What is the Difference Between Raw Honey and Regular Honey?
You likely have been in the grocery store staring at the shelf with the honey on it. And with at least 6 different choices, the last store I was at I had 15 choices at a local Whole Foods store and wildly different prices. Why is there so many choices and what makes one honey more expensive over another?
If the label doesn't say raw, then its highly likely to be processed through pasteurization and filtering. Pasteurized honey has been heated to high temperatures so that the company packaging it can do it fast. And time is money! This honey is also normally run through a filter to remove any impurities to make a more consistent look to the product and to help prevent crystallization.
Raw honey crystallizes quicker than pasteurized and because honey never goes bad, there is nothing wrong with your honey if it has become thicker/ crystallized. Crystallization of raw honey happens when the fructose and sucrose sugars begin to bind together to start forming little crystals.
You can liquify this crystallized honey and still keep its raw benefits by putting the jar of honey in some warm water, not to exceed 105ºF. This will reverse this binding process and re-liquify your honey to its normal state. And because honey for all practical reasons, never goes bad, you may need to do this several times if you do not use a lot of honey often enough.
"Regular" Honey- Pasteurized
The reason honey is pasteurized through high temperatures is to bottle it quick and to have the ability to pump it through filters. When the packing companies receive the honey it is normally close to its raw state. It is then heated filtered and mixed with many different kinds of honeys from different parts of the country or world.
This allows the packer to take lower grade honey and add a consistancy in color and flavor and the heating turns the honey more into a product that resembles more of a carmalized syrup than honey. This allows for the packer to make it really cheap, and one of the reasons the cheaper honeys on the shelves are just plain old honey and not "Raw Honey".
During this process most of the benefits of honey are removed either from the heat or from the filtration process.
Raw honey is as close to its state it was in the hive as possible with the exception of its no longer in the comb and that it is often strained through a wire mesh to remove large chunks, such as wax, or a bee leg.... sorry 5 legged bee. What raw honey does contain that the heated and filtered honey doesn't is:
- Enzymes- Raw honey contains: diastase, invertase, catalase, glucose oxidase, acid phosphatase, and inulase enzymes, which aid in digestion and assimilation. Diastase is also used as a freshness indicator in honey because it decreases in old or heated honey.
- Antioxidants- Research has shown that honey contains polyphenols of varying concentrations, which are powerful antioxidants that are thought to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. These polyphenols can also be found in other healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, tea's, and olive oil.
- Pollen- Pollen in raw honey may desensitize you to seasonal pollen allergies. There are many mixed research results hence the "may".
- Propolis- This sticky substance the bees use to seal things up and fill in small gaps within the hive has antibacterial, antiviral, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. There is some limited research on how propolis does this but research shows it appears to provide protection from some bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
- Antibacterial- The antibacterial characteristics of the honey is primarily from the propolis that is found in raw honey and preserved by not filtering or heating the honey up.
Honey also contains vitamins, some of the vitamins found in honey include ascorbic acid, pantothenic acid, niacin and riboflavin; along with minerals such as calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and zinc.
The reason that raw honey is more expensive is the time it takes to bottle, the care the keeper must take to keep the honey below 105ºF and the care some of the beekeepers to keep their bees on high end nectar sources.
After all not all nectars from plants, flowers and trees produce the same quality honey. In fact honeys from other sources like wildflower, buckwheat, clover or from other parts of the world/ country have wildly different flavors. Start by buying a couple different brands and nectar sources, like midwest wildflower and comparing them, your tastebuds will thank you.