Raw Honey vs. Regular Honey – What’s The Difference?

Honey is one of the best natural sweeteners you can use in your home. However, not all honey is created equal! If you have ever been confused looking at the options at the grocery store and wondering which one is right for you, I can help! Raw honey vs honey… what’s the difference? Organic? Unfiltered? Manuka? I’ve got all of the answers for you, including which kind of honey is the best choice overall. 

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honey in a bowl with fresh lavender

What is Honey?

You probably already know that honey comes from bees, but do you know how they make it? The process is actually quite fascinating. Here’s how it works:

  1. Honey bees collect nectar from flowers, which they store in a specialized stomach, separate from their digestive stomach, and carry it back to the bee hive.
  2. Back in the hive, the forager bee regurgitates the nectar into a honeycomb cell.
  3. Bees add enzymes, like invertase, to the nectar. These enzymes break down complex sugars in the nectar into simpler sugars, such as glucose and fructose.
  4. Bees fan the honeycomb with their wings to promote evaporation. This reduces the water content of the nectar, transforming it into honey.
  5. The enzymes and the reduction in water content contribute to the ripening of the honey, giving it its characteristic texture and flavor.
  6. Once the honey reaches the desired consistency and moisture content (about 17-18%), worker bees cap the honeycomb cell with beeswax to seal it. This protects the honey from environmental factors and preserves it for future use.
honey bees filling honeycomb with honey

Another really interesting fact is that the flavor and color of honey can vary depending on the types of flowers the bees visited. Honey can widely vary based on region and other environmental factors. 

What is Raw Honey?

Regular honey vs raw honey… what is the difference? Pure raw honey is essentially natural honey straight from the hive, untouched and unprocessed. It’s the real deal, not subjected to the high heat and filtration processes that regular honey undergoes. This means it retains all the natural enzymes, bee pollen and bee propolis, all of which have health benefits. Raw honey cannot be heated above the temperature of the hive, which is about 95 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Regular honey on the other hand, is often heavily processed and may even be chemically refined. High temperatures used in the pasteurization process of honey destroy all of the beneficial enzymes, vitamins and minerals that are found it’s raw state. 

Health Benefits of Raw Honey

We mentioned the natural enzymes, pollen and propolis in honey. Here are a few more benefits that may come along with regular consumption of pure honey in it’s natural state:

raw honey in a glass jar

Maintaining a Healthy Weight

Raw unfiltered honey is an excellent natural sweetener and can be used in many recipes. Studies have found that replacing conventional or processed sugar with raw honey can help with maintaining a healthy weight, as well as healthy blood sugar levels (source). So many products at the store contain heavily processed sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup, which is one of the worst things you can put in your body. Raw honey or pure maple syrup are great alternatives!

Raw Honey has More Nutrients than Regular Honey

When comparing regular honey vs raw honey, the biggest difference is in the nutrient density. Raw honey is a powerhouse of enzymes, vitamins, and minerals. These beneficial nutrients are often compromised in the processing of regular honey. Heat can destroy the beneficial enzymes and antioxidants that give honey it’s immune boosting abilities. 

Raw honey, on the other hand, is incredibly nutrient rich. Raw honey contains 22 amino acids, 27 minerals and 5,000 enzymes. Minerals include iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and selenium. Vitamins found in honey include vitamin B6, thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and niacin (source). The enzymes present in raw honey aid digestion and contribute to the overall well-being of your gut. This makes raw honey more than just a natural sweetener; it’s a great supplement to add into your diet. 

Raw Honey Can Improve Allergies & Boost Your Immune System

Consuming raw local honey may help with allergies. The idea is that by ingesting small amounts of local pollen through raw honey, your body becomes less sensitive to the same pollen when encountered in the air. While scientific evidence is limited, many individuals swear by raw honey as a tool for seasonal allergy relief. 

Regular honey, due to the high level of processing, loses some or most of the local pollen. So, if you’re looking for a potential immunity boost specific to your region, raw honey is a much better choice. I think the best place to buy raw honey is from local farmers, so that you are really getting the benefits of local pollen. 

honey bee collecting nectar from wildflowers

Raw Honey Has More Antioxidants than Regular Honey

Antioxidants are compounds that help neutralize free radicals in the body, reducing oxidative stress and inflammation. Raw honey is a rich source of antioxidants, including phytonutrients and flavonoids. These compounds have been linked to a range of health benefits, from supporting heart health to reducing the risk of certain chronic diseases. Regular store-bought honey loses some of these valuable antioxidants in the pasteurization and filtering process. 

