Raw Honey Is Full of Sweet Health Benefits, From Antioxidants to Anti-inflammation
You probably know honey as a popular alternative to refined sugars. And because it's high in fructose, honey is actually sweeter than regular sugar, so you can often use less to get the sweetness you're craving. But did you know there's a difference between the regular honey you buy in the bear-shaped bottle and the cloudy-looking jars of raw honey on the shelf in health food stores? Turns out, raw honey is quite different from its processed counterpart. We tapped a dietician to give us the lowdown on all the healthy benefits of this buzzy superfood—raw honey—and tell us why we might want to keep a jar in our pantry and medicine cabinet.
How is raw honey different from regular honey?
"To put it simply, raw honey is honey as it is found in the beehive," explained Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN, and founder of Real Nutrition. Raw honey is harvested straight from the honeycomb and then strained to remove dirt, wax, and other debris before being bottled. Unlike regular honey, raw honey skips the pasteurization or filtration process, resulting in its signature cloudy appearance. In regular honey, the filtration process that gives it that clear, consumer-friendly look and runny, drizzle-able texture also strips the honey of most of its beneficial byproducts like pollen, antioxidants, and enzymes. "Most health benefits are found in raw honey," Shapiro said. "Processed, regular honey tends to simply be used and seen as a sugar source."
If you have a jar of raw honey in your pantry for a while, you might notice that it starts to solidify and crystallize. Have no fear—honey has no expiration date, and crystallization is a totally normal reaction that won't make the raw stuff any less good for you. (So don't throw that jar away!)
Finally, what about honey labeled organic? While organic is good, all it means is that the bees are organic—not that the product is raw, or that it provides any benefits beyond providing a sweet drizzle for your morning oatmeal.
Top Health Benefits of Raw Honey
Incorporate Raw Honey Into Your Diet in Moderation
Despite the health benefits that raw honey offers, use moderation when adding it to your diet. Shapiro recommends limiting honey to 1 to 2 teaspoons daily. "Remember, it is still an added sugar, and much of the sugar in honey is fructose, which goes to our liver and can lead to fatty liver disease if we get too much."
Consider using raw honey in place of pasteurized honey and other added sugars, but don't go overboard; moderation is key. Another important point: Raw honey may contain a bacteria (clostridium botulinum) that can be dangerous to babies under one year old.
Those considerations aside, raw honey adds a delicious touch to sweet and savory foods, as well as a variety of drinks. "I like to add a teaspoon of honey to my tea or lemon water during the winter to boost immunity, fight a dry throat, and add natural sweetness,'' said Shapiro. "I also like to drizzle honey on my avocado toast with sea salt and crushed red pepper flakes. A little salty, spicy, and sweet to start my day off."
Try using raw honey in these recipes for a healthy boost.