In my previous post we discussed and looked at some University studies whom conclusions were that pasteurizing honey at temperatures lower than 140 degrees Fahrenheit did not affect the antioxidant amount or nutritional content of honey significantly. In this blog we will explore the other side to this argument, which states that any amount of heating will degrade honey’s nutritional content, especially at temperatures used in pasteurization.
This side of the argument, lets call it the raw honey side, is the more popular of the two camps. The raw honey push has a lot of steam and momentum behind it. Almost always you will find the raw honey argument mixed in with the organic vs. GMO debate. I personally buy products that are organic over nonorganic if given the choice and if the prices are not unreasonable. Since consumers, like myself, that buy organic are generally paying more we want to feel that we are getting the best possible nutrition out of our food. I think the health food, organic food and raw food movement’s passion comes from not only a concern for the earth and our bodies but also in justification of the extra money we spend at the store.
It is not very hard to find articles pro raw honey on the Internet. In fact, it is the most common opinion, which makes it difficult to discern fact from fiction. In an article, “Don’t Wreck Your Honey”, by Bryan in the Honey Blog, Bryan addresses the crystallization of honey from liquid amber into an opaque whitish peanut butter like substance. Bryan states that the crystallization had no effect of nutrition but does affect texture and flavor. Three options are given in the article on how to reheat honey, with temperatures below 104 Fahrenheit, to get back the liquid consistency. Bryan states that when heating honey we have to stay between 104-105 so as not to deteriorate the honey’s antibacterial properties and kill its enzymes. This article’s claims run counter the conclusion made in Food Science, “Effects of Processing and Storage on Antioxidant Capacity of Honey“ which states that temperatures under 140 degrees Fahrenheit had almost no negative effect on the antioxidant or enzyme count in honey.
There are a lot of conversations in forums on the web about heating honey, one in particular caught my attention. In this conversation, a forum member is answering a question about heating honey at 118 degrees Fahrenheit. The person asked if it was still considered raw honey after heating to 118 degrees. Forum member Lancer99 answered the question stating that his personal opinion was that heating honey over 95 degrees Fahrenheit would change it too much to be considered raw. Lancer99 along with other forum members stated that keeping honey at the temperature the beehive is naturally at is the best and optimal temperature for honey. Lancer99 brought up an interesting argument about temperature, keeping the temperature of honey at or around the temperature is was produced and stored by the honey bees does seem like the best and most logical choice. Although Lancer99 makes sense, does heating to 118 degrees Fahrenheit change honey enough for it to not be considered raw? Based on the research I would still agree that it is still raw honey. Most popular arguments about heating honey, like that made by Lanver99, make sense but it does not make them correct. I still agree that temperatures under 140 degrees, pasteurizing temperatures, do not have considerable negative effects on nutrition, taste and texture.
Although I would have liked to find that raw unfiltered unheated honey was the end all be all super honey it is not. I found that the studies and popular beliefs run counter and in this case I lean towards to research finding. Pasteurizing temperature under 140 degrees Fahrenheit do not affect honey significantly. With that said I do encourage that you do go a bit out of your way to buy local raw honey at your farmer’s market. Although not different nutritionally from store honey, raw honey does have more variety in its flavors. You can also meet your local honey farmer and ask questions about the bees and the area in which they gather pollen. I personally buy a new flavor of raw honey once a month and have a collecting in my pantry that I use for different foods and teas. For example, I use the jalapeno honey for hot bbq wings. Enjoy your honey, explore different flavors, and know you are doing your body good.