Raw Honey is a Natural Energy Source

Did you know that honey is sometimes referred to as “the perfect running fuel”? That’s because raw honey has sugar, water, minerals, vitamins, pollen, and a little protein. It’s also easy to absorb in our bodies, which makes it an excellent preworkout or post workout energy source. While regular processed honey still has the sugar, it is lacking many of the other nutrients that are valuable for energy and recovery. 

Raw Honey is Healing

And if you aren’t convinced yet that raw honey is a superfood, did you know that it also has healing abilities? Raw honey has natural antibacterial properties, and may have would healing effects. Honey can actually react with the bodies fluids to create hydrogen peroxide, and an environment in which bacteria can’t survive. It has even been used historically directly on wounds to help with the healing process. I like to give my kids raw honey on a spoon when they have a sore throat. There is increasing scientific evidence that a single serving of raw honey can help reduce mucus and coughing (source). I also love to make garlic honey during cold and flu season. 

honey on a spoon with a glass jar

Beware of Fake Honey

As raw honey gains popularity, so does the risk of encountering counterfeit products on the market. Some honey labeled as “raw” might still undergo mild processing or dilution with syrup. To ensure you’re getting real honey, try to buy from trusted sources. Local beekeepers and reputable brands that transparently communicate their production methods are your best bet. Another way to ensure you are getting a good quality product is to always buy organic raw honey, because organic products have to follow a set of standards in order to label their products as organic. 

Does Raw Honey Taste Different Than Regular Honey?

Beyond the health benefits, let’s talk flavor. When comparing raw honey vs regular honey, they do taste different. In my opinion, raw honey has more depth to it’s flavor. More rich. The flavor can also vary depending on the type of flowers the bees frequented, giving you a unique and authentic taste of the different local flowers. 

On the flip side, regular honey might taste more uniform and less distinctive. The processing can sometimes strip away these unique flavors. 

Why Is My Raw Honey Crystalized?

Have you ever noticed that some honey remains clear and liquid, while others crystallize over time? This is a natural process, and the state of your honey can actually tell you something about its composition.

Raw honey often crystallizes faster than regular honey. This is a sign of purity and indicates that your honey has not been excessively heated or filtered. Crystallization does not alter the honey’s quality; in fact, some people prefer the spreadable consistency of crystallized honey. If you find your jar of honey crystallized, simply warm it gently in a water bath to return it to its liquid form.

On the other hand, regular honey may stay liquid for longer due to the pasteurization and heating process. 

Different Types of Honey

Honey comes in many different flavors, colors, and textures, due to the diverse nectar of flowers that bees collect from. The different types of honey can be broadly classified based on the floral source, processing methods, and geographical origin. Here are some popular kinds of honey:

  • Wildflower Honey: Often has a robust and full-bodied flavor, ranging from light to dark amber.
  • Clover Honey: Mild, sweet, and light in color, a popular choice for everyday use.
  • Orange Blossom Honey: Light and citrusy with a distinctive aroma, often appearing as a light golden honey.
  • Lavender Honey: Light and floral, with a hint of lavender fragrance. Its color can range from light to medium amber.
  • Manuka Honey: Known for its unique antibacterial properties, it has a strong, earthy flavor and a dark amber color. Manuka honey has many amazing medicinal uses. 
  • Acacia Honey: Light in color, mild, and sweet with a subtle floral aroma. It often stays liquid for a long time.
  • Buckwheat Honey: Dark and robust, with a strong, malty flavor. It is often used in baking and cooking.
  • Eucalyptus Honey: A bold flavor with medicinal undertones. It can vary in color from light to dark amber.
  • Heather Honey: Dark and strong, with a distinctive, slightly bitter taste. It tends to be thixotropic, meaning it becomes more fluid when stirred.
  • Alfalfa Honey: Light and mild with a delicate, herbal flavor. It’s a common choice in North America.
  • Blueberry Honey: Fruity and sweet, with a hint of blueberry flavor. It tends to be light in color.
  • Sourwood Honey: A premium honey with a distinctive taste, often described as sweet and spicy. It is light amber to dark amber in color.
honey bees collecting nectar from yellow flowers

Where Can I Find Raw Honey?

You should be able to find certified organic honey in most grocery stores. However, be aware that fake honey may be sold, and the product might not be completely unpasteurized honey. Health food stores may be a good option, but your best bet is to find a local source. You can also order raw honey online. I have purchased wildflower honey from azure standard before and had good results.

Conclusion: Raw Honey is Simply Better

In the battle of “Raw Honey vs. Regular Honey,” it’s clear that raw honey emerges as the clear winner. It is nutrient dense, has loads of health and nutritional benefits, and carries a delicious rich flavor. What about you? Have you tried raw honey? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. 

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