Local Superfood Series Entry #3 - Bee Pollen

As a Conservationist I am skeptical, as a Nutritionist I am intrigued. Bee Pollen is yet another trending superfood that is often harvested from the West Coast of BC. Amidst it's popularity for being an all-encompassing nutritional food, bee population decline is a very real thing primarily linked to the quality and quantity of livable habitat. 

For human beings this food offers an impressive variety of vitamins and minerals, it is thought to have immune boosting and anti-cancerous properties, it potentially aids in fertility, it helps to increase HDL (good) cholesterol and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and it is about 40% protein. That all sounds pretty good to me. Bee pollen can be found is a variety of colours - this is indicative of the season it was harvested in. Pollen that was harvested in the summer months is often bright yellow or orange in colour, while later towards the fall it turns to more of a darker brown. Regardless of which variety in colour is available to you, if your pollen is raw and harvested from organic land - you can trust that is will offer you all of health promoting qualities it is adorned for having.

For Mother Nature, bees and their pollen serve as a crucial role in fertilization of many plant species - the entire organic agricultural system is dependant on them. This pollen is the primary food source for their young, bees must reserve a sufficient amount of this food for their colony to survive the winter season. Imagine a female working bee flying from flower to flower expelling a lot of her energy gathering teeny-tiny grains of pollen. She uses a little honey from her hive to hold these grains together until they form to be the size of a 'granule' - that which we see when we purchase this food. This is hard work for such a small thing.

You might find the following statistic to be quite eye opening, at least for me reading this brought my use of this 'superfood' to my conscious mind.

"It is important to recognize that one teaspoon dose of pollen takes one bee working eight hours a day for one month to gather." - The Use of Bee Pollen as a Superfood, www.mercola.com

Industry hasn't just profited on the harvesting of pollen, there are in fact a whole assortment of different bee-related products and supplements available to you. All becoming increasingly popular in the world of natural health products and marketed for uses from food stuffs, to supplementation, to body care, to home decor. The most common products are honey, nectar, bees wax, propolis, royal jelly and of course pollen. Of this list pollen and royal jelly are the most concerning to me. The jelly is a natural secretion from the working bees that is given to nourish the larvae and queen bee. In order to collect the jelly, it must be taken directly from the queens hive. 

"A well-managed hive during a season of 5-6 months can produce approximately 500 g of royal jelly." - www.saveourbees.com.au

Considering that when supplementing with royal jelly, doses often range from 300-1000 mg per capsule - this is maybe not the most sustainable product for good health?

This information is not to deter you from using bee pollen or other bee products, that is never my intention - rather I hope that it can broaden the awareness of consumers and help us all to become more mindful about the quality and quantity of such foods we are consuming. 

So what should you be looking for when shopping for bee pollen or any other bee products? First things first and you know I'm going to say it, but number one is to always buy local. This is so important and it's really the entire purpose behind opting for health promoting superfoods that are harvested within' the area that you live. The environment in which a bee collects its pollen, determines its' quality and nutritional value. If the agricultural land surrounding their hives has been sprayed with toxic herbicides and pesticides or is within' distance from polluting run-off or busy highways, than there is a good chance that this can have a harmful effect on the health of the bee colonies themselves and the nutritional value of this food. 

Secondly, collection of the pollen is important, an ethical and sustainable collection method would be careful to not deprive the bee's of their primary food source. Careful collection would involve bee keepers inserting a small device inside the entrance of the hive that gently collects the pollen as they cross it. 

Finally, I recommend buying from suppliers or businesses that use some of their profits to better their stewardship towards to health of bee populations. If I can't find local products, I look for ones that I can trust implement good environmental or ethical practices. Although not from the West Coast, Beekeeper's Naturals is Canadian a company based out of Ontario that harvests quality bee products and feeds some of their profits back into Canadian Honey Council for the conservation and awareness education of wild pee populations and their habitat. 

So there you have it, my two sense on the ever popular local superfood Bee Pollen. Take this information with a grain of salt. As with any resource and any food cultivated from nature, the key is to keep in mind a few simple things; the locality of the resource, the impact its' consumption has on the environment, what industry or whom is the money feeding into for purchasing this resource and how can you personally use set an intention to use this resource mindfully. 

If you have any input on the information in this blog post or know of any suppliers in the West Coast of BC that harvest such products with sustainability in mind, please feel free to write in the comments or email me directly at naytivenutrition@gmail.com

Till next time.

Brooklyn Reed