One of my favorite small towns in Northern Arizona is a little jewel called Pine. The two best things in pine: Hawaiian ice cream (what!) and local honey. Seeing as this is a healthy blog, I’ll focus on the latter. The Honey Stand sells honeys of all different varieties and potencies. I like the lighter tasting ones, my husband goes for the hardy and and heavy varieties. My kids like their fruit butters (sugar-free, after all why does fruit need more sugar?) and we all leave happy with our purchases.
You’ll notice that I use honey as my go-to sweetener. It’s a great alternative to processed sugar and has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. It also has antioxidants and is a great remedy for a coughing child (over one years old, of course). There have been several times that I have mixed it with a little hot water and lemon juice for a natural cough medicine for my daughter, just like my Dad did when I was a kid.
Something new that I recently learned is that honey can also help people acclimate to local allergens. That’s because local honey contains local pollens in small doses, which helps immune systems adapt. This pollen is also what gives honey it’s nutritional properties.
That’s why recent analysis of honey samples from large food suppliers is so disconcerting. The Palynology (the science of studying palynomorphs, such as pollen) Research Laboratory at Texas A&M analyzed 60 honey samples from 10 states and the District of Columbia.
Here’s what they found:
- 76 percent of samples bought at chain groceries had all the pollen removed.
- 100 percent of the honey sampled from chain drugstores had no pollen.
- 77 percent of the honey sampled from big box stores had the pollen filtered out.
- 100 percent of the honey packaged in the small individual service portions had the pollen removed.
- Samples bought at farmers markets, co-ops and natural stores had the full, anticipated amount of pollen
Without the pollen, health benefits of consuming honey are removed. However this lack of pollen at large chain stores also has potential adverse health effects.
Pollen residues help trace the origin of honeys. Without those residues that means the location that honey was produced is unknown. This untraceable nature of these honeys makes safety assurance difficult. These honeys could have come all the way from China and have potential contaminants like heavy metals.
If you want your family to avoid potential contaminants from untraceable honey and get the health benefits of using a natural sweetener, then buy your honey locally. That will probably mean a trip to the Farmer’s Market, which is always a great family activity if you ask me.