I remember years and years ago (long before I was a nutritionist), taking bee pollen. I’d heard it was good for energy and maybe something else – I don’t remember. Anyway I definitely remember thinking it tasted awful and I did not receive any notable benefits from consuming it.
A few days ago, I was asked about bee pollen. My personal experience aside, I’ve known a number of individuals to rave over the stuff. However, beyond that I knew I need to do some digging.
It would seem that bee pollen is most often recommended by health enthusiasts and supplement companies rather than by medical practitioners. After a few hours of looking into bee pollen, I highly doubt I’d ever recommend it to anyone. Besides, I’ve been working successfully with clients for years now – no bee pollen required. And to anyone with seasonal allergies I’d actually caution against it’s use.
It’s not a terrible substance by any means. In fact bee pollen is generally considered a highly nutritious food – it is rich in vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients with some healthy fats, proteins and carbohydrates. However, as the name suggests, bee pollen comes from various plants, many of which are indicated in seasonal allergies. The bees pick the pollen up in their travels, mix it with a bit of honey and “bee secretions” and pack it away in their hives as a food source – it is basically concentrated pollens from flowers (note: bee pollen is different than bee venom, honey, royal jelly or propolis).
Bee pollen is often promoted as a method to boost energy levels and endurance, enhance immunity, improve athletic performance, balance hormones and reduce seasonal allergies (using the desensitization approach), among other things. While plenty of anecdotal evidence can be found, I am not able to find scientific research to back up these claims. In fact this 2009 Evidence-Based Systematic Review of Bee Pollen by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration reviewed all literature on bee pollen pertaining to efficacy in humans, and concluded there is unclear or conflicting scientific evidence to back these claims.
So the question becomes, if not bee pollen, what can we reach for in order to boost our energy levels and endurance? To enhance our immunity? Improve athletic performance? Balance hormones? Or prevent / reduce seasonal allergy symptoms?
You’ll not be surprised to hear all these things can be found in eating anti-inflammatory foods that are antioxidant rich. By building a strong nutritional foundation, we are setting ourselves up for success in all areas of our lives, including energy, immunity and balanced hormones. And for a little more on how to beat seasonal allergies, you might be interested in this blogpost here. I totally get that eating clean, healthy, nutrient-dense food most of the time is less attractive than a ‘magic-bullet’ solution such as bee pollen, but I can tell you with certainty our time and money is better spent on building a strong foundation than trying another supplement.
The fact that building a strong foundation is so important is the reason it is the first thing discussed in the Nutrition for Runners Workshops! And I’m excited to announce that registration for this springs workshops is now open, click here for more information.
Eat clean, run strong, be well… Cheers,
Sarah J Cuff, RHN
PS. I wanted to take a second to tell you about a client of mine who would sometimes sign off on her emails (after telling me about the all awesomeness she was experiencing) as “-victorious”. Her name is Victoria and she was and is indeed victorious! She came to me as she was wishing to reach her racing weight as she believed it would help her to perform better. Not only has she now hit her racing weight twice, she discovered all sorts of different nutritional strategies to prevent her from constantly feeling bloated on a daily basis! To learn more about Victoria’s journey, click here.