Knowing food composition is becoming increasingly important.
Today, it is not only important to have access to the classic “nutritional values” often only reported in terms of calories, protein, sugar and fat content, but it is also necessary to understand what results from food processing, for example after it is cooked or exposed to air.
As an example, we should just think that cooking makes oil unsuitable to those affected by food reactivity to nickel, while its “raw” use is perfectly accepted.
The need for such type of knowledge derives from the growing number of people with symptoms linked to food-related inflammation or food hypersensitivity.
The most obvious examples come from the increasing number of irritable bowel syndrome cases, often due to gluten sensitivity and from the increasingly relevant role played by yeast in the onset of autoimmune conditions.
With this in mind, for years in our Milan practice we have been treating patients willing to heal from these types of disorders, through a specific therapeutic path.
Food “data-sheets” referring to the different great food clusters have been subjected to important changes throughout the years, following the progress in knowledge and all the new acquisitions in food technology.
The upgrade of the yeast file with the inclusion of honey occurred about a decade ago, thanks to the message sent by a beekeeper, who was also an attentive follower of our publications.
This beekeeper informed us that honey always contains osmophilic yeasts and, in some cases, even some types of mould; therefore, honey intake should have been kept under control within the diets suited to those known to respond to yeast and fermented substances.
His recommendations are also confirmed in various reports by UNAPI (National Union of Italian Beekepers Association) describing which and how many types of yeasts or moulds can be found in honey.
We should remind everyone that the description presented in the “yeast and fermented products” file does not necessarily refer to the specific presence of yeasts or moulds, but to fermentation and to its residues (in any case present within honey).
Therefore, honey, of whatever origin, is a product containing both osmophilic and saccharolytic microscopic unicellular fungi (yeasts), which are able to survive and multiply even in an environment extremely rich in sugars; in support of that, beekeepers know perfectly well that, when water increases in hives, honey may undergo impressive episodes of fermentation.
Yeasts are nearly ubiquitous microorganisms, reaching honey in a natural way through flowers, soil, air and work tools, so that every type of honey contains yeast in various amounts, from 1 to 100.000 cells per gram.
Still, despite all this, or perhaps because of it, honey is an excellent aliment and even those affected by a yeast-specific intolerance or reactivity (like me, for example) can still eat it peacefully during the days of unrestricted diet, without forgetting that the glycaemic index shown by honey is significantly lower than that of white sugar.
All this applies to the types of honey coming from the European community, which retain their value and description of “alive and active aliment”.
On the other hand in the US, the terms “raw honey” or “virgin honey” are used with a negative connotation as if it represented a danger to health. I like to talk about it because it allows me to express a critical opinion towards a principle of food security that goes beyond its primary objectives.
In Italy and in Europe, using the definition “virgin honey” is strictly prohibited by the body of EU law of 2004 (because it could draw in confusion).
In fact, all handmade Italian types of honey are certainly “raw” and no one in Europe has ever raised any of the issues that the US would like to flag.
In the US, honey is subjected to a pasteurization process at 60-70°C (which destroys yeast and many of the volatile substances that form honey) and it is subsequently subjected to microfiltration which excludes pollen (and a bunch of other trace elements) from its composition.
In the end, I think this is just a way to print an alleged “no toxicity label” to the product offered, entirely aiming at excluding any legal liability of the manufacturer, since the product is alive and active, with biological effects not completely defined. That means giving away the positive effects on health (documented by ancient traditions) offered by a healthy product. For the same principle, we should sterilise yogurt before eating it because afraid of lactic acid bacteria.
Luckily, honey is not a problem in Italy thanks to the much more advanced European legislation, which proved to be more respectful of biological integrity, although those who are still experiencing problems with yeast and fermented products should carry on enjoying this product only in the “free diet” days.