Raw honey is best described as honey “as it exists in the beehive”.  It is made by extracting honey from the honeycombs of the hive and pouring it over a mesh or nylon cloth to separate the honey from impurities like beeswax and dead bees. Once strained, raw honey is bottled and ready to be enjoyed.

However, the production of regular commercial honey involves several more steps before it is bottled — such as pasteurization and filtration.  Pasteurization is a process that destroys the yeast found in honey by applying high heat. This helps extend the shelf life and makes it smoother. In addition, filtration further removes impurities like debris and air bubbles so that the honey stays as a clear liquid for longer. This is aesthetically appealing to many consumers, but by doing this, the honey loses some of the beneficial nutrients like pollen, enzymes and antioxidants.

As raw and regular honey are processed quite differently, this can lead to a variety of distinctions between the two, especially in quality.

The general scientific consensus is that raw honey is considerably more nutritious, and has more health benefits than commercial honey. Raw honey contains a wide variety of nutrients. It has approximately 22 amino acids, 31 different minerals and a wide range of vitamins and enzymes. However, what’s most impressive about raw honey is that it contains nearly 30 types of bioactive plant compounds. These are called polyphenols, and they act as antioxidants.

Many studies have linked these antioxidants with impressive health benefits, including reduced inflammation and a lower risk of heart disease and certain cancers. Conversely, commercial honeys may contain fewer antioxidants due to processing methods.

In addition, raw honey contains considerably more bee pollen, which is surprisingly nutritious and contains over 250 substances, including vitamins, amino acids, essential fatty acids, micronutrients and antioxidants. Bee pollen has been linked to many impressive health benefits. Studies have found that it may help fight inflammation and improve liver function. It also has properties that may help fight against heart disease and stroke, and has recently been recognised by the German Federal Ministry of Health as a medicine. Unfortunately, processing methods like heat treatment and ultrafiltration can remove bee pollen from commercial honey.

So, when it comes to choosing a healthy honey, your best bet is to go raw so you know exactly what you are getting!