Honey is a delicious natural sweetener that can do your body a world of good. From indigestion and heartburn to sore throats and wounds, it can treat a vast range of conditions. But with healthcare authorities like the American Academy of Pediatrics warning against feeding honey to children under a year old, what should you do if you have a baby on board?1
According to experts and doctors, it is perfectly safe for pregnant women to eat honey. Of course, this should be done in moderation and as part of a balanced healthy diet. If you have other health problems that call for limited sugar intake, honey may not be the best choice.2 Here’s a look at the health benefits of consuming this amber sweetener during pregnancy.
How Honey Can Help You
1. Soothes Coughs Naturally
Have a cough and cold? During pregnancy, you may want to avoid strong medicines or antibiotics as much as possible. Honey, with its anti-inflammatory action,3 can be a great natural remedy. It works even better with other natural ingredients like ginger or lemon. Drinking a glass of lemon water or ginger tea with honey can soothe a sore throat and clear mucus. If you have a dry cough, a cup of hot milk with a spoonful of honey can reduce chest pain and ease dryness.4
2. Eases Heartburn
An American Pregnancy Association feature suggests honey as a natural remedy for heartburn. Indigestion and heartburn (caused by the growing uterus pressing onto the intestines and stomach) can make the third trimester uncomfortable. One remedy to ease this discomfort is to drink a glass of warm milk with a tablespoon of honey mixed into it.5
3. Treats Burns And Wounds Naturally
Honey is a natural analgesic. If applied topically to a burn, it can ease pain. Beyond the initial soothing effect on a wound or burn, it can also encourage quicker healing.6
4. Acts Against Ulcers And Gastrointestinal Problems
Honey prevents the growth and incidence of the Helicobacter pylori bacteria in the stomach. This bacteria is responsible for causing ulcers, but the consumption of honey can reduce its prevalence. Honey can also be consumed with water as part of a rehydration fluid to stimulate the growth of new tissues. It can even help with the repair of any damaged mucosa in the intestine. To top it off, it is also anti-inflammatory and can relieve gastroenteritis and diarrhea. All benefits that come in handy if stomach upsets have become routine for you during pregnancy.7
5. Provides Antioxidants
Honey is rich in dietary antioxidants as well as flavonoids. Research has found that trading a traditional sweetener for honey could help boost antioxidant levels, protecting you from oxidative stress.8 The natural antioxidant boost can improve your well-being and also help in the development of the baby.
Common Concerns About Having Honey While Pregnant
Honey is an excellent natural sweetener with a host of health benefits. But if you’re concerned about some potential side effects, this should clear things up.
Fear of contracting botulism from honey is a concern for many expectant mothers. It is the same reason that the American Academy of Pediatrics advises against feeding honey to infants or children under the age of one.9 However, as studies have found, the clostridia spores that may contaminate honey and bring on botulism in an infant should not affect the fetus. In fact, it is unlikely to manifest, as botulism in an adult gut is rare due to the presence of abundant “good bacteria.” The risk of infection is thus already low. Additionally, experts have ruled it unlikely for the toxin to cross the placenta due to its high molecular weight and large size.10
If you have gestational diabetes, eating honey may not be a good idea. It is crucial that you maintain normal blood sugar levels through dietary changes that include a reduced intake of carbohydrates and sugar. Unfortunately, this means that you should pass up on the sugar and honey, according to experts. This holds true whether they are used as sweeteners, toppings, or cooking ingredients.11 It goes without saying that for those with type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance, cutting down on sugar and honey intake is a good idea at all times.
Raw Honey Vs. Pasteurized Honey
Raw honey is honey that has not been filtered or heated. And while some manufacturers will claim that it is more nutritious, this isn’t necessarily true, according to the National Honey Board. The level of pollen is typically thought to be the reason for raw honey’s extra nutrition. But since honey itself contains very little pollen, leaving it in won’t really impact its nutritional status.12 The board also says that honey consumption by adults, even pregnant women, is perfectly safe. If you are still concerned, choose a pasteurized honey that’s been heated to a temperature that kills most bacteria.
The Safe Way To Eat Honey When Pregnant
If you decide to have honey while pregnant, buy a good brand to be safe. Pay attention to how much you’re having. Remember, just one tablespoon of honey contains about 8.6 gm of fructose.13 World Health Organization guidelines recommend limiting intake of free sugars to under 25 gm daily. This equals out to under 10 percent of total energy intake for the day. And since this includes sugar from all dietary sources, you may not want to use it all up on honey.14
|↑1, ↑9||Botulism. American Academy of Pediatrics.|
|↑2||Safe Foods. NHS.|
|↑3||Eteraf-Oskouei, Tahereh, and Moslem Najafi. “Traditional and modern uses of natural honey in human diseases: a review.” Iranian journal of basic medical sciences 16, no. 6 (2013): 731-742.|
|↑4||Sultana, Shahnaz, Andleeb Khan, and Mohammed M. Safhi And Hassan A. Alhazmi. “Cough Suppressant Herbal Drugs: A Review.”|
|↑5||Pregnancy and Heartburn. American Pregnancy Association.|
|↑6||Khan, F. R., Z. Ul Abadin, and N. Rauf. “Honey: nutritional and medicinal value.” International Journal of Clinical Practice 61, no. 10 (2007): 1705-1707.|
|↑7||Bansal, V., B. Medhi, and P. Pandhi. “Honey–a remedy rediscovered and its therapeutic utility.” (2005).|
|↑8||Schramm, Derek D., Malina Karim, Heather R. Schrader, Roberta R. Holt, Marcia Cardetti, and Carl L. Keen. “Honey with high levels of antioxidants can provide protection to healthy human subjects.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 51, no. 6 (2003): 1732-1735.|
|↑10||Einarson, Adrienne, Carolyn Tam, Aida Erebara, and Gideon Koren. “Food-borne illnesses during pregnancy.” Canadian Family Physician 56, no. 9 (2010): 869-870.|
|↑11||Dietary Recommendations for Gestational Diabetes. University of California San Francisco.|
|↑12||FAQ. National Honey Board.|
|↑13||Honey, National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. USDA.|
|↑14||WHO calls on countries to reduce sugars intake among adults and children.WHO.|