Honey during Pregnancy – Benefits and Side Effects

Not only is honey delicious and a great substitute for refined sugar, it also contains a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and amino acids. Honey has been used in food and medicine for thousands of years and has made its way into every culture as a natural sweetener. A common constituent of Indian cuisine, honey is considered especially beneficial for mothers-to-be.

Honey and Pregnancy

Pregnant women are extra cautious about what they eat, and must be especially wary of consuming spoilt or unhealthy food. Unlike most other sweet foods that have a low shelf life, honey, when stored in a sealed container can last for several years as most microbial organisms cannot grow and cultivate in it. Its anti-microbial properties come from hydrogen peroxide among other components, and ensure protection against infections by boosting immunity. Thus, consuming honey during pregnancy is highly recommended.

Is Honey Good in Pregnancy?

Can pregnant women eat honey? Is a common question that perhaps most moms-to-be have. The answer is yes, unless your doctor tells you not to.

The biggest cause for concern about consuming honey during pregnancy is botulism‘- a rare but serious illness that is caused by contaminated honey containing Clostridia spores which is a type of harmful bacteria., But the chances being affected by them are less asyour natural immune system can fight the infection. . IDuring pregnancy, there is no risk of these spores or its toxin affecting the foetus as the bacteria is stopped by the placenta. It doesn’t allow these harmful antigens to crossover and reach the baby, thus shielding him/her from any potential infection.

Honey is generally recommended as a great substitute for sugar, and one needn’t worry about it affecting one’s health when consumed judiciously.

Benefits of Honey During Pregnancy

Honey has numerous health benefits owing to its various medicinal properties. It’s importance and benefits has been written about in ancient Indian scriptures and the advantage of honey during pregnancy are many. Here is a detailed account of the same.

  • Improves immune system

Its nutritional value, the presence of antioxidants, and antibacterial properties boost the immune system to fight infections and keep you healthy. Pregnant women need to have a strong immune system to stave off any disease-causing agents during this delicate phase as any major complications may have an adverse impact on your baby.

  • Eases sore throat and cough

Honey, if taken with ginger or lemon tea has a soothing effect on the throat due to its anti-inflammatory properties. This is traditionally known to ease coughs and help you recover from a sore throat sooner.

  • Fights cold

Thanks to honey’s anti-viral and immunity boosting properties, cold and flu are very short lived. Pregnant women can take honey in various forms (like tea or combined with lukewarm water) to ensure they do not catch the flu.

  • Cures ulcers

Regular consumption of honey has shown faster healing in stomach ulcers of patients with gastritis – a common occurrence during pregnancy. It is particularly effective against duodenal ulcers (a type of peptic ulcer) caused by H.pylori infection. Ulcers can be very dangerous as they affect the stomach lining which is located very close to the womb where your baby is present.

  • Relieves insomnia

Honey can be a safe way to improve the quality of sleep when consumed with milk just before bed time as it is known to have stress relieving properties. It is especially useful for women experiencing stress and insomnia during pregnancy.

  • Prevents allergies

The presence of pollen in some of the local varieties of honey improves one’s resistance to seasonal allergies over time. Regular intake of honey helps the body build immunity against antigens that can act up during pregnancy.However, if you are allergic to polen, you should consult your doctor before consuming honey.

  • Promotes healthy scalp

Due to its anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, topical application of honey has benefits in treating cuts, wounds and scalp conditions. Application of honey, diluted with warm water eases dandruff and an itchy scalp.

  • Medicinal properties

Certain variety of honey such as the manuka honey produced in New Zealand by bees that feed on the native mankuna bush have high healing properties. It can be used to treat wounds, fungal infections and other ailments naturally.

How Much Honey Should Pregnant Women Consume?

As is the case with any food, moderation is the key. If you’re looking for a safe way to eat honey while pregnant, try to keep a count of how many tablespoons of it you are consuming every day. Three to five tablespoons is enough for the day so the calorie count remains around 180 to 200 calories.

Since honey is high in sugars such as fructose, glucose and maltose, one tablespoon contains approximately 60 calories. Calorie intake from simple sugars during pregnancy shouldn’t exceed 10% of the total calorie requirement per day which would be about 1800 to 2400 calories. So, five table spoons should do just fine.

Side Effects Of Honey In Pregnancy

Though mostly safe for consumption, there are exceptional cases where honey can have side-effects. Those with concerns about having honey while pregnant should get themselves checked for gestational diabetes. Some women develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy and have to keep a constant watch on their blood sugar levels. Since honey has glucose in it, it comes under the list of carbohydrates and sugars that should be avoided in such cases. The same rule applies without saying for women with type-2 diabetes or insulin resistance.

Although honey allergies during pregnancy are rare, excessive consumption can lead to stomach cramps, irritation of the gastrointestinal tract, diarrhoea, bloating and stomach upsets in some women. Make sure the honey you consume is pure and from a trusted brand.

How to Choose Original or Pure Honey

Pregnant women may face a dilemma when choosing between processed or raw honey and end up asking the question; is raw honey safe during pregnancy?

While raw honey is unpasteurised, it retains all the essential enzymes, antioxidants, minerals and useful compounds with which much of the goodness of honey is associated. However, unpasteurised honey carries some risk due to the presence of pollen, impurities and potentially harmful microbes, so you must purchase it from a good source.

The best way to have pure honey is to buy it straight from a bee farm. If possible, try to source manuka honey as it is tasty and has medicinal properties that can do wonders for you.

Adulterated honey can have additives such as corn syrup, starch, flour, sugar syrup and other substances which make it look identical to pure ones but can be discerned with tests. If you are unsure about the quality of honey, here are a few tests that can be done at home:

Pure Honey Adulterated Honey
Stickiness: Tends not to be sticky when rubbed between fingers. Fairly sticky due to the presence of added sweeteners and additives
Thickness: It is viscous and takes time to move around the jar and when poured. It is light and moves freely around the jar and when poured.
Takes time to dissolve in water and settles at the bottom as a lump while being stirred for a while Dissolves readily in water
Presence of impurities such as pollen and other suspended particles Absence of impurities and looks clear.
Does not get absorbed easily when a few drops are poured on a blotting paper. Gets absorbed on a blotting paper.

Honey from good brands is almost always pasteurised and is safe for everybody. Organic honey undergoes minimal processing and retains most of its nutrients.

Precautions Should You Take When Eating Honey

  • Avoid adding it into hot water as it might destroy some of the useful enzymes and nutrients.
  • Foods rich in vitamin C and D lose their nutrient value when taken with honey as some of the minerals present in the honey tend to nullify the benefits of these vitamins
  • Honey mixed with bean curd can cause indigestion and stomach upset and hence should not be taken together.

Indulge in your love of sweets without compromising on health, with a dollop of honey in your pregnancy diet, and enjoy the many benefits it offers.