What You Should Know About Honey Before You Buy It

jars of honey

Frank Rothe / Getty Image 

Raw unfiltered honey is a very different product from the filtered honey sold in supermarkets. Educate yourself to know the differences and to know what you're really getting.

Not all honey is created equal. The honey that you buy in the supermarket is not the same as raw unfiltered honey. In fact, an estimated 76 percent of honey sold in American supermarkets is fake. Most of it has been modified and lacks the nutrients that make real, pure honey so healthy. Here are some facts you should know about honey before you go shopping.

Bee Pollen

Raw unfiltered honey contains bee pollen, which has long been considered one of nature’s most nourishing foods. Bee pollen is packed with protein, and has been used in Chinese medicine to improve unbalanced nutrition, vitality, longevity, and energy. It is also used for weight control, beauty, anti-aging, allergies, and overall health.

Filtering Removes Benefits

When honey is ultra-filtered or pasteurized, the bee pollen is removed and its many benefits are lost. Companies originally started filtering because it extended the product’s shelf life, but left it devoid of nutrition in the process.

Added Corn Syrup

Many companies add High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) to honey, made from genetically modified corn. According to Organics.org, “HFCS has been linked to diabetes, obesity, hypertension and liver damage, and leads to plaque buildup and narrowing of blood vessels.”

honey vs raw honey

© Organics

Beware of Imported Honeys

Many supermarket brands of honey are mass-produced and imported from China and India (sometimes blended). Imported jars of honey have a history of contamination, which results in mass recalls when caught. In 2003 Smuckers recalled over 12,000 cases honey and Sara Lee recalled products which had used 100,000 pounds of that same honey; it had come from China and was contaminated with chloramphenicol (used in eye drops with a linked side effect of leukemia).

It’s almost impossible to find organic honey.

Considering that bees fly a couple of miles away from their hive, there are far too many non-organic farmers and neighborhoods to be able to guarantee whether a particular honey is pesticide-free. As Ready Nutrition blogger Tess Pennington points out, “A hive would have to be in the center of a minimum of 16 square miles of organic plants” in order to be truly organic. Also, there are no USDA standards for organic honey; it’s pretty much an arbitrary label.

Raw unfiltered honey keeps well for long periods of time.

Tess Pennington (quoted above) buys two 20-pound pails each year and only one pail has ever crystallized, a year later.The best place to shop for honey is locally. That way you know exactly where the honey comes from, and you can ask the beekeeper about which kinds of flowers the bees forage on, whether they use additives, if the honey has been filtered, etc. By supporting local businesses, you’ll get a higher quality product.