Your honey might not be what you think, Honey!
Can I be honest? It's really both a blessing and a curse to study Holistic Nutrition.
On one side of the coin I get to learn and discover new completely life-changing information every day. If you know me, you know I LOVE this gig and I wouldn't change it for the world! My practice and the work I do is an enormous part of who I am.
On the other hand, I also see how flawed our food system is. I see the really unfortunate (and often downright dangerous) situations that you may not even know about.
Today I want to share an example of a food that you might assume is a healthy, natural choice when perusing your local grocery store. Sometimes it can be an awesome choice, but it ALL depends on your source. I'll give you the basics of what you need to know, and how to navigate finding the safest and most beneficial options out there.
Why I love honey
Talk about a superfood! My favourite sweetener is and will always be a good raw, unpasteurized honey.
Did you know that beekeeping is thought to have originated in Ancient Egypt? There are images carved in temple walls and on old, ancient scrolls dating back thousands of years! The Egyptian people not only kept bees, but they offered honey ritualistically to the Gods. It is SACRED.
Here are some amazing facts about bees and honey from one of my favourite old books on Superfoods by the one and only Mr. David Wolfe:
- A hive of bees flies roughly 55,000 miles to make a single jar of honey
- An average worker bee (all of which are female, by the way) makes only 1/12th of a tablespoon of honey in her entire life.
- Honeybees visit about 2 million flowers to make one pound of honey
- One gallon of honey equals the combined bee flight distance of going to the moon and back.
- A queen bee can lay up to 3,000 eggs in a day - at a rate of 5 or 6 per minute. That is equal to 175,000-200,000 eggs annually.
- A bees lifespan ranges from 3-6 weeks.
- The brain of a worker honeybee is about a cubic millimeter, but has the densest neurological tissue of any animal.
- According to the planetary geological sequence and dating theory, bees are estimated to have survived on Earth for over 150 million years. There are now over 30,000 different bee species.
- Bees produce the only food that will never spoil. Edible honey has even been found in ancient Egyptian tombs!
Truly raw, unpasteurized honey is chock full of antioxidants, digestive enzymes and minerals which can be powerfully healing to the body. For anyone dealing with SIBO or many of the other digestive conditions where all sweeteners must be avoided, they may find that certain types of raw honey - especially clover honey - are actually okay, and can even be beneficial in small amounts!
And of course, bees produce much more than just honey!
- They make propolis, which is often referred to as the "immune system of the hive," and can be taken as a natural alternative to antibiotics in some cases. I use a propolis spray often and I am completely obsessed with it!
- They collect pollen, which is a complete protein source that includes many important B vitamins and minerals. Pollen is also often used by athletes as a natural energy source.
- They make royal jelly; another great source of B vitamins and acetylcholine which is used by spinal cord neurons to control muscles and the brain to regulate memory.
(Note: If you are dealing with a candida overgrowth, any type of cancer, a blood sugar condition or an allergy to bee products, it may be best to avoid these products. Always check with your medical practitioner to find out what works best for YOUR unique situation. And of course, sugar is sugar is sugar - So when it comes to ANY form of sweetness, a little goes a long way!)
The problem with honey
So now that we know how amazing bee products can be (and how the world would be LOST without bees), let's look at the facts:
If you were to grab 2 boxes of cereal off the grocery store shelf and have a peek at the ingredients list, with the only difference between the two being the sweetener source, would you choose the box that contained SUGAR or HONEY? Which word sounds more attractive, safe and natural to you?
That's fine, but there's one other problem: North America somehow manages to sell more honey than there are bees to produce it.
How is this possible? And could this mean that the honey in that product you just chose might not even be honey at all?
An estimated 75% of the honey you'll find at your local grocery store has likely been cut with imported honey from other countries. But it gets worse - Much of the imported honey that we receive has been adultered with other cheap sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), rice syrup or antibiotics that keep bees healthy, but can be damaging (and in some cases, fatal) to humans.
Yes, my friends. "Honey laundering" is a very real issue in our food supply today.
I highly recommend checking out the movie "Rotten" on Netflix that explains this whole situation in greater detail.
Not all honey is actually real honey, honey!
What can we do about it?
All is not lost, because as the consumer you can vote with your dollar. Do a little digging to ensure you are sourcing a true, unadultered honey that is free from antibiotics and other sweeteners. If you're looking to reap the most nutritional bang for your buck, looking for the words RAW and UNPASTEURIZED is a good idea.
Sourcing is everything. Support the small businesses of the many committed beekeepers out there who are doing the genuine yet challenging work they do despite the fact that competing with the lower prices of adultered honey is tough work, and despite the fact that our bees are dying. Talk to the beekeepers selling their product at your local farmers market, and don't be afraid to ask them questions! They'll most likely be thrilled to share their best practices with you!
And if there are no beekeepers at your local market, you'll likely be better off finding quality honey at your health food store over the big commercial grocery stores.
The Canadian brand that I consistently go back to is Beekeepers Naturals. Their products are sustainably sourced with absolutely no adulteration. They also play a huge role in supporting our bee colonies, which science has shown is essential to all life on Earth.
In other words, it's pretty important. ;)
My favourite products from Beekeepers Naturals are:
- Their propolis spray, AKA "Nature's antibiotic. I keep some in my holistic medicine cabinet ALWAYS and I use it when I travel. I even sent a bottle overseas with Ryan to keep his immune system in tip top shape while he worked away from home for the last 6 months!
- Their sweet clover honey, which is often the safest type of sweetener for those struggling with digestive issues such as SIBO.
- Their "bee powered" superfood complex which I add to elixirs for a little extra superfood boost.
- And lastly, for those times when I'm making a little decadent treat, I love using a bit of their superfood cacao honey. It's DIVINE! Check these guys out and let me know what brands you've been loving in the comments!
Beekeepers Naturals have also been kind enough to hook you guys up with 10% off of their products because they are the BEST! Use code "unitewellness" at checkout to apply your discount and ENJOY the goodness of true, sustainable quality honey!