The Pristine Chefs
The worker bee, of which there is 20k-40k per hive, is nature’s incredible producer of raw honey. The instinctual processes are primarily for self-sustaining purposes, though for the past 8,000 years (evident by an ancient cave painting in Valencia, Spain) humans have been hunting for this profound substance due to its nutritional and general wellness benefits.
Just how does a bee produce this brilliant substance?
A single worker bee, which collects an average of 1/12 teaspoon in a lifetime, exits the hive in search of a single, specific species of flower. When located, the bee mounts her 6 legs on “honey guides” (aka landing platforms) and begins foraging for a sweet substance, nectar. Nectar, secreted from the floral nectaries glands, is collected via tube-like mouthparts, called proboscis, that give the bee the ability to reach down into a flower like a straw in order to collect the sugar-rich nectar. This is sent down into a part of the esophagus known as the “honey stomach” where it is temporarily stored. A waiting worker bee back at the hive receives the nectar from the foraging bee through a transfer process known as trophallaxis.
Raw nectar is 70% water, while raw honey measures in at roughly 17% water. This reduction occurs through multiple regurgitations in which the substance is purified and beneficial enzymes are introduced. As a final step, the product is placed into honeycombs and fanned by thousands of bees (each buzzing their wings roughly 200 times per second) to evaporate remaining water.
The finished substance is our very beloved, raw honey.
Chemical Composition of Raw Honey
Raw honey is made up of a multiplicity of nutrients including water, carbohydrates, enzymes, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and organic acids.
The majority of this sweet substance is, not surprisingly, carbohydrate (82%). There are two monosaccharaides: fructose (38.2%) and glucose (31%); six disaccharides (8.4%): sucrose, maltose, ismaltose, maltulose, turanose, and kojibiose; and three oligosaccharides (4.2%): erlose, theanderose, and panose.
After you account the 17% water in honey, the remaining 1% is very diverse…
Raw honey includes a variety of enzymes. Invertase converts sucrose to glucose and fructose, thus proving crucial. Amylase breaks starch down into smaller units. Glucose Oxidase converts glucose to gluconolactone, which in turn produces gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide. Catalase breaks down the peroxide to yield water and oxygen. The final enzyme commonly found in honey is acid Phosphorylase, which removes inorganic phosphate from organic phosphates.
Interestingly enough we can find 18 different amino acids in raw honey, of which proline is the most abundant. These amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Being in their raw, organic bioavailable state they easily assimilate with the body.
In addition to containing crucial ascorbic acid (vitamin C), raw honey also offers B-vitamins riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B6. These are heavily supported with an abundance of minerals including calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, selenium, chromium, and manganese.
Raw honey is also a body purifier containing antioxidants ascorbic acid, catalase, selenium, and a variety of flavonoids (one of them, pinocembrin, is unique to propolis and honey). Note that the darker the honey, the greater its antioxidant properties.
Last, but certainly not least, are the organic acids: acetic, butanoic, formic, citric, succinic, lactic, malic, pyroglutamic, gluconic acid, and a number of aromatic acids. Raw honey averages a PH of 4.5.
Benefits of Raw Honey
Early in the morning, it is never a bad idea to start with a tablespoon of honey. The digestible nature of raw honey offers up an immediate abundance of energy. In fact, a tablespoon of raw honey packs in 64 calories, while sugar holds just 15 calories. Don’t be scared by that fact, though, because when raw honey is consumed with warm water it helps to break down excess fat stored in your body. It also has been proven to be an excellent ergogenic aid, helping boost athletic performance. After a workout, honey helps with the maintenance of blood sugar levels, muscle recuperation, and glycogen restoration.
Honey can be used as a natural medicine. It has anti-microbial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-septic properties. For this reason, it can help with burns, infections, rashes, sore throats, coughs, and more.
It promotes body and digestive health, acts as a potent antioxidant, strengthensthe immune system, and eliminates allergies. The benefits of raw honey don’t stop there. Raw honey can also stabilize blood pressure, balance sugar levels, relieve pain, calm nerves, and it has been used to treat ulcers. Raw honey is also an expectorant and anti-inflammatory and has been known to effectively treat respiratory conditions such as bronchitis and asthma.
Why “Raw” Honey?
When you strain, filter, or heat honey you lose the valuable antioxidants, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and, consequently, positive effects. There is a diversity of micronutrients and enzymes found in raw honey that give it its anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties. These are all lost in processed honey. The reduced nutrients and lack of enzymes in non-raw honey eliminate most of its positive qualities. Processed honey is also digested in a similar way as white sugar, therefore holding little nutritional value and vitality.