In this post I’ll suggest you only eat honey raw (as in don’t bake with it).
In this post I’ll tell you what Manuka honey to buy. I’ll share the marketing scams: the numbers, plus signs, and price tags of Manuka honey.
In this post I’ll ask you to consider looking where the honey is sourced from. Do we want to be eating (local) Bay honey, when we have such a prolific kiwifruit and avocado industry on our doorstep which sprays?
Did you know that honey should not be heated to above 40 degrees celcius (the temperature of a hive)?
This is why in my previous post I recommended you to use raw, unpasteurised honey (not necessarily manuka) if you know what’s good for you.
I’ll back track a bit.
When I decided to compile all the nutritional information about sugars I was reading Whole Foods Companion by Dianne Onstad’s commentary on honey: “Raw honey is teeming with active enzymes, which are deactivated at 117 degrees Fahrenheit (approx 45 degree Celcius).”
I (for the first time) clocked the word RAW.
Was my pantry honey raw?
Wasn’t all honey raw? Fullstop.
This was a background conversation in my body until my oldest friend (with a prolonging cough) came to visit, armed with lemons and a jar of the aforementioned golden elixir.
Her friend Binnie Brown (from Wild Honey) had given it her as a gift to rid her of the winter bark that was disturbing her way into Carrie’s spring.
I love the way conversations make bibliographies.
I’m about to sidestep a little, from today’s first point about heat, to the second point about numbers…
Binnie shared with Carrie, and Carrie shared with Emily and then Binnie shared with Emily and now Emily is sharing with you some hidden untruths about Manuka Honey. Click here to read Consumer Magazine’s article which exposes the shonky Manuka numbering system 5+, 10+, 15+ and use of the word active. These positive increasing numbers claim to be more ‘medicinal’ or ‘therapeutic’ and therefore more expensive than the ‘unnumbered’ manuka honeys.
The main point I took from the article was:
Beware of labelling (aka marketing, aka someone trying to make some bucks).
Beware of a product which advertises on their label to have ‘medicinal’ or ‘healthy’ or ‘therapeutic’ qualities.
Often the products that are ‘shouting’ that they are ‘choice’ (desirable) aren’t in fact so.
Binnie Brown told Carrie who told Emily:
Look for raw, unpasteurised honey – not necessarily Manuka.
You can go here to hear Binnie’s tips on what TO LOOK for when buying Manuka.
Another side note:
The Consumer Magazine article also touches on the idea that ingesting honey hasn’t been proven to result in better health.
Onstad says this about honey on page 441:
“Antiallergenic, antianemic, antibiotic, anticarcinogenic, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antiviral, expectorant, laxative.Because of its content of potassium and formic acid, honey has the characteristic of being antiseptic. It is hygroscopic, meaning that honey draws every bit of moisture out of germs, thus killing them. Universally applied to dress wounds and sores to keep them sterile, honey also hastens the healing process. Honey creates heat in the body, is good for healing internal and external ulcers, carries the medicinal properties of herbs to bodily tissues, is an excellent blood purifier, and is good for the eyes and teeth. Mixed with lemon juice or vinegar,it makes a soothing cough syrup; taken with water, it energizes the body and helps flush the kidneys.”
But wait, there’s more.
I talked with Rachel from
What Rachel told me:
Honey should not be heated over a certain temperature.
Google told me this magic number was 40.
Binnie told me this is hive temperature.
When searching for rice malt syrup I came across the Australian brand PureHarvest which says this about their honey:
“You can be sure our honey is free of any added chemicals, that our bees are not fed with sugar and that no chemicals are used in extracting the honey. Our honey is harvested away from industrial areas, sanitary landfills and garbage dumps, so the bees have a healthy diet. To make sure the nutrients of the honey are passed on to you to we do not heat our honey over 45 degrees centigrade, ensuring the optimum level of enzymes.”
This raw honey deal, seems to be the real thing!
I was curious about whether raw honey was unsafe for pregnant women, cos I’m in the business of getting pregnant, or at least in the company of many who are. quizzical looking face.
Rachel passionately repeated, “honey should not be ‘over’ heated.” She told of the stories of disease when cows are fed heat-treated milk and she said the same happens for bees. “If bees ingested heat-treated honey they would die”, she said.
