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Is the perfect food always perfect?

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By Scott Mechura EBS Food Columnist

If you’ve read anything I’ve written, you know my thoughts on sugar and, though yes I do consume sugar, how I have warned of its devastating effects on the body if consumed in excess. I choose the word devastating deliberately.

But not all sugar is created equal.

To be fair, most every sugar is still sugar and does essentially the same thing once it enters the human body. Over the last four or five decades, we have created and disguised sugar in many forms of sheep’s clothing. From agave nectar to the rainbow of colored substitute packets, sugar is still sugar and it’s bad for you—with a possible almost exception of Stevia.

But one sugar separates itself as not only good for you, but often gets called the perfect food – honey.

Clay pots discovered in the Tbilisi area of Georgia shows humans were harvesting honey as far back as 5,500 years. And not just one variety but several.

Honey is good for you and comes with many health benefits. Aside from being good for our brain (brains need sugar to function), it has been linked to fighting metabolic syndrome, upper respiratory tract infections, maintaining healthy gut bacteria, as well providing small amounts of 31 different minerals.

The honey making process begins with the honey bee sucking a plants nectar through its proboscis, or long flexible snout, and into its honey stomach which is separate from its food stomach.

Once back at the hive, the nectar gets transferred from bee to bee several times, each breaking it down further with their bodies enzymes until it is ready to be excreted into the comb.

At this point, it is left open until some of the excess water and other moisture evaporates to just the right consistency. And what more efficient way to assist in that evaporation than to create a natural fan by yet another set of bees whose job it is to beat their wings to create air flow. Then that individual chamber in the comb is sealed with more wax which is produced by separate bees with that specific task.

And while this perfect food is one of nature’s most fascinating creations, not all honey is perfect.

Some honey you purchase it not real, that is to say, not all of it is 100 percent pure. It may be adulterated with other sugars or syrups. 

I know, is nothing sacred?

Here are some tricks to figure out if the honey you purchased is real or fake.

The first and most obvious is to read the label. If it says anything other than “pure” or “Raw” honey, it has some sort of water or additives such as corn syrup.

And if the price seems too good to be true, it is probably because there are additives in your honey.

When there is enough room in the jar, tip the jar upside down and watch how long it takes for the honey to go from a steady stream to a drip. The longer your honey drizzles, the purer it is.

Fill a pint jar about half way with water. Pour an ounce or two of your honey in, screw a lid on tightly and shake vigorously for five to ten seconds. The longer the foam takes to dissipate on the surface of the water the purer your honey is.

So, the next time you’re at the store and looking for the perfect sugar alternative, at least do your due diligence and make sure they honey is pure, and from the bees.

Scott Mechura has spent a life in the hospitality industry. He is a former certified beer judge and currently the multi-concept culinary director for a Bozeman based restaurant group.

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