Research shows that raw honey contains a small amount of pollen grain, which is good for you. On the other hand, raw honey doesn’t have a long shelf life like regular or filtered honey. Hence, these facts leave many perplexed whether to stick with using filtered or unfiltered honey and which of the two is the best.
Unfiltered honey remains the healthiest. This is because unfiltered honey has not undergone any filtration process like heating. Hence, unfiltered honey is richer in enzymes, vitamins, amino acids, and minerals. Raw, unfiltered honey straight from a hive is the most nourishing honey with numerous health benefits.
While filtered and unfiltered honey comes with their fair share of benefits, they also have disadvantages. In this article, I’d be talking all about that and more. You’d also get to learn how to test honey, and what the different labels of honey in the market mean. So, without further ado, let’s get to it.
What is the Difference between Filtered and Unfiltered Honey?
Some honey producers say their honey has nothing added, and nothing removed. While other honey producers may say their honey is pure. This term means that the honey may be filtered or unfiltered. At the same time, customers might want honey direct from a hive, unadulterated without undergoing any filtration process. So, what are the main differences between filtered and unfiltered honey and how are they made?
What is Filtered Honey?
Filtered honey is a type of honey that has gone through processing. Filtered honey is heated and then rapidly cooled. This processing technique is done to prevent the honey from becoming granulated. The reason beekeepers filter honey is to remove large items from their honey to produce a palatable product.
One of the main reasons producers filter honey is to extend the shelf life of the honey. When the honey has undergone filtration, it appears clear and less viscous, making it more acceptable to the typical consumer at the local supermarket! Nevertheless, they are less nutritious because the processing technique reduces the number of active enzymes, vitamins, and essential minerals in the honey.
When the raw honey is collected directly from a hive, it is then heated to 60-65°C for 25 to 30 minutes in a tubular heat exchanger. Following the heating, the honey is rapidly cooled to protect its natural color, enzyme content, flavor, and biological substance.
The heating process has to be precise, else it will destroy the yeast cells in the honey completely. After the heating process is completed, and the honey has cooled, it is then strained. Straining involves filtering the honey to remove impurities and crystalized honey, leaving you with clear honey.
What is Unfiltered Honey?
On the other hand, unfiltered honey is a type of honey harvested directly from a hive and minimally processed. Unlike filtered honey that is heated to 60-65°C, unfiltered honey is never heated above 35°C. The honey does not undergo any processing except straining to remove impurities before it is packaged.
Unfiltered honey is one of the most nutritious types of honey. They do not undergo heat processing like filtered honey, which can alter the chemical composition of the honey. Unfiltered honey has more beneficial bacteria and enzymes than filtered processed honey. Also, the antibiotic properties of unfiltered honey are higher because the honey is closer to its natural state. Hence, if you smear unfiltered honey on an open wound, some people think it may reduce the risk of infection.
Because of the high nutrient content of honey, some people use it to lessen sensitivities to allergens. But if you are prone to hay fever, then you may not enjoy the strong aroma of honey. Unfiltered honey retains a little bit of the floral nectar that is usually lost in processed honey, hence the strong aroma. When considering the flavor of honey, note that darker varieties of honey are more pungent.
Different Types of Honey Sold in the Market
While filtered and unfiltered honey are two of the most common types of honey, there are several other kinds of honey. Honey is classified based on how they are processed, color, and texture. Here’s a helpful guide on how producers define their products.
1. Pure Honey
When a manufacturer says their honey is pure, what they mean is that the honey does not contain impurities. This means that the honey has been processed to remove impurities in diverse forms. As such, you are getting 100% honey with no added additives such as corn syrup. Manufacturers sometimes add corn syrup when they are industrially producing honey to reduce cost.
But take note, seeing pure honey on the label of honey doesn’t always tell you much about how the honey is produced or the varietal. As such, it is advisable to look for more information about honey other than a pure honey label to make sure you are getting all the benefits you can from honey when you get one.
2. Raw Honey
Some manufacturers label their honey containers as raw honey. When you see a honey jar with a raw honey label, this means that the honey is pure and has not been heated to the point of pasteurization. Raw honey comes with several benefits, especially the fact that the naturally occurring vitamins, enzymes, and minerals in the honey are preserved.
