Bee pollen benefits are well known in the world of superfoods and are up there on our personal top 10 list as an energy enhancing source of protein.
Bee pollen is considered one of nature's most complete and nourishing foods because of its full spectrum of nutrients, amino acids and enzyme content. The pollen is so concentrated it only takes small amounts to provide one of the best natural multivitamins available.
These golden granules are collected by one of the greatest creatures and master pollinators of the earth, the honeybee!
Bees pollinate flowers and plants by transferring pollen from one flower to the next, which fertilizes the plant so it can continue its life cycle and produce fruit and seeds. Without the work of the bee population, most plants and food crops on the planet would not survive.
For millions of years, the bee and the flower have developed this symbiotic relationship that is intimately linked to the health of our ecosystem and this marvelous superfood is a source of this strong connection.
What is Bee Pollen Exactly?
Bee pollen is the male reproductive spore of the flowering plant and there are literally thousands of these individual spores within each full-size pollen grain.
The actual particle is microscopic in size, but as the bee gathers more, it snowballs into a pellet size ball. Bees are typically fuzzy and carry an electrostatic charge which enables grains of pollen to stick to their bodies. Honeybees and bumblebees collect this pollen on their hind legs into a structure called the corbicula or "pollen basket."
Each individual grain is extracted from the flower, joined together with nectar and the bees own digestive enzymes to create an energy dense food source. This food is collected by the worker bees and then used by the queen bee to feed the young bee larvae or "brood", which nest inside the cells of the honeycomb.
Bee pollen benefits provide energy, protein and nutrients to meet the nutritional needs of the hive. When beekeeper's harvest pollen for human consumption only a certain amount of the pollen is collected, leaving the rest for the bee population to ensure the health of the colony.
The pollen is brought back to the collection trap, which is like a drawer usually located on the bottom of the beehive. These pollen traps tend to fill up quite fast in the warmer seasons, when more flowers are available, and produce less in the winter months.
History of Bee Product Consumption
Ancient peoples have been harvesting honey and pollen from the wild beehive as a natural food source for close to 15,000 years. It is recorded in ancient Biblical, Chinese and Egyptian texts as well as mentioned throughout the ages by many naturalists and early pioneers of Western medicine. Numerous Native American tribes were also known to store pollen in pouches for long excursions.
Human efforts to domesticate wild bees is depicted in Egyptian art about 4,500 years ago. However, a complete understanding of bee colonies did not occur until the 18th century when Europeans first created the moveable beehive.
In addition to pollen, the beehive also produces propolis, raw honey and the infamous royal jelly, reserved exclusively for the queen bee and her eggs. All of these bee products have been consumed extensively throughout human history.
Bee Pollen Benefits
High in Protein and Other Energizing Nutrients
Bee pollen is a protein rich, energy enhancing food source that is approximately 40 percent protein, depending on the botanical source it was collected from. It is a complete source of all 22 amino acids including the 8 essentials and also contains a plethora of other nutrients, vitamins and minerals like B vitamins, C, E, rutin, beta-carotene, nucleic acids, polysaccharides and lecithin.
Because it is a pre-digested food, it easily moves through the digestive tract and it is quickly absorbed and utilized by the body. This is a unique and specialized feature designed to feed developing bee larvae. It is also believed to enhance muscle mass in humans as it exhibits natural steroid-like effects as well as contains growth supporting amino acids and protein. For this reason, bee pollen is used by many bodybuilders and athletes around the world as a dietary supplement that helps to improve strength and increase performance.
Olmypic Gold Medalist for track, Steve Riddick, who had been consuming bee pollen for 5 years as apart of his diet said, "I train better, I run stronger. And it has so many vitamins and amino acids." (*)
B VITAMINS AND FOLIC ACID
Bee pollen benefits are particularly high in B-complex (all of the B vitamins except for B12), but is especially high in B9 or what is commonly called folic acid. As many people know, folic acid is an essential vitamin required by pregnant women, especially in the first trimester.
Interestingly, it is also a required nutrient needed to support the bee colony and nourish the "brood" or eggs of the queen bee.
B vitamins are known energy boosters that help increase metabolism, converting our food into fuel, and are necessary for healthy brain function.
RUTIN AND LECITHIN
Rutin, a glycoside of the flavonoid quercetin, is another nutritive compound found in the pollen. Rutin is a citrus flavonoid also found in citrus fruits and other foods, which may account for its tangy taste. Rutin is a lot like quercetin and acts as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antihistamine. It helps to protect the blood vessels, is beneficial for improved circulation and thus supportive to the vascular system.
According to researchers at the Institute of Apiculture, Taranov, Russia, "Honeybee pollen is the richest source of vitamins found in Nature in a single food. Even if bee pollen had none of its other vital ingredients, its content of rutin alone would justify taking at least a teaspoon daily, if for no other reason than strengthening the capillaries."
Most high quality bee pollen's are about 15% lecithin. Lecithin is a fat-like substance commonly referred to as a phospholipid and is known for its high amount of inositol and choline. Lecithin is a component of cell membranes and makes up about 30% of our brain. As a dietary source it acts as an emulsifier that helps us to break down fats so they can be effectively utilized. Lecithin is important for brain function and neurotransmitter activity and thus an important part of cognitive health.
Bee Pollen Benefits as a Digestive Aid High in Enzymes
Bee pollen benefits are a potent source of enzymes including: diatase, amylase, phosphatase, pectase, transferase and catalase. These substances are significantly helpful as digestive aids to help break down our food into usable nutrition and energy. This enables us to get more out of the foods we eat, so we don't have eat as much to feel nutritionally satisfied.
And, as we mentioned, pollen is also a natural source of lecithin which helps to break down fats so we can assimilate them properly.
The addition of just small quantities of bee pollen daily can be especially helpful if your current diet is particularly low in raw fruits and vegetables and high in cooked foods, meat proteins as well as highly processed, canned or packaged foods.
When we eat enzyme rich foods, we maximize our levels of nutrient absorption and digestion, receiving greater energy from the foods we eat. Disease and degeneration is intimately linked to the damaging effects of a diet low in enzymes. It has been suggested by Dr. Edward Howell, author of "Enzyme Nutrition", that our longevity and quality of life suffer as a result.
AN ALKALINE FOOD
Bee pollen benefits the body as an alkaline food source. Many people today suffer from overly acidic diets, caused by stress and poor eating habits. It is believed my many health authorities that alkaline foods help to neutralize acid levels in the blood, increase body pH and allow for a healthier balance of microflora in the digestive tract, specifically the colon.