At ETL, eating mindfully is a core value. Part of that is knowing more about the foods we eat… what they are, how they are made, and how they are produced on a mass scale. For the first post in this series, I thought I’d focus on one of my favorite staple superfoods.
Let’s just say I really love honey. I consume it every single day, usually in multiple ways. It’s a staple in my morning, afternoon and bedtime time…it goes in most of my yogurt, oatmeal and breakfast smoothies…and it sneaks its way into many of the baked goods on my counter.
This superfood rocks for so many reasons. Not only does it have a ton of health benefits and unique uses, but it’s production is a key component of our entire ecosystem here on earth. So we need to pay attention to how it is being produced, and how it’s being impacted by climate change.
I bet I’m not alone in reaching for the honey frequently…so I thought I’d share a little more about this staple ingredient so many of us love. Keep reading to get the facts on how honey is made and produced, plus all ways you can maximize the benefits of it, and where you can get your own local honey. Plus, at the bottom of the post, find some of my favorite honey recipes, and links to shop my top picks for honey brands, and honey infused treats!
So what exactly is honey and how is it made?
Honey is the glorious golden liquid that honeybees produce. It’s a whole complicated scientific process that takes a long time and some big words to explain. Long story short, bees use the nectar of flowering plants, mix it with chemicals in their body, store it in a honeycomb where they fan it dry (literally with their wings!) and it eventually develops into that thick viscous liquid we know and love.
Bees actually make honey to store it for food, but it turns out they aren’t the only ones with a sweet tooth. Bears, humans and many other species love honey too! And don’t worry, there’s plenty to go around. It’s said that one beehive will produce more than 60 pounds of EXTRA honey every year.
For centuries until sugar became a widespread staple, honey was the main sweetener people used, with the Mediterranean region leading the way.
Today, Americans on average consume more than a pound and a half of honey per year (wayyy more than that for me lol), with the U.S. producing more than 150 million ponds of honey annually.
You’ve heard before that meat and milk taste differently depending on how the animal was treated and fed right? Well it’s sort of the same with honey. It’s taste, texture, color and smell are all affected by several factors, including where it is made and what flowers those bees are visiting to get their nectar.
Most big brand honey producers, and those that aren’t labeled raw and unfiltered, go through a straining process to remove extra beeswax and other particles before it’s bottled and sold. Additionally, a lot of them also put the honey through a heating process that kills yeast and prevents crystallization. (Btw, when that happens to your honey it’s completely normal and natural).
As an industry, bee keeping and honey harvesting can be done ethically and sustainably. Factors including the safety of the bees, the conditions of the hive, and the products and chemicals used. As a consumer, the most important thing you can do is make sure you are buying honey that is organic and ethically made. Read your labels!
Is it really good for you? What are the benefits?
Let’s just say people have been using honey for it’s health benefits throughout history…we’re talking thousands of years. Honey is a great source of antioxidants. It also has antibacterial and antifungal properties. Because of this, honey is used to help aid in wound healing and to help fight infections. This also makes it great for helping you get through a cough or cold. And it’s the reason honey is such a good skin purifier.
Some studies also show that honey can help with certain digestive issues. You can also use it to soothe a sore throat. Eat a spoonful of it or have it in some hot tea. Other research points to honey’s ability to help improve endurance in athletes, and help maintain blood sugar balance.
And that’s not even close to all the benefits. You can read more about honey’s uses dating back centuries in this study here.
Really the only main caution adults need to be concerned with is over-consumption of honey, because your body processes it like sugar. But adding it to teas, smoothies, and your facials is well within the healthy amount to take in.
How is honey impacted by climate change?
And why is it a big deal?
There are a plethora of studies out there warning of the ways climate change threatens bee populations. That doesn’t just jeopardize honey production, but has the potential for far worse consequences. That’s because as bees roam around searching for nectar, they also do important work as pollinators, an absolutely crucial step in wild plant and crop growth.
It’s estimated that about a third of the food we eat is produced through the work of bees and other pollinators.
When you’re eating that honey, you’re essentially eating the nectar and pollen from the area where it was produced. That’s why honey is also known to help people develop immunity from local and seasonal allergies.
A study published in the journal Science earlier this year found that bumblebee populations are shrinking by nearly 50% across North America and Europe because of rising temperatures. That’s insane! Those effects could be detrimental, making it another reason to your part to be sustainable and eco-friendly.
Where to find the best local honey in your area…
You can start here with this awesome website – Local Honey Finder – to help you find local honey in your area.
Your local farmers market is also a great go-to for finding local honey in your area.
Push comes to shove, you’ll probably be able to find a local brand at your grocery store. Remember to always look for raw and organic!
And once you get your hands on it…
there’s so much you can do with honey!
The cooking possibilities with honey are endless. And that’s not just because it’s a go-to substitute for sugar. It’s a star in its own right. I’ve rounded up some of my favorite honey recipes from around the web…
- Salted Honey Pie
- Honey Bourbon Glazed Ham
- Honey Flan
- Honey Yeast Rolls
- Honey and Soy Laquered Ribs
- Pineapple & Honey Jalapeño Margaritas
- Organic Honey Zucchini Bread
- Honey Spiced Wine
- Pumpkin Spiced Honey Butter
ETL’S FAVORITE HONEY PICKS
ETL’S FAVORITE INFUSED HONEY PRODUCTS
Honey & Kalahari Melon Shampoo
Honey & Kalahari Melon Conditioner
Avocado & honey Soft Skin Scrub
*This post contains affiliate links. That means I may get a small commission if you purchase something. I only recommend products I love and trust! For more on ETL’s policies, see HERE.