Rich in vitamins, minerals, trace elements, enzymes, amino acids, and antioxidants, bee pollen is gaining popularity as a superfood. Bee pollen can be consumed dried whole as granules, ground into a powder, added to foods as a garnish, or consumed in pill form. Sweet and with a mild floral flavor, bee pollen can be used as a supplement or added directly into salads, desserts, or beverages.
What Is Bee Pollen?
Bee pollen is a mixture of flower pollen, nectar or honey, and bees' digestive enzymes. When foraging bees fly from flower to flower, they pick up pollen, pack it into pellets, and carry them back to the hive with their legs. Here the pellets are stored as food for the colony. Beekeepers use pollen traps at hive entrances to collect the pollen; bee pollen is best preserved immediately after harvest by freezing or drying. These granules are the purest form of the pollen and exactly how pellets were transported by foraging bees.
In China, pollen consumption was first recorded during the Tang Dynasty and still today is very popular as part of their traditional medicine. Use as an aid in recovering from illness, digestive discomfort, lack of vitality, and as an overall restorative component for good health, pollen has become noted by the alternative medicine world as a superfood.
Today, China is the world's largest producer of bee pollen, followed by the United States. Bee pollen shouldn’t be confused with other bee products such as honey, propolis, royal jelly, or honeycomb. These products may not contain pollen and/or may contain other substances.
- Uses: Traditional medicine, appetite stimulant.
- Culinary uses: yogurt, parfaits, smoothies, salads.
- Flavor: Sweet and floral.
- Where to Buy: Health stores, online retailers, local bee farms.
Bee Pollen Uses
Bee pollen is best consumed raw to preserve as many nutrients as possible. You can swallow the pills straight up, or sprinkle granules or powder over porridge, oatmeal, yogurt, cereal, soups, and salads as a garnish. Blend into your favorite salad dressing or morning smoothie.
Start with 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon per day, with a maximum of 1 tablespoon per day. If you’re allergic to bees and honey, you’re probably allergic to bee pollen. Use caution and common sense, but always consult with your primary care physician before taking any new supplement.
What Does It Taste Like?
Bee pollen is slightly sweet with a floral taste. However, the taste can vary according to the type of flower the pollen came from, and many claim that bee pollen has a bitter aftertaste you'll get eventually used to when consuming it regularly.
Bee Pollen Recipes
Bee pollen can be used as a garnish to soups, sliced fruit, granola, and yogurt parfaits, or mixed in into vinaigrettes, smoothies, and açai bowls. Add bee pollen to your favorite baked goods, homemade granola bars, or raw vegan preparations.
Where to Buy Bee Pollen
Bee pollen can be found in most health food stores and at farmer’s markets in the United States. You can find a wider variety of brands and forms online. Bee pollen is sold as granules, powder, or in 500 mg capsules. A local beekeeper may sell it to you in bulk, or look for a specialty retailer online.
Harvesting pollen is difficult to do without damaging or depleting the hive’s food source. So it is essential to purchase pollen, and all bee products, from a trustworthy supplier. Look for pollen from pesticide-free flowers. Depending on the source, bee pollen can range in price from $1 an ounce to $5.
Buy in small quantities and store in a cool, dark place. For a longer shelf life, refrigerate or freeze pollen.
Nutrition and Benefits
Bee pollen contains many biologically active substances, including proteins, carbs, lipids, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and a wide variety of antioxidants including flavonoids and carotenoids—phytonutrients in fruits and vegetables that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
The active substances in bee pollen have many properties, but the exact nutrient composition depends on the plant source and harvest season. As a consequence, the results, nutrition, and properties are not standardized and depend on the product you end up buying.