When we think of bees, most of us think of honey. Except bees are so much more than honey. Some would argue that without bees, we would essentially have nothing. Rumor even has it that Einstein once said, “If the bees ever die out, mankind will follow four years later.”.
DYK: Bees perform about 80 percent of all pollination worldwide? Wind and birds contribute to pollination as well (e.g. wheat is pollinated by the wind). In fact, about 70 out of the top 100 human food crops are pollinated by bees (think fruits, vegetables, nuts). Yes, even vegetarians depend on industrial animal agriculture. Believe it or not, we have bees to thank for one in every three bites of our food. Without them, our diets would be significantly limited.
Now let’s talk honey. Honey starts as nectar in the flowers of blooming plants, where it’s collected by bees and taken back to the hive. In the hive, the nectar is broken down and deposited into the honeycombs where it’s concentrated into *drum roll* honey! According to the National Honey Board, the average hive will produce about 65 pounds of surplus honey per year. Even cooler, one single bee will produce ~1 tsp. of honey in a 4-5 week lifespan. Think about that. That’s a lot of bees! Beekeepers extract the honey by scraping off the protective wax later found on the honeycombs and spinning the trays until all the honey is drained.
Unfortunately, most of the commercial honey found in your local grocery store is no better than common table sugar. Commercial hives use insecticides to combat against bee mites however, the residue from this chemical agent can be found in the beeswax and honey. During processing, commercial honey is heated to high temperatures and pasteurized, destroying all the beneficial vitamins, enzymes, and antioxidants. The product is then thinned out with corn syrup and artificial sweeteners and strained to remove traces of pollen.
Organic raw, local honey, on the other hand, is unheated and unfiltered leaving all the benefits that come with it. Que the benefits!
1. Honey is a natural sweetener packed with antioxidants.
- Honey, buckwheat in particular, contains increased organic acids and phenolic compounds like flavonoids which has been shown to increase antioxidants in the blood. Antioxidants help to reduce our risk of many diseases while supporting a healthy immune system.
2. Honey supports heart health.
Regular consumption of honey has been shown to lower levels or triglyceride while the antioxidants found in honey has been linked to reductions in blood pressure.
3. Honey is shown to improve the gut microbiome.
Raw honey contains oligosaccharides which has shown to promote the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the gut. These prebiotic properties of honey can be an important aspect of our gut health (which I will save for another post!).
4. Honey has antimicrobial properties.
Honey is one of the world’s oldest forms of medicine and has been used for centuries to treat wounds. Due to its low pH level and enzymatic production of hydrogen peroxides, honey demonstrates antibacterial activity which can increase tissue growth and its high viscosity helps to provide a protective barrier to prevent infection.
5. Studies have suggested local bee pollen may help with seasonal allergies.
Although not definitely proven, recent studies suggest that people who suffer from seasonal allergies can alleviate symptoms by ingesting bee pollen made from their local environment.
Did I mention it tastes good and...sweet? :)
Pollination and Bees 101:
Pollen: the male fertilizing agent of the plant/flower
Pollination: the transfer and deposit of pollen grains from a male part of a plant to the female part of a plant to allow for fertilization and production of seeds
- The first step of all flowering plants during reproduction
Pollinator: animals (in this case bees) that fertilize plants, resulting in formation of seeds
- Seeds can only be produced when pollen is transferred between flowers of the same species
Nectar: the sweetness of a plant/flower that attracts bees; by doing so, the pollen grains attach themselves to the bees and when bees visit another flower, the pollen grains can fall off, initiating the fertilization phase
- Nectar is stored in the hive, broken down into the honeycombs where it eventually turns to honey
Drafted by Kawai Bitto
Edited by Beth