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Skipping Sugar? Go for Raw Honey

True honeys are raw and unprocessed, and therefore sweeter and more complex.

(c) Lisovskaya Natalia

Run-of-the-mill honey is fine most of the time, but just like beer, wine, beef and everything else we love to consume, the sweet stuff comes in deluxe versions that tower over standard fare. Processed honey tends to be pasteurized at high heat, which kills the probiotic benefits and neutralizes the natural enzymes found in the raw counterpart. What’s worse, producers throw in glucose, dextrose, molasses, corn syrup, sugar syrup, invert sugar, flour and starch to the mix, despite the fact that the label often reads “100 percent pure honey”.

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True honey is raw and unprocessed and therefore healthful. Quality jars are readily available, if you know which producers to seek out.

Multifloral vs. Monofloral Honey
We tend to think of honey as just sweet stuff from the hive. But there’s so much more to it than that. Bees can forage from a variety of trees and flowers at a given time of the season (multifloral) or they can forage from a single type of flora (monofloral/varietal). Multifloral is your typical supermarket honey. Monofloral honey, on the other hand, stems from two particular conditions: 1. limiting the bees’ choices for nectar and 2. timing the release of the bees for the appropriate blooming. It’s like a single-varietal wine. If a particular blossom during a season is their focus, beekeepers will remove prior extractions, then limit the bees’ exposure. This meticulous attention to detail justifies the higher prices of monofloral honeys.

Nature Nate’s 100% Pure, Raw & Unfiltered Honey

The Texans from Nature Nate’s have been in the honey business for over 40 years, and their goal is to deliver raw, unprocessed honey straight from the hive. Their honey is heated at low temperatures to remove the beeswax, but it retains the pollen, enzymes and nutrients that give raw honey its good name. The color is a dark amber, and the texture is velvety. It starts out very mild on the palate, progresses to a rich but not overpowering floral sweetness and then finishing long and smooth. Throw it on top of steel cut oats, put it in a protein shake and, of course, ate it raw and unadulterated.

Buy Now: $18

YS Eco Bee Farms Raw Tupelo Honey

Other Uses for Raw Honey
1. Soothe a sore throat: Better than over-the-counter cough meds, honey is a natural remedy that soothes on contact. Take a teaspoon and swallow before going to bed. Just don’t swish it around after brushing your teeth.
2. Mitigate seasonal allergies: Though it likely won’t cure you of your allergies, consuming locally sourced honey can boost your immune system against local pollen to combat the sneezes and congestion that ail you. Take a teaspoon a day.
3. Cool the burn: Because honey has natural anti-bacterial properties, it works well on mild burns. Rinse the burn site in cold water, apply a thick layer of raw honey and cover with sterile plastic wrap and a bandage. Leave undisturbed for two days.
4. Control blood sugar: Studies have shown that raw honey balances blood sugar in diabetics and keeps sensitivity to insulin down.

Van Morrison had it right when he penned the lyrics: “She’s as sweet as tupelo honey / She’s an angel of the first degree / She’s as sweet as tupelo honey / Just like honey from the bee.” Tupelo honey, originating from the tupelo trees found in the South, is both sweet and beautifully fruity. It’s a light gold hue, and the sweetness hits you from the word go. The finish is complex, with an earthiness that you wouldn’t expect from honey. It’s also completely unpasteurized and not force filtered, keeping it pure, nutritious and addictive enough to eat all by itself. And it’s a fantastic addition to a mild cup of Chamomile tea.

Buy Now: $9

The Tasmanian Honey Company Genuine Tasmanian Leatherwood Honey

This honey’s traveled the farthest out of the whole group. A monofloral from southwest Tasmania, the nectar for this honey comes from the leatherwood tree, found in the Tasmanian rainforest. The small black can contains a thick, nearly opaque, candy-like honey. The taste is easily the most unique in this group, with a sharp sweetness followed by a bit of spiciness. It’s a combination that keeps things interesting. Rather than putting it in tea, use it on mild sourdough toast.

Buy Now: $14

L.R. Rice’s Raw & Unfiltered 100% Pure Clover Honey

L.R. Rice of Colorado has been in the sweet business since 1924. The small family operation focuses on creating the purest honey from hives across the state. This raw and unfiltered clover honey is pushed through cheesecloth rather than a high-pressure filter, thereby keeping pollen and natural enzymes intact. Though clover honey is easily the most common type of store-bought honey, the unprocessed kind is a cut above. L.R. Rice’s version presents itself with a light color and is the closest in flavor to the honey you’re probably used to. It’s smooth, with a medium sweetness that’s wonderfully consistent from beginning to end.

Buy Now: $14

YS Organic Bee Farms 100% Certified Organic Raw Honey

This one is truly in its most raw state, and the medicinal-looking jar and waxy opacity of the honey only show that. Crystallized raw honey is worshiped in honey circles because it’s extracted from isolated locations with the kind of meticulous care that keeps it pristine, extremely nutritious and completely organic. Penetrate the waxy, white surface and you find a tannish-gold, granular-textured honey — absolutely the creamiest of the group. The sweetness is actually quite mild in spite of its long finish. A tablespoon of this prior to an intense workout will keep you energized far better than a bunch of bananas.

Buy Now: $22

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