bee pollen

Bee Pollen Isn't a Superfood

The supplement won't boost your performance in the gym and it could trigger allergies.

Hailed as a superfood, bee pollen is the substance that collects on the animals’ bodies as they fly from flower to flower. It contains some nectar and bee saliva and can be bought in powder or granule form. It’s said to be rich in proteins, energizing B vitamins, and antioxidants that benefit your immune system and reduce inflammation (theoretically helping you recover faster from a workout). That’s why fit folks have been blending it in their smoothies, using it as a toast topper, or sprinkling it on oatmeal. But bee pollen isn’t necessarily the miracle food it’s touted to be.

According to The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, people take bee pollen in hopes of getting a boost in athletic performance, but research suggests their efforts are in vain. In terms of macronutrients, one teaspoon of the powder contains 15 calories, three grams of carbs, one gram of fiber, two grams of sugar, and one gram of protein. Thus, consuming such a small serving hardly makes a dent in your overall quota for the day. And despite being rich in amino acids, bee pollen doesn't hold a candle to more nutritious foods, such as salmon and spinach, says Christine Gerbstadt, M.D., R.D., an internist and nutritionist based in Bethesda, Maryland.


There are also safety concerns: The US National Library of Medicine rates bee pollen as “possibly safe,” because there’s a risk of serious pollen allergies. Many people take bee pollen in hopes of helping their allergies. The idea is similar to getting allergy shots, where you get a small dose of the allergen so that your body builds tolerance to it, says Gerbstadt. “But you can’t be sure what pollens are in the supplement without taking it to a lab to get it analyzed,” she says. “And some may even contain mold, another allergen.” Amy Stephens, a registered dietician in New York City underscores this point: "If you’re allergic to pollens and have seasonal allergies, there’s a risk that you’ll react to it with mild symptoms like fatigue or congestion, but there’s also the risk of anaphylactic shock if you have a severe reaction.”

Ultimately, if you don’t have allergies, have been taking bee pollen, and finds that it works for you, then go for it, says Stephens, “but you don’t need bee pollen.” From a dietary standpoint, eating a variety of fruits and veggies is the best way to strengthen your immune system, fuel your workouts, and reduce inflammation more so than a single supplement, adds Gerbstadt.