The trendy ingredient is surprisingly nutritionally dense

By Rebecca Firkser
Updated July 19, 2018
Credit: Photo by Flavia Morlachetti via Getty Images

Seemingly out of nowhere, I started to started to notice flecks of a golden substance on toasts, porridges, and atop smoothies at my favorite trendy breakfast spots. “It’s bee pollen,” my server told me last year (I can’t remember where, but it was probably some hip cafe in Soho.) “Victoria Beckham loves it.” Since then, I’ve seen bee pollen everywhere. Sprinkled over the acai bowl at The Wayfarer, on toast smeared with chevre and jam at The Fat Radish, on the “yogurt, berry and pollen defense shake” at abcV.

Yes, pollen defense coming from from pollen itself. But let’s back up a step. Bee pollen is literally a tiny pellet of packed pollen sealed with bee secretions. It’s created by the insects as they collect pollen and bring it back to the hive. The pellets are often fed to young and worker bees, and is considered their primary source of protein (a teaspoon can contain over one gram of protein, which is pretty impressive for such a tiny product.) It’s high in Vitamin B as well, which can increase energy levels, leading to many folks hailing pollen as a superfood, ideal for inclusion in a post-workout meal. It certainly helps that bee pollen tastes good—a spoonful adds a unique, sorta-spongey, sorta-crunchy texture and a mild honey flavor to food.

Back to the pollen defense: When I think of pollen, one thing that comes to mind is allergies. Surprisingly, though many people are allergic to airborne pollen, taking a small dose of bee local pollen daily has resulted in less intense local allergies. Like getting a flu shot in December or exposing a baby to peanuts, microdoses of bee pollen can help the body build up a tolerance to the thing it is rejecting. Miraculous as that may sound (I sure would love to sprinkle this candy-like substance over my toast instead of popping Benadryl) it’s important to note that this use of bee pollen is not yet recognized as scientifically proven.

While it is a fact that bee pollen works as a protein supplement, and can act as a potential alleviator for those with mild seasonal allergies, if you’re severely allergic to pollen or bee stings, it’s recommended that you don’t take the supplement for fear of a reaction. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s also recommended that you don’t take bee pollen. As with all supplements, it’s best to discuss it with a health professional before incorporating one into your routine.