Unlike pure honey, raw honey gets you the full benefits of eating honey. Most beekeepers that produce raw honey are aware that the way they care for the bees and handle the honey has a big impact on the honey. So, raw honey is handled with care right from how the bees producing the honey are cared for. If you have to choose between raw honey and pure honey, raw honey is a better choice for taste, health, and the environment.
3. Organic Honey
Organic honey is another common type of honey produced from the pollen of flowering plants grown organically and without chemicals to treat the bees. Going for organic honey ensures that you avoid contact with pesticides that may have been sprayed on or near the plant the bees collect nectar from to produce honey. Note, bees can fly up to 2 miles from their hives to source for flowers.
As such, beekeepers who want to produce organic honey are cautious of plants within this 2-mile radius and must be certified organic so that the honey is truly organic. However, this can be difficult to monitor, but an organic certification is a good way you can be sure the owner of the beehive has taken care to ensure its true organic nature. Note that honey labeled organic doesn’t necessarily mean that the honey is minimally processed or raw, except it is labeled as such.
4. Filtered vs Unfiltered Honey
Honey can be filtered through a means that removes very small particles, most often as small as the pollen. But note that filtering honey does not mean the same thing as straining the honey. Straining honey is commonly done to remove bee parts and other large debris before packaging in jars while the honey will still retain pollen and other beneficial qualities.
Therefore, unfiltered honey doesn’t necessarily mean that the honey is raw unless it is labeled so. Furthermore, unfiltered honey can be closer to its state straight from the hive than honey that has been filtered. Going for unfiltered honey ensures the most properties of the honey are preserved.
5. Dark vs Light Honey
Another way to differentiate the different types of honey is with their colors. Honey can be dark or light-colored. Note that dark-colored honey is generally more nutritious than light-colored honey. Moreover, dark honey has a more pungent taste than light-colored honey. And most dark-colored honey contains a higher concentration of powerful nutrients and antioxidants than light-colored honey.
Generally, the antioxidants in dark-colored honey combat free radicals, molecules that damage cells. Dark honey has a distinct strong aroma, while light honey generally has a mild state. Their color, moisture, and flavor content vary widely depending on the flower nectar source.
6. Creamed Honey
Creamed honey is a type of honey that has been processed to control crystallization. Hence, creamed honey is usually creamier and thicker than regular honey. Moreover, creamed honey is for spreading on your favorite sandwich or pastry. Take note, creamed honey is often crystalized, meaning creamed honey has tiny honey crystals that have been mixed and not whipped to create the final delicious treat.
It’s important to know that honey with a creamed honey label on it means that the honey may contain a large number of small crystals. These small crystals are useful in preventing the formation of larger crystals that can occur in unprocessed honey. Processing honey with this method can cause the glucose to crystalize in the honey. Moreover, since its glucose that forms crystals in the honey, which are pure white naturally, creamed honey is usually lighter in color than the same floral type.
7. Whipped Honey
Whipped honey and creamed honey are the same things. The only difference between the whipped honey and creamed honey is that they have tiny honey crystals in it that have been whipped and mixed to make it more spreadable. Whipped honey and whipped butter are similar. Note, whipped honey is perfect for biscuit production, toast, and rolls.
Whipped honey is a process of producing honey that controls crystallization. Nevertheless, because honey contains a large number of small crystals, whipped honey prevents the formation of large crystals. Choosing to buy whipped honey is not only beneficial to your health, but it also gives you the ultimate taste.
8. Crystallized Honey
Lastly, I want to talk about crystallized honey. Generally, honey as natural products will eventually solidify or crystalize. In liquid honey, when the suspended sugars form natural bonds with one another, crystallization occurs. Crystallized honey is edible, safe, and enjoyable. If you so desire, you can liquefy crystallized honey. Liquefying crystallized honey is as easy as placing the honey jar in warm water and gently heating it till the crystals dissolve.
If the honey is packaged in plastic bottles, do not microwave the honey in the bottle. By microwaving honey in plastic bottles, it can make the bottle melt making the honey inedible. On top of this, you also expose yourself to severe burns accidentally by handling hot plastic.
What is the Healthiest Type of Honey?
When it comes to choosing the healthiest type of honey, your best bet is to always look for one that has a raw honey label on it. This is because all the health benefits of honey are associated with raw honey. Beekeepers minimally process raw honey, hence why it is the healthier type of honey.
