WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER HEAT OR COOK HONEY
Sometimes a touch of sweetness is just what the doctor ordered. I love using jaggery in many of my recipes, but I’m partial to other sweeteners as well! Maple syrup, coconut sugar and raw honey are all among the unrefined ingredients I use in desserts and sweet snacks. That said, raw honey comes with a pretty significant caveat: according to Ayurveda, it should never be heated or cooked as this not only strips it of its nutrients, but also makes it potentially harmful for our bodies.
WHY IS RAW HONEY SO BENEFICIAL?
This golden nectar, when you choose the pure, preferably organic type (check out my shop for one of my faves), is chock-full of nutrients and medicinal properties. It is antiseptic, antifungal and antibacterial — it even helps to stop bleeding from skin wounds and stomach ulcers.
Think that’s quite enough for a pretty basic ingredient you’ve probably not thought twice about before? But wait, there’s more! Honey stimulates the metabolism, and can help with anaemia, lung health, skin issues, as well as being great to soothe a sore throat. And if you can get your hands on local honey, even better — not only will it help support the local economy and the environment by helping to safeguard the bees that are so central to our ecosystem, but it can also help alleviate allergies if you’re prone to them. Finally, honey is perfect if you’re experiencing a Kapha imbalance.
Thanks to all of this, Vedic civilisation considers honey to be a gift from nature — not to mention it’s *blooming* delicious in all its many varieties.
WHY SHOULD YOU NEVER HEAT IT?
Raw honey is basically liquid gold for your overall wellbeing, but all of its benefits are negated if you heat or cook it. That’s why you should never, ever use it in baking, nor in hot drinks (wait until they cool to room temperature as honey should never reach above 40°C). Why is this? Well, Ayurveda considers cooked honey to be a poison — and that includes the non-raw kind that you’ll find in your local supermarket, which is why it’s so important to exclusively buy pots of raw honey.
From the most basic point of view, honey can quickly turn bitter when cooked, so you wouldn’t want in your puddings anyway. Additionally, Ayurveda advises that cooked honey can negatively affect your health in the long term because it gains a glue-like consistency, which produces toxins — or Ama — during digestion. This means it will make it much harder for you to digest any other foods as well. Digestion is central to overall health in Ayurveda, so this can then lead to a host of other issues, for instance weight gain, constipation, congestion, etc.
Notably, Western science seems to agree with the notion that cooked honey is noxious. One study found that heated honey produced a significant amount of hydroxymethyl furfuraldehyde (HMF), which in turn may cause negative effects on your health though more research is needed at this stage. Again, on a more basic level, highly processed honey has far fewer nutrients and benefits than the raw kind, so make sure you only purchase the highest quality raw honey and never use it in baking or hot drinks!