The Benefits of Raw Honey and How to Use it Wisely

Honey

photo by alsjhc

I’m sure you already know that from a nutritional standpoint, honey is a better choice for you than sugar. But did you know that raw honey is an even better choice?

Here’s the thing: honey in its natural state is full of unique elements that are difficult (or impossible) to find elsewhere in nature, and incredibly beneficial to our health. These include:

  • Bee pollen, thought to have anti-allergenic and anti-cancer properties
  • Amylase, an enzyme that helps the digestive system break down starches.
  • Propolis, something the bees use to protect their hives from unwanted organisms, and thus has anti-microbial, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial properties
  • Antioxidants

(Read more about these properties here.) All of these, especially the amylase, can be effectively destroyed by heating. Unless it is labeled “raw”, honey has been pasteurized by heating it. Pretty much any kind of honey is healthier than regular sugar when it comes to cooking and baking, but if you want to maximize the nutritional and medicinal benefits of honey, you’ll definitely want to go for the raw.

The problem is that raw honey can be incredibly expensive, sometimes costing as much as twice the cost of regular honey. If you’re on a tight budget like me, that’s a big obstacle. What’s a girl to do?

Here’s the thing: heating honey removes some of its best qualities.

Ergo, heating honey renders the expense spent on raw honey worthless.

Ergo, don’t use raw honey in food that is going to be heated.

Did you get that? In plain English: don’t waste your raw honey on baked or cooked food. If you’re baking and cooking, go for plain old (organic if you can afford it) pasteurized honey because it’s going to be heated anyway.

So what’s the point of even buying raw honey then? Oh, there are still lots of things you can do with raw honey to reap its unique health benefits. Here are my favorite uses for raw honey:

As a Spread

Because raw honey is generally thicker than pasteurized honey, it works very nicely as a spread for bagels, toast and biscuits. Mmmmm!

As a Topping

My Certain Little Someone loves honey on his pancakes and waffles… and I have to admit, so do I! It’s better than syrup!

In Tea or Coffee

That is, if your tea or coffee isn’t too hot. Honey is still considered raw as long as it is kept under 105F.

Straight Up

Only for medicinal reasons, though (it’s still sugar, mind you!). Honey is as effective as conventional cough syrup medicines at reducing and suppressing coughs, even at night.

In Frostings

In particular, I love this cream cheese frosting that is sweetened with honey.

In Greek Yogurt

Don’t waste your money on fancy containers of Greek yogurt: make it at home from regular yogurt with raw honey and vanilla.

Preventative for Seasonal Allergies

Studies have mixed results, but the anecdotal evidence overwhelmingly indicates that consuming local raw honey on a regular basis can help reduce or even eliminate seasonal allergy symptoms. (more information)

In Dressings

Use raw honey in any vinaigrette or dressing recipe for green salads or fruit salads. Also use it in recipes for fruit dips!

In Whipped Cream

Add just a bit of raw honey to your cream when whipping it for a lightly flavored, deliciously sweetened topping!

Do you have any other suggestions for raw honey?

Want to win a jar of raw honey? Enter my giveaway (ends November 25, 2011)!

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Collaborating with me are: The Purposed Heart, Intentional by Grace, and The Humbled Homemaker. Subscribe to all of these blogs just because you’ll be glad you did. Yes, they’re that good.

Tip Junkie handmade projects

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Comments

  1. Great post, Anne! I had never thought about what I was doing to my raw honey when I cooked/baked with it. So simple, but such a great tip on saving money. We get our honey from our dairy farmer who happens to have a whole swarm of bees in the field. :) It’s much cheaper to buy this way, and we get the allergy help since it’s local!
    Leigh Ann @ Intentional By Grace recently posted..Comment on An Intentional Approach to Thanksgiving – Create a Thankful Tree by Anonymous

  2. Anne says:

    That’s great that you have a local source! So far we don’t have seasonal allergies, but if we ever did, I would definitely go for local raw honey.