Raw honey is not pasteurized and does not go through a severe filtration process that may reduce its nutrients. Because raw honey is minimally processed, all the vital minerals, enzymes, vitamins, and amino acids in it are intact.
Additionally, it can be quite difficult to know which one is unhealthy or healthy without doing a test beforehand. Later in this article, I’d be sharing with you a few ways you can test honey. These tests will help you identify real honey from adulterated honey.
What are the Benefits of Raw or Unfiltered Honey?
Raw honey is a major ingredient of many remedies throughout history because of its many benefits. Some hospitals even use it as a treatment for wounds. Most of these health benefits are specific to unpasteurized or raw honey. If you are interested in trying out the potency of raw honey, ensure you buy it from a trusted local producer. Here are some of the health benefits of using raw or unfiltered honey.
1. Good Source of Antioxidant
Bees collect nectar from an array of plants that contain chemicals that act as antioxidants. As such, when these nectars are stored as honey by the bees, they contain a lot of antioxidants that can be likened to vegetables and fruits. An antioxidant helps to protect the body from cell damage as a result of free radicals.
Free radicals are responsible for the aging process. Free radicals also contribute to the development of several chronic diseases, such as heart disease and cancer. Over the years, research has shown that honey contains antioxidant compounds called polyphenols. Polyphenol plays a vital role in preventing heart disease.
2. Antifungal and Antibacterial Properties
Research has also shown that raw honey processes antifungal and antibacterial properties. As such, honey can kill fungus and bacteria. So, if you or someone you know is suffering from a fungus or bacterial infection, raw honey is a great remedy to start with.
Honey naturally contains hydrogen peroxide, which is an antiseptic. Honey’s effectiveness as antifungal or antibacterial varies depending on the honey. You may be surprised at how well natural honey can work as a remedy for these kinds of infections.
3. Heal Wounds
Are you injured? Medical grade Manuka honey can be used to treat the wound because they have antiseptic properties. Manuka honey is used in medical settings to treat wounds because they are an effective germ killer. Moreover, honey also aids in tissue regeneration.
Research has also shown that Manuka honey can reduce infection and boost healing time. But note that honey used in hospital settings is medical grade honey, which means they have been inspected and sterile. It’s not advisable to treat wounds and cuts with honey you bought from the store.
4. Boost Immunity
Raw honey is also rich in phytonutrients, which helps boost our immune system. Phytonutrients are compounds abundantly found in plants that help protect them from harm. For example, phytonutrients can keep insects out as well as protect the plant from diseases.
The phytonutrients in honey are responsible for its antioxidant properties. Phytonutrients also contribute to the antifungal and antibacterial properties of honey. Phytonutrients are one of the reasons honey shows anticancer and immune-boosting benefits. Processing honey heavily like pasteurizing it can destroy these valuable nutrients.
5. Aids with Digestive Issues
Another benefit of raw honey is that it can be used to treat digestive issues. Although there isn’t much research done to prove this to be very effective. Nevertheless, the research we do have shows that honey is effective in treating a common bacteria in the digestive tract, Helicobacter pylori. Note, H. pylori is the major cause of stomach ulcers.
Raw honey is also a very potent prebiotic. This means that raw honey nourishes the good bacteria that live in the intestine. As a result, these bacteria will aid in digestion and the overall health of the individual.
6. Soothe a Sore Throat
If you have a cough or sore throat, raw honey can help soothe the feeling. For an even more effective remedy, add honey to hot tea with lemon to treat sore throat I’d cough.
Research shows that honey contains a mixture of compounds that is as effective as dextromethorphan. Dextromethorphan is a common ingredient used in making over-the-counter medication for cough.
Disadvantages of taking Raw Honey?
Considering that raw honey is a product of bees, one may wonder whether it is all that safe to consume it directly without any processing. While honey on its own is a safe and healthy product to consume, it may contain impurities.
While some of these impurities may be responsible for the prebiotic property of honey, raw honey can also contain harmful bacteria like Clostridium botulinum. Spores of bacterial Clostridium botulinum are particularly dangerous for babies. As such, raw honey should never be given to an infant less than a year old without the doctor’s prescription. Symptoms of botulism poisoning include:
- Poor feeding
- Loss of head control
- Sagging eyes
- Slow breathing
What are the Benefits of Regular or Filtered Honey?
