By Gabby Pavlovic (Guest Post)
Many people want to know the difference between raw honey and regular honey. You may even be wondering, “Is raw honey better than regular honey or processed honey?”
This is an important question to answer, because although honey is often touted as a “superfood” with innumerable health benefits, not all honeys are created equal!
In this article we will explore the differences between various types of honey in relation to their basic characteristics, how they are processed, and any health benefits they may have.
Before we jump straight into this comparison, we first need to define some of the common terms used to describe honey, such as raw honey, processed honey, and pure honey.
Let’s start with the basics…
WHAT IS HONEY?
Honey is the substance produced by honeybees resulting from a process of dehydrating flower nectar into a concentrated sweet substance within the beehive1.
The composition of honey varies according to its botanical origins, however it is largely composed of fructose, glucose, fructo-oligosaccharides, amino acids, peptides, phenolic acids, flavonoids, vitamins such as vitamin C and vitamin E, enzymes like catalase and superoxide dismutase, and antioxidants like glutathione1.
WHAT IS RAW HONEY?
The definition of raw honey is not as clear-cut in the scientific literature compared to what standard honey is, however, we can start by exploring how raw honey is made.
Raw honey simply does not undergo as much processing as commercial honey, which is strained (beeswax and other larger components separated out), then filtered (smaller particles like pollen are removed2). This is important to know, because many of the health benefits of honey may be attributed to the pollen3.
A key feature of raw honey is that it has not been heated beyond the highest temperature that would be found in the beehive, which helps keep all the temperature-sensitive nutrients intact like vitamins, enzymes, and other good stuff!
In fact, excessively heating honey as part of commercial processing results in formation of toxic compounds such as hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF)4. This toxic compound not only forms when honey is heated, but also when honey is stored for longer periods of time5.
With this in mind, it is important to remember that heating honey at high temperatures is not advised if you want to maximise any nutritional benefits form consuming it. We have some great suggestions for how to use your raw honey in this article.
Speaking of nutritional benefits...
Raw honey is known to have anti-inflammatory properties6, can act as a selective antimicrobial to alleviate infections like those of the respiratory tract7 and aid in wound healing8, can encourage healthy gut microbes (which has a host of systemic health benefits9), and has been shown to assist with regulating blood sugar10, among other benefits.
RAW HONEY VS PURE HONEY - IS THERE A DIFFERENCE?
Perhaps you have seen honey labelled as “pure” rather than raw and are wondering, are raw honey and pure honey the same?
One may assume that when the label says, “pure honey”, that’s exactly what you’re getting, but unfortunately this is not always the case!
Adulteration of honey is a serious problem, with various honey products commonly including sucrose, water, inverted sugar, dextrin, hydroxymethyl cellulose, high-fructose corn syrup, inverted beet syrup, and starch11. Awareness was raised of the issue of honey adulteration when a well-known brand of honey in Australia was found to be marketing a variety of their honey as “100% honey” when this was not actually the case12.
THE FINAL QUESTION - IS RAW HONEY BETTER THAN PROCESSED HONEY?
Based on what we have shared in this article, raw honey appears to be as close to its original, natural state than processed honey, which has undergone various procedures to create a hyperpalatable, aesthetically pleasing and easy-to-use product, often at the expense of nutritional quality.
The differences in honey quality discussed here are important to know, so when looking for honey and honey-based products, you can be confident in choosing a product that will taste delicious and that your body will love.
Which raw honey is best?
Having now read about the benefits of raw honey, you may be thinking, “well then, which raw honey is the best?”
The answer? The one which undergoes minimal processing, heating, and is stored appropriately and not for too long a time before consumption.
Our range of raw honey products are of the highest quality and are unfiltered, meaning the pollen and other nutritious and beneficial components like enzymes, vitamins, and minerals are intact.
We even have raw honeycomb available from Tasmania which can be a deliciously nutritious addition to a cheese board, antipasto platter, or a decadent dessert of your choice.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR - GABBY PAVLOVIC
Gabby Pavlovic is a Melbourne-based Naturopath and host of the Revitalising Health Podcast. With a background in Evolutionary Biology, Gabby takes an ancestral approach to health which is based on principles of empowerment, regeneration, and connection to nature. She helps busy, stressed high achievers to stop burning out so they can excel in life and love what they do in the process. Gabby believes that building and maintaining a robust connection with the natural world is hugely important, as she acknowledges environmental health and human health are closely intertwined.
- Eteraf-Oskouei T, Najafi M. Traditional and modern uses of natural honey in human diseases: a review. Iranian journal of basic medical sciences. 2013 Jun;16(6):731.
- Eshete Y, Eshete T. A review on the effect of processing temperature and time duration on commercial honey quality. Madridge Journal of Food Technology. 2019 Feb 18;4(1):158-62.
- Li QQ, Wang K, Marcucci MC, Sawaya AC, Hu L, Xue XF, Wu LM, Hu FL. Nutrient-rich bee pollen: A treasure trove of active natural metabolites. Journal of Functional Foods. 2018 Oct 1;49:472-84.
- Scepankova H, Pinto CA, Paula V, Estevinho LM, Saraiva JA. Conventional and emergent technologies for honey processing: A perspective on microbiological safety, bioactivity, and quality. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety. 2021 Nov;20(6):5393-420.
- Cianciosi D, Forbes-Hernández TY, Afrin S, Gasparrini M, Reboredo-Rodriguez P, Manna PP, Zhang J, Bravo Lamas L, Martínez Flórez S, Agudo Toyos P, Quiles JL. Phenolic compounds in honey and their associated health benefits: A review. Molecules. 2018 Sep 11;23(9):2322.
- Mohammed H. Anti-inflammatory properties of raw honey and its clinical applications in daily practice. Qatar Medical Journal. 2022 Jun 20;2022(2):27.
- Abuelgasim H, Albury C, Lee J. Effectiveness of honey for symptomatic relief in upper respiratory tract infections: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine. 2021 Apr 1;26(2):57-64.
- Khan RU, Naz S, Abudabos AM. Towards a better understanding of the therapeutic applications and corresponding mechanisms of action of honey. Environmental Science and Pollution Research. 2017 Dec;24:27755-66.
- Cárdenas-Escudero J, Mármol-Rojas C, Escribano-Pintor S, Galán-Madruga D, Caceres JO. Honey polyphenols: regulators of human microbiota and health. Food & Function. 2022.
- Bobiş O, Dezmirean DS, Moise AR. Honey and diabetes: the importance of natural simple sugars in diet for preventing and treating different type of diabetes. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity. 2018 Feb 4;2018.
- Gan Z, Yang Y, Li J, Wen X, Zhu M, Jiang Y, Ni Y. Using sensor and spectral analysis to classify botanical origin and determine adulteration of raw honey. 2016 Jun;1(178):151-8.
- Ferguson A, Gillett C. Capilano, Australia's biggest honey producer, and supermarkets accused of selling 'fake' honey. Updated 3 September 2018, accessed 21 February 2023 from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-09-03/capilano-and-supermarkets-accused-of-selling-fake-honey/10187628