  3. Thanks for the info. I’m still learning so much with real food.
    Barb @ A Life in Balance recently posted..we save money with home haircuts

  4. Love using it on fresh, hot pancakes!!
    Superfood Sisters recently posted..Quick and Healthy Food For Diet Conscious Guests

  5. I’m stingy with my raw honey. :-) I use it in smoothies and in yogurt. I’m able to get it locally for only $10/quart!
    Stacy Makes Cents recently posted..Fix and Forget Friday – Crock Pot Stuffing

  6. Eliot says:

    Hubby just took a bee class and is preparing a hive for Feb. He is urging me on to cook with honey so will check out this book! But, I recently heard that “old” honey loses its anti-oxidants. Thoughts?
    Eliot recently posted..Raw Bok Choy Salad

    • Anne says:

      Eliot, I can imagine that that is true, although I don’t know specifically if it is or not. They say that honey never goes bad, but I can’t believe it retains all its qualities in pristine condition over an extended period of time. OTOH, I don’t know how long is “too long”. I typically go through one pound each of raw and regular honey in a month, and although I don’t know how “old” it is before I buy it at the store, I’m sure it’s still pretty good before we use it up. All that to say… something I don’t really worry about!

  7. Thanks for the great tips. It’s a great reminder not to bake with raw honey and who doesn’t love money saving tips!
    France @ Beyond The Peel recently posted..Whole Food Kitchen Makeover Part 2: Stocking Your Real Food Kitchen

  8. holli says:

    I heard raw honey can carry botulism. Is it really safe to eat in raw form or is there always s chance of food poisoning?
    Thanks!

    • Anne says:

      Off the top of my head, holli, from what I recall, honey has antimicrobial properties that create an unpleasant environment for the majority of organisms, so that they cannot survive. There is, however, one particular strain that can survive in honey – raw or otherwise – but apparently most people’s bodies are adequately equipped to fight it off. Most authorities recommend not giving it to children under the age of 1 because their immune systems are not fully developed, but most immune systems are more than capable of dealing with it. HOWEVER – I am not an expert, and it’s been a while since I’ve read up on this, so I recommend doing a little research for yourself before you decide if you’re comfortable with it. Please don’t take my word for it :)

  9. holli says:

    Thank you for an opinion on the matter. I have been hearing so many good things about it that I will try it. The good seems to out way the bad so far (especially for us allergy sufferer’s) in my research so far.
    thanks!

  10. Lucy says:

    I want to know if Raw Honey is safe to eat without heating it up, as some contain Bostulism. Is it really safe to eat raw?

  11. corrine says:

    need clarification…..we buy local raw honey by the 60 pound bucket at great price of
    about 2.50 per pound. Usually when I know I can get more I just use for everything because of convenience and lower or same price as processed honey. But heading into winter I know this coming bucket purchase will not last till new supply in June or July. What should I bake with then? I understand that some of the processed stuff is really bad but cost/availability ratio will be not favorable to use the raw for a while…as my supply will be gone.

  12. Gwen Picanco says:

    hi I am new to this whole raw honey thing. I don’t think there are any local farms that have local raw honey in my area. Why is it important to buy raw honey locally? Does it matter if I buy raw honey from another state? Like I have some called weebees from FL & NY, I live in MA is it still beneficial? I just don’t get this whole buy locally thing.

    • Anne Simpson says:

      There are great advantages to buying locally, not the least of which is freshness of the product. However, when it comes to honey, the greatest advantage lies in its ability to protect against allergies to pollen. Since the pollen in each area varies greatly, it’s important to use honey local to your area if you’re trying to prevent or heal allergies. Regarding other health factors, I think raw honey from anywhere is just as healthy as raw honey locally, although possibly not quite as fresh (depending on your source). But since honey lasts forever, that’s not as big of a deal as it would be with other things like fresh produce.

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