As a solution to the disadvantage of consuming raw honey, beekeepers decided to process raw honey too, hence the filtered honey came to be. While regular honey may not be as nutritionally beneficial as raw honey, it has its fair share of benefits. Here are some of the benefits of regular or filtered honey.
1. Longer Shelf Life
There is a saying that honey never goes bad. While to a large extent this is true. But after a couple of years, the taste of the honey changes. This change is common with raw honey. But if the honey is processed, the shelf life is increased considerably and you won’t notice a change in its taste.
To produce filtered honey, manufacturers extract the honey from the honeycomb of the hive. The honey is then poured through a mesh or nylon cloth to remove impurities. After that, the honey is then pasteurized to destroy yeast in the honey, which makes the honey also smoother and also increases the shelf life.
2. More Palatable
Another benefit of filtered honey over raw honey is that it is more palatable. This is because when raw honey is processed, it removes the impurities in the honey. Moreover, filtered honey is more aesthetically appealing. Individuals who may not like honey because of this potent aroma will find filtered honey more palatable because the processing reduces the number of pollen in the honey. Hence, filtered honey does not have such a strong aroma as raw honey.
In some cases, commercial honey is ultra-filtrated. Ultrafiltration further refiners the honey to make it more smooth and transparent. However, note that ultrafiltration can also remove beneficial nutrients such as enzymes, antioxidants, and pollen.
Disadvantages of taking Regular Honey?
Regular or filtered honey is less beneficial than raw honey. This is because regular honey undergoes heavy processing, making it less nutritious than raw honey. Most of the health benefits associated with consuming honey are destroyed during the processing of regular honey.
When bees collect nectar, they collect pollen back to the beehive which is where they pack them into the honeycomb and eventually into honey. But because regular honey has been strained and filtered, they contain little to no pollen.
To make up for the loss of the chemical composition of regular or filtered honey, manufacturers often add additives like corn syrup. While the addition of corn syrup needs to be listed as an added ingredient, not all manufacturers abide by this standard. High fructose corn syrup looks like honey. So, when its water content is about the same as honey, they are added to honey and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
How can You Tell Fake Honey?
When it comes to knowing fake honey from raw honey, it all comes down to the type of test you do. Knowing what tests are myths and which are real becomes vital! Although note that testing honey is not 100% accurate. Below are three tests you can use to tell fake honey from a real one.
1. Flame Test
One way you can test if honey is genuine or not is with its flammability. The flame test is a common test used by many individuals to date. When carrying out a flame test, repeat it several times to see whether the honey will give the same result consistently. This test checks for added water in the honey.
To perform the flame test, place a burning matchstick or lighter near the honey. Honey on its own is a flammable substance. Hence, when you bring fire close to the honey, it should ignite. As such, if the honey burns it means the honey is real. But on the other hand, if the honey does not burn, then it means the honey is adulterated. ,
2. Warm Water Test
Another test you can use to know whether the honey is fake or not is its solubility. To carry out the warm water test, take a teaspoon full of honey and pour it into a glass or cup full of warm water. If the honey is real, it will settle to the bottom of the glass as lumps because of the dense texture of honey.
On the other hand, if the honey dissolves in the water, it means the honey is not real, or it is adulterated. Note that adulterated honey or pure honey is also sold in creamed form (evenly crystallized) or solid honeycomb form. This type of honey will be difficult to dissolve whether or the honey is pure or adulterated.
3. Drop Honey on Paper Towel Test
Another way to know if the honey is adulterated or diluted with water is with a paper towel. Add a few drops of honey to a paper towel. If the honey is adulterated with water, the paper towel will get wet, indicating the presence of water because the paper towel will absorb the water.
But if the honey is not adulterated, the paper towel will not get wet. The only downside of this test is that if the honey is diluted with mostly sugar syrups, the paper test wouldn’t be so effective. This is because sugar syrup wouldn’t leave a wet mark on the paper towel like honey with water.
After all is said and done, the bottom line is that raw honey differs from regular honey, as they are processed differently. And if you are to choose between filtered and unfiltered honey, go for unfiltered honey. This is because all the health benefits of consuming honey are associated with unfiltered honey. The main difference is that raw honey is only strained before bottling, which enables it to retain all its beneficial nutrients. Regular honey, on the other hand, goes through heavy processing like pasteurization before bottling, which causes it to lose most of its beneficial nutrients.