Though this natural sweetener has many nutritional qualities, ensure it is pasteurized.
Having honey while pregnant is supposed to be beneficial for your health. Honey is known to contain small amounts of essential prenatal vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can be beneficial for both maternal health and fetal development. Be it a cough, cold, or sore throat, honey is a go-to. But is too much honey bad? Read on to know the benefits of honey during pregnancy and the possible side effects.
Expecting mothers often ask the question ‘can you eat honey while pregnant?’ The good news is that honey is safe during pregnancy, provided it is pasteurized. Also, it should come from a government-certified authority.
One cause of concern about raw honey is that it can cause botulismi . However, it only affects infant development if the baby is less than a year old as their digestive system is immature. The gastrointestinal system in adults contains bacteria that prevent botulinum toxin, and it is rare for a pregnant woman to get colonization botulism . However, precaution is better than cure, and therefore, it is wise to use only pasteurized honey during pregnancy.
Benefits Of Honey During Pregnancy
Honey comprises water (17%) and two simple sugars, fructose (38%) and glucose (31%). In addition, it offers nutrition as it is enriched with bioactive compounds along with antioxidant properties. However, the concentration of these compounds is very low, and they may not have any significant effect on maternal or infant health. It is also believed that the oral intake of honey is beneficial for labor and delivery as it eases labor pain.
Dr. Daniel Boyer, MD, a practicing doctor at Farr Institute, Iowa, says, “In addition to being high in antioxidants, honey can help soothe the digestive system and make it more acidic. The presence of polyphenolsi and other beneficial compounds in honey may help reduce the risk of complications, including yeast infections and UTIs, during pregnancy.”
Still, honey has a special place in traditional medicine, as it is considered to have therapeutic properties and offers natural remedies that could be considered beneficial during pregnancy.
Immune system: Ancient literature shows that honey has potential antibacterial and antioxidant properties that aid in immunity. It is also considered to have effective wound healing properties. Its topical application can help treat cuts, wounds, and minor burns, while its oral consumption is believed to provide relief from heartburn.
Insomnia: The use of honey for insomniai is an age-old practice in Ayurveda. According to ayurvedic literature, honey is considered to have a hypnotic action that could help overcome insomnia. Drinking a glass of milk mixed with a spoon of honey before bedtime is believed to promote undisturbed sleep
Cold and cough: The use of honey with ginger or lemon is a common home remedy to treat acute cough. With its antiviral properties, honey is believed to inhibit the viral activity in the body, preventing common cold and thus, providing relief from cough as well
Sore throat: Ancient Greeks used honey as one of the most popular traditional remedies to treat a sore throat, which can be due to a bacterial or viral infection. In both cases, honey is considered to provide some symptomatic relief, as it is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties. You can try adding honey to ginger or lemon tea and drink it warm to relieve a sore throat.
Ulcers: A research has shown that regular consumption of honey could possibly decrease the growth of Helicobacter pylori bacteria, responsible for causing duodenal ulcersi . However, some studies recommend more randomized clinical trials to prove the efficacy of honey in treating different types of ulcers.
Scalp health: A research study showed that the anti-fungal, antibacterial properties and antioxidative nature of honey could support in getting rid of dandruff and itchy scalp. Dilute some honey in warm water and apply it to the scalp to treat such hair conditions.
Allergies: It is believed that regular oral consumption of honey could make the body immune to pollen and seasonal allergies. However, research studies on the subject are inconclusive.
Side Effects Of Honey During Pregnancy
It is good to maintain dietary restrictions, as an excess of anything may have side-effects. Dr. Boyer opines, “It is important to remember that while honey has many benefits, it can also contain high amounts of sugar. Therefore, pregnant women should be mindful of how much honey they are consuming.”
Excessive consumption of honey can lead to certain side effects, as mentioned below.
Could aggravate insulin sensitivity: One tablespoon of honey has almost 64 Kcal that primarily comes from simple sugars like fructose and glucose present in it. Excessive consumption of honey could raise blood sugar levels and worsen insulin resistance. This could lead to insulin sensitivity during pregnancy, thereby posing a risk of the development of gestational diabetes and blood lipid imbalances. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), gestational diabetes affects around two to ten percent of expecting mothers in the US each year.
Cramps: Honey contains high amounts of fructose that could cause gastrointestinal issues such as cramping, bloating, and diarrhea. This is why honey is considered a source of FODMAP (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols). FODMAPs are a group of poorly digested sugars that can cause diarrhea and stomach cramps when consumed in excess
Dental health: The high levels of sugar in honey could cause dental cavities and tooth erosion.
Weight gain: One tablespoon of honey has more calories than one tablespoon of refined sugar. Hence, overconsumption of honey, in terms of total calorie intake, could be a potential cause of weight gain (with other relevant factors, such as activity levels, added).
How Much Honey Is Safe During Pregnancy?
There is no documented safe limit for the consumption of honey, especially for pregnant ladies. Therefore, it is wise to consult a nutritionist to determine the food safety of honey.
When you try to gauge the safe limit, remember that calories from sugar intake should not exceed more than 10% of the total calorie requirement during pregnancy (which is around 1800 to 2400 calories per day).
Precautions To Take While Eating Honey
There are some ways in which honey should not be taken:
Do not add honey in hot water or beverages as it might eliminate its healthy enzymes. You may add it to lukewarm water.
Avoid mixing honey to bean curd as it can reverse the benefits and lead to indigestion.
Tips For Choosing Honey
If the quality of honey is good, consumption should not be an issue, even for pregnant women.
Double-check if the honey is pasteurized. Almost all brands sell pasteurized honey. However, the honey purchased from roadside sellers, bee farms, or local markets will mostly be raw and hence must be avoided.
Choose trusted, organic honey as it undergoes minimal processing.