If you've ever been in a serious relationship with Zyrtec or Claritin, you probably hear the word "pollen" and want to run in the opposite direction. Totally fair—allergies can be seriously nasty. But bee pollen won't cause the same adverse side effects as free-floating pollen in the air. Actually, bee pollen might be the superfood you've been waiting for.
Considering how incredibly beneficial raw honey is, it's not a surprise that bee pollen is considered one of the healthiest substances on the planet. The tiny, yellow granules don't smell or taste like much, but they're packed full of nutrition.
This stuff comes straight from the hive—and it can't be manufactured artificially. Bee pollen is the meal of choice for adolescent bees, and it's what grown bees gather and take back to feed their young. A single teaspoon takes about 210 hours of pollination to create, and contains 2.5 billion grains of flower pollen.
About 40 percent of the nutrition in a teaspoon of bee pollen comes from protein, which is pretty significant for a plant-based substance. The other 60 percent includes essential amino acids, vitamins, enzymes, beneficial fatty acids, and 28 different minerals such as calcium, magnesium, selenium, nucleic acids, lecithin, and cysteine. Although its nutrition density, bee pollen is low in calories, which makes it great to add to recipes purely for health reasons.
Even if you eat really nutritiously and take a multivitamin, adding this overlooked superfood to your diet can seriously improve your health.
Bee pollen has antioxidant activity, and works with the body to fight free radicals that damage cells and cause chronic illnesses (including cancer), nerve cell injury, and even premature aging. Antioxidants help prevent disease in the long term, and also boost the immune system come cold and flu season: The antimicrobial properties of bee pollen keep illness at bay, and the stuff has been studied as a remedy for seasonal and environmental allergies. Basically, any kind of stuffy nose you have can be treated with bee pollen!
In a study of 46 breast cancer patients who were going through hormonal replacement therapy, bee pollen helped 70 percent see a significant decrease in their symptoms of hot flushes, night sweats, hair loss, forgetfulness, depression, and sleep disturbances. This research suggests that supplementing with the bee pollen can help balance hormones. Another recent study by the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences discovered that bee pollen actually contains tryptophan, the compound that supports healthy serotonin levels and in turn, regulates mood. This could explain why women in the breast cancer study reported decreased levels of depression.
Finally, bee pollen contains many phenols, or beneficial plant-based chemical compounds like rutin, quercetin, myricetin, and trans-cinnamic acid. Quercetin in particular has long been considered an important anti-carcinogen, and its abundance in bee pollen could mean this superfood may be effective in helping to treat and prevent cancer.
So you have every reason in the world to add bee pollen to your diet—but how? Try it sprinkled over a smoothie bowl, or as a topping for roasted butternut squash.
Photo credit: Paul Delmont