From healing wounds to lowering inflammation, raw honey is so much more than just a natural sweetener. 

You may already be familiar with honey as a popular alternative to other refined sugars. Because honey is so high in fructose, it's actually sweeter than regular sugar, meaning you can often use less to get that same sweetness you're craving. But did you know that there's a difference between the regular honey you buy in the bear-shaped bottle and the cloudy-looking raw honey you might have seen in jars in health food stores? As it turns out, raw honey is quite different from its processed counterpart. We tapped a dietician to get the lowdown on this buzzy superfood, raw honey, and learn why you might want to keep a jar as a staple in both your pantry and medicine cabinet for all its healthy benefits. 

How is raw honey different from regular honey?

"To put it simply, raw honey is honey as it is found in the beehive," explains Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN, founder of Real Nutrition. Raw honey is taken straight from the honeycomb and strained to get rid of dirt, wax, and other debris before being bottled. Unlike regular honey, raw honey does not go through a pasteurization or filtration process, which gives it 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," she says. "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

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1 Raw honey has antibacterial properties.

Raw honey is antimicrobial and antibacterial, making it an effective treatment for wounds and infections. Skeptical? You're probably familiar with using hydrogen peroxide on cuts to prevent infection. As it turns out, raw honey contains an enzyme that naturally produces hydrogen peroxide by breaking down glucose sugars. While you should always consult a doctor before starting to use honey for medicinal purposes, it can be a great natural addition to your wound healing repertoire. 

Another type of honey that you might have heard about in wellness circles is manuka honey. While manuka isn't raw, it is a specialized form of honey that packs some serious potential health and medicinal benefits due to its extra-high antibacterial activity. If you're looking to use honey for wound care, manuka is another fantastic option that has been shown not only to prevent infection, but help speed up wound healing. Shapiro also recommends consuming this specialized, dark, thick honey to her clients for its potential health and medicinal benefits, which have been proposed to be everything from relieving sore throats to helping soothe indigestion.

2 Raw honey is rich in antioxidants.

"Raw honey contains over 30 different polyphenols, 22 amino acids, and a wide variety of vitamins and minerals," says Shapiro. The polyphenols are responsible for raw honey's high level of antioxidants, which help your body protect itself against free radicals (and therefore are thought to improve overall health). The pasteurization process that regular honey goes through kills off these powerful phytonutrients.

3 Raw honey contains inflammation-fIghting pollen.

One powerful component that's hard to find outside of raw honey is pollen. According to Shapiro, pollen adds nutritional value by adding fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, and amino acids, and has been shown to fight inflammation, improve liver function, and possibly prevent heart disease and stroke.

Incorporate Raw Honey Into Your Diet in Moderation

Even with all the health benefits that raw honey can offer, it's still important to use moderation when adding it into your diet. Shapiro recommends limiting honey to 1 to 2 teaspoons. "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 other added sugars and instead of pasteurized honey, but don't go overboard with the sweet stuff. Moderation is still key. It's also important to note that raw honey may contain a bacteria called Clostridium botulinum, which can be dangerous to babies under the age of one year old

Those considerations aside, raw honey adds a delicious touch to both 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, '' says 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 some of these recipes to give them a healthy boost

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