“Honey which has been pasteurised, therefore heated at high temperatures, is toxic”, she went on to say, “I would not be using honey in my baking.”
Honey (like agave nectar) should be used (especially if looking for a refined sugar substitute) in raw sweet foods. She suggested trying apple syrup (which I’d never heard of) in recipes which could be complemented with that apple flavour e.g. lemon cake, with berry muffins. It made me remember a chocolate and apple cake recipe I’d seen, where, somewhere. She also suggested sweetening with banana, grated apple, organic raisins, organic dates and not using a ‘liquid sweetener’ at all.
She reminded me when we use apple syrup, or rice malt syrup, or rice syrup the baking mixture becomes more moist.
Whereas, when we use rapadura sugar, or coconut sugar our recipes take on a slightly more crunchy demeanour.
Apart from introducing me to apple syrup she informed of Shakkar (dried sugar cane juice). When talking of shakkar she referenced the ins the outs of choosing oils. She talked of the positive qualities of coconut oil when cooking. Coconut oil is more stable and has a high smoke point. When roasting kumara for example use coconut oil, never olive oil. Olive oil loses its health benefits once it is heated and should be used for a dressing on salad instead. Rachel lost me a little, but told me that, Shakkar has a high level of chromium and that one should look for this quality when wanting to eat ‘sugar’. Chromium helps the body breakdown, assimilate, handle sugar.
Another ‘sugar’ she suggested I try is coconut nectar. Hmm. All these great sugar replacements I get to sample. Tee hee he.
Back to honey, honey.
I asked her which brands she supplied. She said 3. But, I pressed, what are their brands – I’d like to direct people to some ‘thing’. She said 2 of the 3 ‘brands’ aren’t branded/labelled they simply come from 1) down near Ruapehu and 2) Great Barrier Island. For what reason? Rachel would never sell/buy honey from the Bay of Plenty as too much heavily sprayed kiwifruit (and avocados) are grown here. Her third ‘brand’ comes from Alexander.
I’d called into Bethlehem Health Store to track down some rapadura sugar (Wild Earth Organics, and The Gluten Free Shop were both out of stock and New World stocks coconut sugar but not rapadura sugar). Bethlehem sell a 3 shelves full of honeys and only 3 of them were raw.
1) Alexander’s Manuka Honey $41.20 1 kg
2) Chantal’s Manuka Honey $27.10 500 g
3) Chantal’s unpasteurised Puhoi Honey $24.20 1 kg
Huckleberry Farms (one of New Zealand’s first organic ‘supermarkets’) stocks a range of honey, able to be bought in store or online.
A friend and I reminded ourselves we want to stay open and trusting about this ever-changing world we live in, and that becoming overly-analytical (particularly about something as fundamental as food) brings about a different dis-ease or at least un-helpful complexity. With that in mind I’ve set out to source more opinion around the heating honey business. Because it is a bit of a business. If I am to believe I should not eat heated honey, then what becomes of my lemon, ginger, honey drinks? My chai, raw milk and heaped teaspoon of south island honey?
So far, it seems the ‘let’s not eat heated honey concept’ comes from Ayurveda (an Indian medicine/health practice). Spiritual Food for the New Millennium says this, ”
Heating honey destroys the beneficial properties and promotes decay of the invertase- the main bee enzyme. According to many sources, honey should never be heated above 40°С (104°F).
According to Ayurveda, when honey is heated above 108° Fahrenheit, it becomes transformed into a glue-like substance that is extremely difficult to digest. This substance is considered a toxin (ama), since it adheres to the tissues of the body and is very difficult to remove. Many incompatible food combinations produce toxins, but heated honey is one of the most difficult forms to cleanse. Furthermore, not only does heating honey make it toxic and increase ama, but new research also indicates that most of the benefits of honey — a variety of amino acids, enzymes, minerals, fatty acids and carbohydrates — are destroyed by the application of heat. Furthermore, heated honey can be mucus forming. Therefore, Ayurveda recommends raw, unprocessed honey.”
