The Buzz on Bee Pollen & 10 Ways to Use It
Bee pollen is said to be an exceptionally nutritious food, and it is sometimes even labeled as a “superfood.” Many claim that it can cure a multitude of heath problems, but unfortunately there is a lack of research to backup these claims. I started taking bee pollen after purchasing some at a local farmers market about a year ago. Personally, I find that bee pollen gives me a natural boost of energy, which is why I like using it. The small chance for an allergic reaction in sensitive people is one of the main reasons for the controversy over consuming it. Always proceed with caution when trying a new food, and please read the information below before deciding whether or not to include bee pollen into your diet.
What is bee pollen?
A honeybee collects hundreds, sometimes millions of pollen grains from a single flower. The bees pack the pollen into granules with the help of special combs and hairs on their hind legs, and a sticky substance secreted from their stomachs. Carrying two granules at a time they travel back to the hive with their hard earned loot that will eventually be fed to their young. On occasion, beekeepers will attach a small box fitted with a screen in the doorway of a hive. The screen allows the bees to enter, but it carefully and harmlessly removes the small granules of pollen from their legs. Beekeepers collect only a small amount from any given hive, so as not to deprive the bees from the bulk of their food source. The collected granules are then packaged and sold under the name, bee pollen.
What are the benefits of consuming bee pollen?
Bee pollen is touted as being great for everything from boosting your immune system, enhancing energy levels, slowing the aging process, curing infertility problems and preventing colds and the flu. Local bee pollen is even said to have the same or greater effect as local honey on reducing seasonal allergies. With this allergy season gearing up to be a bad one, due to an extremely wet winter, it might be something to consider trying. All the benefits of bee pollen are unfortunately not supported by medical research, which is why you have to decide for yourself if you want to give it a try.
How do you take bee pollen?
If you are interested in taking bee pollen for health reasons or in hopes of reducing the effects of seasonal allergies you must proceed with caution. Even if you never had an allergic reaction to pollen or bee products before, you should take bee pollen very slowly and in very small quantities at first. Anyone who is known to be allergic to honey or bees should definitely not consume bee pollen. Always use your best judgment when adding something new to your diet. Adults can try adding bee pollen a ¼ teaspoon at a time and should not exceed two teaspoons a day. Children should start with only a few granules and should not exceed a ½ teaspoon a day.
Where do you buy bee pollen?
The best place to purchase bee pollen is from a local beekeeper that you trust. You want to make sure the pollen you get is free from pesticides, agrochemicals and that the bee colonies are not chemically treated. Bee pollen can be found in some grocery stores, health food stores and farmers’ markets. The color of bee pollen is not an indicator of quality. It is most frequently a bright yellow, but red, purple, green, brown, orange and a variety of other colors can also be found. The best bee pollen will be a large variety of colors because that means the bees have been foraging on many different types of flowers and trees.
How do you tell if you have fresh bee pollen?
The best way to tell if your bee pollen is fresh is to sample a few granules. Place the granules on your tongue and they should dissolve slightly. When you bite down the granules should mash under the force of your teeth. They definitely should NOT crunch or be too hard to chew. If I had to describe the taste of bee pollen I would say it is intense, powdery, floral, a bit chalky and slightly sweet. The best place to store your bee pollen is in the refrigerator or freezer. UV radiation (i.e. sunlight) and heat will destroy the nutrient value of pollen. Bee pollen stored in a cool dark place should keep for about one year.
10 ways to use bee pollen:
Note: You do not want to heat bee pollen because this will destroy all of its beneficial nutrients. To grind bee pollen you can use a mortar and pestle, or you can process it in a coffee/spice grinder.
- Use granules as a topping over yogurt or cereal
- Add ground bee pollen to cooling homemade granola while it is still moist and sticky.
- Blend ground pollen or granules into a smoothie
- Incorporate into raw protein bars, raw desserts or candies
- Sprinkle granules directly over salad
- Incorporate ground pollen into salad dressing such as a honey mustard
- Sprinkle ground pollen over popcorn
- Use granules as a garnish on top of dark chocolate
- Use ground pollen as a coating for sugared almonds or hazelnuts
- Toast whole wheat bread, smear with chocolate hazelnut spread and sprinkle with bee pollen granules.
Do you consume bee pollen? What are your favorite ways of eating it?
Photo Credit: Sandra Kehoe
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