Honey is a delicious superfood with immense health and beauty benefits. However, not all honey is the same. While some varieties have excellent therapeutic properties, others are best used to sweeten tea and toast.
We can broadly classify honey into three types: raw honey, regular honey, and manuka honey. Each of these varieties has its characteristic traits, benefits, and qualities.
Join us as we explore each of these types of honey and find out what sets them apart. Once you learn the differences between them, it will be easier to choose the right honey for your needs.
Raw honey is honey in its purest form. It refers to any type of honey that has undergone minimal to no processing. It is extracted from the hive, strained of impurities, and promptly bottled. Raw honey does not undergo any heat treatment, nor does it have additives or preservatives.
Now, did you know that the antibacterial properties of honey are affected by heat?
At high temperatures, the natural enzymes and vitamins in honey become neutralized. So, heat processing can adversely affect the effectiveness and therapeutic qualities of natural honey.
However, raw honey is not subjected to any heat processing. Hence it is very potent. It retains its medicinal value and antiseptic properties. Raw honey is rich in antioxidants, bioactive compounds, and minerals.
Nevertheless, raw honey may contain impurities like pollen and bacterial spores since it is not thoroughly filtered. Hence, it can cause botulism in infants and is not suitable for children under one year of age.
The best way to obtain authentic raw honey is to buy it from beekeepers or farmers.
Any honey that has been pasteurized, filtered, and bottled is regular honey. Most of the honey available in supermarkets and grocery stores is regular honey.
Regular honey is obtained from raw honey after pasteurization. We already mentioned that raw honey contains impurities like spores and pollen. These natural ingredients can spoil the honey and reduce its shelf life.
To eliminate such ingredients, raw honey is pasteurized. During pasteurization, honey is heated to a high temperature. The application of heat causes the texture and color of the honey to change. So, regular honey is syrupy and glossy.
After pasteurization, the honey is rapidly cooled and filtered. This filtration process gets rid of air bubbles and any debris. The clear and translucent syrup is then bottled and sold.
Since pasteurization and filtration eliminate all impurities, regular honey is safe to consume. However, exposure to heat affects its beneficial medicinal properties. Since heat neutralizes the peroxide activity and filtration removes pollen and spores, regular honey will not be as nutritious as raw honey.
Another disadvantage of regular honey is that it can contain sugar, artificial sweeteners, or preservatives. Raw honey is free from such ingredients and is natural food.
Manuka honey is one of the most valuable types of honey with unparalleled medicinal benefits. This exotic honey is derived from the nectar of Manuka flowers that grow in Australia and New Zealand. It has a thick, creamy color and consistency.
The unique properties of Manuka honey are due to the presence of chemical markers like Leptosperin and Methylglyoxal. Other varieties of honey have antibacterial properties due to their peroxide activity. Unfortunately, peroxide activity is affected by heat. So, the antibacterial properties of other types of honey are lost when subjected to heat processing.
Manuka honey is superior in this regard as its antibacterial properties are not entirely due to peroxide activity. It also contains Methylglyoxal, which is heat resistant and produces significant anti-bacterial effects.
The UMF label indicates the quality and authenticity of Manuka honey. UMF stands for Unique Manuka Factor, and it indicates the potency of the sample. The higher the UMF rating, the better the therapeutic properties of the honey.
This UMF certification is awarded by the UMF honey association of New Zealand after rigorous testing. Hence, Manuka honey with a high UMF rating is authentic and trustworthy. The taste and consistency of Manuka honey will also vary according to the UMF rating. Honey with a high UMF rating has a distinct medicinal flavor and stronger medicinal value.
So, which honey do you choose?
Honey is a complex natural product that comes in different forms. Of the different varieties available, raw honey and Manuka honey are the superior choices.
Raw honey carries the benefits of natural enzymes and has good antibacterial action. However, it can contain impurities like bacterial spores or yeast with health implications.
Regular honey has advantages only if it is minimally processed.
Manuka honey is very popular due to its superior medicinal benefits. It has excellent antibacterial properties even after it is processed and filtered. Of the three varieties we explored, Manuka honey is more expensive but highly coveted for this precise reason.