteurized, processed, heated, and filtered.
Tip #2: Read the ingredients.
If the label lists any other ingredients besides honey, it’s probably not raw. Real raw honey is 100 percent pure and contains no additives (like sugar, corn syrup, or preservatives).
Tip #3: Taste it.
Raw honey has a distinctive flavor that’s dramatically different from its processed honey counterparts. This is due to its high pollen content. If you don’t taste anything special when you take a spoonful, then there’s a good chance it isn’t raw.
Tip #4: Look at the color.
Raw honey comes in many shades, from dark amber to light yellow, depending on the type of nectar used by the bees. Processed honey is often very light in color and can appear translucent or almost clear.
Tip #5: Smell it.
Raw honey has an earthy, floral scent that is noticeably stronger than processed honey. If you don’t smell anything, the honey is likely not raw.
What are the health benefits of raw honey?
Raw honey provides a wide range of advantages that are often overlooked but essential for optimal health nonetheless. With this in mind, here are some of the key benefits of consuming raw honey:
Benefit #1: Raw honey is rich in antioxidants.
Raw honey is full of antioxidants like flavonoids and phenolic acids that combat free radicals and help reduce inflammation in the body. This can help protect your cells from oxidative damage and reduce your risk of chronic diseases like heart disease. What’s more, raw honey straight from the beehive also contains high levels of Vitamin C and other antioxidants which help support your immunity.
Benefit #2: Raw honey can aid digestion.
If you suffer from indigestion or digestive issues like IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), acid reflux, or stomach ulcers, consider adding this type of honey to your diet. The enzymes in raw honey help to break down food in the intestine, improving digestion overall. Additionally, the probiotics found in raw honey can help restore balance in your gut flora, which may also improve other digestive issues. (Click through to see how a spoonful of honey tames heartburn pain.)
Benefit #3: Raw honey may help you sleep better.
The combination of fructose and glucose found in raw honey can help you get a good night’s sleep. Research has shown that consuming small amounts of glucose before bedtime helps to promote restful sleep. By slightly raising insulin levels, glucose increases the concentration of tryptophan in the brain. Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps regulate serotonin production to help induce sleepiness. So, if you have trouble falling asleep at night, consider having a spoonful of raw honey before bedtime.
Benefit #4: Raw honey has healing properties for your skin.
Raw honey is a great natural remedy for skin issues like acne, eczema, and psoriasis. The antibacterial properties of raw honey can help cleanse the skin and reduce inflammation, thus soothing redness, itchiness, and other associated symptoms. Additionally, raw honey is a humectant, which means it helps retain moisture in the skin — leaving you with soft, glowing, and healthy-looking skin.
Benefit #5: Raw honey is an effective cough suppressant.
Raw honey is an effective cough suppressant for adults and children, especially those suffering from upper respiratory infections. The antibacterial properties of raw honey help fight off bacteria that can cause coughing, and its anti-inflammatory properties help reduce congestion and irritation in the throat. Additionally, raw honey is extremely soothing for a sore throat, especially when combined with teas that contribute to “throat coat.”
Benefit #6: Raw honey may help lower cholesterol.
Raw honey contains natural antioxidants that may help combat the free radicals that damage cells and lead to high cholesterol. Additionally, the polyphenols in raw honey have been found to reduce bad (LDL) cholesterol levels while increasing good (HDL) cholesterol levels in the body. When taken regularly, raw honey can potentially help lower your risk of developing cardiovascular issues.
Benefit #7: Raw honey may support healthy blood sugar levels.
Due to its low glycemic index and low carbohydrate content, unprocessed honey may help regulate blood sugar levels. Studies show that consuming small amounts of raw honey may help improve insulin sensitivity and increase antioxidant levels in the body to help manage diabetes symptoms more effectively.
Benefit #8: Raw honey is a great energy booster.
Raw honey is packed with natural sugars like glucose and fructose that provide your body with an immediate source of energy. It’s also rich in the vitamins and minerals needed to keep your energy levels up throughout the day. (These include potassium, magnesium, and calcium.) If you need a quick pick-me-up, try having a few tablespoons of honey.
Benefit #9: Raw honey is a natural sweetener.
Raw honey is an excellent alternative to refined sugar and other artificial sweeteners. Its mild, sweet flavor pairs perfectly with foods like oatmeal, smoothies, yogurt, and even tea or coffee. Plus, since raw honey contains fewer calories than refined sugars it’s a healthier option for those watching their sugar intake.
Benefit #10: Raw honey may help reduce allergies.
Raw honey contains small amounts of bee pollen. Because of this, regularly consuming raw honey builds immunity and reduces sensitivity to allergens, thus alleviating allergy symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes.
How To Use Raw Honey
Raw honey can be used in various ways to improve your health. Here are some of the most common ways:
- Sweetening Beverages: Raw honey is a wonderful natural sweetener for tea, coffee, and other beverages. It can also be used to make delicious homemade smoothies, especially if you’re avoiding table sugar for weight loss.
- Flavoring Foods: Raw honey adds a hint of sweetness to salads, yogurt, oatmeal, and baked goods.
- Making DIY Beauty Products: Raw manuka honey and other raw honey varieties can be used to make homemade beauty products like facial masks, lip balms, and body scrubs.
Hey honey! What are you waiting for?
Raw honey is a powerful and nutritious food that can be used to improve your health in a variety of ways. It’s packed with beneficial vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and antioxidants that can help reduce inflammation, improve digestion, and boost the immune system. It’s also a great way to naturally sweeten beverages, flavor foods, and make DIY beauty products. Raw honey is a healthier alternative to sugar and other sweeteners and well worth incorporating into your health and wellness regimen. So what are you waiting for?
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