I realise wikipedia isn’t designed to be an academic reference point, but I don’t blindly trust Science/Scientists as truth (due to witnessing evidence and statistics collected and manipulated for its/their advantage) , so I can at least ‘consider’ what wikipedia and other PEOPLE say about (in this instance) heating honey:
“Pasteurized honey is honey that has been heated in a pasteurization process which requires temperatures of 161 °F (72 °C) or higher. Pasteurization destroys yeast cells. It also liquefies any microcrystals in the honey, which delays the onset of visible crystallization. However, excessive heat exposure also results in product deterioration, as it increases the level of hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) and reduces enzyme (e.g. diastase) activity. Heat also affects appearance (darkens the natural honey color), taste, and fragrance.”
Airborne Honey (available at the supermarket) have this on their site:
“Heating is one of the most discussed topics relating to honey “quality”. Most of this stems from days long before modern processing systems when considerable change occurred in honey due to application of heat needed to extract and process the honey. e.g. the separation of beeswax from honey was often done by melting the beeswax in the honey which then floated on top as a liquid. This required raising the honey above 63.5°C (the melting point of beeswax) with little or no accurate control, for considerable periods of time. Today, modern pumps, extraction plants, filtering and straining systems, flash heat exchangers and coolers controlled by highly accurate electronic sensors coupled to computerized systems etc. make this excessive heating a thing of the past. But marketing claims that were once extremely valid, are still emphasized when their relative importance to honey quality is now significantly reduced.
When confronted by statements relating to heat, it is important to remember two things:
- Heat is relative. E.g. 30 degrees Celsius is “cool” to someone from tropical climates while the same temperature in a temperate climate is “hot”.
- Nearly all changes in honey are a function of temperature AND time. i.e. long times at low temperatures can have a similar outcome to higher temperatures for a short time (see HMF example – 30°C for 6 months is more damaging for HMF than 70°C for 2 hours).
To have any meaning, statements about heating should therefore contain a temperature that the honey is heated to, the length of time held at that temperature, and whether it is cooled quickly or allowed to cool naturally (which may take hours or even days depending on the size and thermal properties of the container(s)). Quality claims such as “unheated” or “raw” honey that have no qualifying time or temperature, may be quite misleading. E.g. poor storage of bulk honeys, or a long shelf time of slow moving retail lines in a warm climate, will produce changes many times greater than the brief periods of accurately controlled heating during processing.
Effects of Heating
“Honey” is a generic name for an extremely varied product produced by honey bees. This huge variability is in all aspects of its makeup. It is therefore virtually impossible to record or predict the effect of heat on every possible component of every honey. However there are a number of things that do regularly happen to most honeys when they are heated. In order of importance these are: Change in flavours . Viscosity changes. Sugar crystals “melt” (warming the honey actually re-dissolves the glucose crystals in honey but most people just call it melting). Decrease in enzyme activity. Change in sugar compositions. Decrease in Yeast activity Increases in HMF.
It’s been suggested to me, I should contact a food scientist about this matter of heating sugars and whether the heating process (pasteurisation or baking) destroys vitamin and minerals in refined sugar substitutes and or makes these products toxic. I just may do this. I did just do this. I left a message. I’m impatient to publish this so will update when I get updated. Wild Earth Organic’s Rachel suggested I google Jason Shon Bennett, David Wolfe, and Gabriel Cousens (advocates for the raw food movement) for further evidence around the claims that honey when heated becomes toxic. Me gonna email them and me gonna get back to you on this one. When I visited their sites I saw 3 photos of glowing, content, very varied men. I may spend more time with these fellows.
For now, I leave you with my favourite go-to in this sugar series, Dianne Onstad:
“Buy from quality sources only, and avoid those producers who feed their bees antibiotics, sugar syrup, or sulphur drugs, as well as those whose honey contains pesticides or other toxic residues. Good honey is unfiltered (or strained only through cheesecloth to remove any extraneous material) and uncooked. When honey is heated to high temperatures or cooked, its attributes are altered and the resultant product can clog the digestive tract and create toxins within the body by its acidic nature. Truly uncooked honey begins to crystallise at room temperature within several weeks after bottling and if necessary can be reliquefied by setting the jar or can into a pan of warm water.”