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Is Bee Pollen Good for You? Part 1

Bee pollen is said to contain all the nutrients needed to sustain life. Is bee pollen really nature's most perfect food? 

By
Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
4-minute read
Episode #335

Stephanie writes, "I've heard a lot about bee pollen lately. Is it good for you? Is it really a miracle food?"

Bee pollen has been used throughout the ages and around the globe as a medicinal food and all-purpose elixir. There are references to the healing powers of bee pollen in ancient Egyptian and Chinese manuscripts, the Bible. and the Koran. 

It's still promoted today as a "superfood," a term that's generally applied to foods thought to be particularly nutritious. It's also touted as a natural remedy for allergies and asthma, to enhance athletic performance, boost the immune system, guard against toxic effects from chemotherapy, and as a general health tonic. But is there any scientific basis for any of these alleged benefits? Let's take a look at how the evidence for bee pollen stacks up.

Is Bee Pollen Nature's Perfect Food?

Bee pollen is made up of pollen from flowering plants, which is collected by the bee as it roams around the world, mixed with small amounts of bee spit and nectar. Although it's nutrient composition varies greatly depending on what plants the bee visited that day, most bee pollen is about 15% protein, less than 10% fat, and about 70% carbohydrate. It also contains various vitamins and minerals.

In fact, one of the claims for bee pollen is that it contains every nutrient needed for life. This has been demonstrated by experiments in which lab rats were fed nothing but bee pollen for up to a year and thrived.  But even if the idea of eating nothing but a pound of a slightly bitter granular powder every day as your sole source of nutrition sounds appealing to you, I wouldn't advise it.

One interesting difference between rats and humans is that rats can produce their own vitamin C and humans cannot. Unless your particular batch of bee pollen was unusually high in vitamin C, you'd probably end up with scurvy long before your year consuming it was up! Bee pollen is also essentially devoid of vitamins B12 and D and—if eaten as the sole source of nutrition—would provide dangerously high amounts of iron. 

Of course, most of the people who swear by bee pollen aren't eating a pound a day. They are simply stirring a spoonful into their juice or smoothie before heading out to leap tall buildings in a single bound. The amount of vitamins and minerals in that amount of bee pollen is equivalent to shaving off a tenth of a multi-vitamin tablet and dissolving it into your juice.

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About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.