Honey is popular because it is known to be a great source of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. But why can’t babies have honey? What makes them an exemption?
I love honey! Apart from the fact that it’s nutritious, I love the sweetness, and how it makes a simple dish taste even better.
I use honey not just to add sweetness to salads, and other food recipes. I, in particular, use it too to help keep my body healthy and energized. In fact, I take a tablespoon of honey a day, which I believe is enough to keep me going for my everyday activities. But that’s just me.
Anyway, when I became a mom, I knew for sure that I was going to pass on my love for honey. In fact, I was so excited for my baby to eat solids. I was ecstatic of making natural, organic baby food for my little one. But the thing is, I have heard the rumors! I found out that honey is not good for babies – at least in their first year of life.
To be honest, at first, I found that weird because honey is amazing. It gives so many health benefits. Needless to say, it’s natural and organic, but why can’t babies have honey?
Out of curiosity, and also to be sure, I did my own research, and also asked my baby’s healthcare provider about honey and why can’t babies have honey. After finding out why, which I am going to share with you in a while, I was convinced not to give honey (no matter how I find it very healthy and nutritious) to my kid until he is one year old and above.
Before we tackle why can’t babies have honey, let us first look into what honey is all about, its nutritional profile, and the health benefits kids and adults will get from taking honey.
What is honey?
According to the website called, Live Science, honey is a “thick, golden liquid produced by industrious bees.” It is made using the “nectar of flowering plants and is saved inside the beehive for eating during times of scarcity.”
Back in the sixteenth century, before sugar became available, honey was known to be the principal sweetener. Greece and Sicily were known to be the centers of honey production at that time.
The color, aroma, texture, and the taste of honey vary depending on the type of flower/s that the bee frequently eats. For instance, clover honey tastes differently compared to the kinds of honey harvested from bees that are usually on a lavender field.
Anyway, but how does the honey is made?
The nectar, which was earlier mentioned, refers to “a sugary liquid that is extracted from flowers using a bee’s long, tube-shaped tongue and stored in its extra stomach, or ‘crop’.”
Now, while splashing around the crop, the nectar mixes with enzymes, which coverts its pH and chemical composition to make it more appropriate for long-term storage. Once the honeybee is back to the hive, the bee passes the nectar to another bee through regurgitation. The liquid is then being passed on through the mouth from one bee to another. This process of regurgitation is “repeated until the partially digested nectar is finally deposited into a honeycomb.”
To be honest, the production process of making honey is quite amazing. Needless to say, it’s very tricky. But of course, among bees, it sure is an easy thing, right?
Now, going back, once the nectar is already in the comb, its consistency is still a viscous liquid, which is far from the thick honey we use. To achieve that thick consistency happens is, the bees take away all extra liquid out of their honey by fanning the honeycomb using their wings. This helps speeds up the evaporation process.
Once the majority of the water has been evaporated from the comb, the bees will then seal it using a secretion liquid, which comes from their abdomen. This liquid helps harden honey, which eventually becomes beeswax.
After all those processes, the life span of honey becomes indefinite as long as it is far from air and water. Thus, making it a perfect food source of bees during the cold winter season.
If you come to think of it, bees are geniuses! I mean, regardless of how tricky the process is, at the end of the day, they are able to produce food to last them during the winter months.
But not just that! They too become beneficial to us, humans, because the honey that they produce can also be consumed and used by people.
What is the nutritional profile of honey?
As I have mentioned earlier, honey is popular because of its amazing national profile. Here are some of the nutritional facts about honey that you should know:
– Honey is a natural sugar.
Honey is considered as natural sugar. In fact, it is 80% natural sugar. It is composed mostly of glucose and fructose. Because of its high fructose content, experts say that honey is actually sweeter compared to the usual table sugar that is available in the market.
– Honey contains water.
The overall composition of honey contains 18% water. However, according to beekeepers, when choosing the “better” honey, you have to opt for the ones with lesser water content. They believe that the less water in the honey, the better its nutrition value is.
– Honey contains vitamins and minerals.
At least 2% of honey is composed of vitamins, minerals, protein, and pollen.
The natural vitamins and minerals that honey has are essential in metabolizing unwanted cholesterol as well as fatty acid in different organs and tissues in the body, thus preventing obesity. It also helps promote better health for people.
To be more specific, here are the vitamins and minerals present in honey:
- Vitamin B6
- Pantothenic acid
- Certain amino acids
– Honey contains simple carbohydrates.
Experts found that honey is a great source of simple carbohydrates. The nectar in itself is mainly composed of water and sucrose. In addition, the bees put in enzymes that help create additional chemical compounds, as well as a special nutritional value, and then eventually transforming the sucrose into glucose and fructose. After this, water is evaporated resulting in longer shelf life.
– Honey contains antioxidants.
Honey is rich in phenolic acids as well as flavonoids, both are known as the source of natural antioxidants. Needless to say, it is free of cholesterol and fat.
– Honey contains calories.
A tablespoon of natural honey contains 64 calories.
– Honey has a great glycemic index.
A health glycemic index means the sugar it contains can be slowly absorbed into the bloodstream, which results in better digestion.
How beneficial is honey?
Honey contains vitamins and minerals, and other essential nutrients. Thus, it is not surprising that people get to benefit from taking honey. Some of the benefits we can get from consuming honey are:
– Honey can help reduce high blood pressure.
Honey is rich in antioxidants, and antioxidants were found to be beneficial in lowering blood pressure. As you know, having high blood or hypertension can lead to more serious health conditions particularly the risk of developing heart disease. That is why it is important to keep our blood pressure at a normal level, and good thing, honey was found to be helpful in addressing that.
– Honey helps improve cholesterol levels.
Having high “bad” cholesterol levels is definitely not good for our health. In fact, it may put us at risk of developing heart disease.
Furthermore, “bad” cholesterol or LDL plays a primary role in atherosclerosis, which refers to the fatty buildup in your arteries, which may lead to stroke or heart attack.
Amazingly, experts found honey to be beneficial in improving your cholesterol levels. It mainly reduces total and “bad” cholesterol levels, at the same time significantly raising “good” cholesterol or also known as HDL.
– Honey helps reduce triglycerides.
High blood triglycerides are another risk in developing heart disease. In addition, it is also associated with resistance to insulin (for diabetic patients), which is a major driver of Type 2 diabetes. High blood triglycerides usually happen when a person gets into a high sugar diet or refined carbs.
Multiple studies conducted have shown the link of regular honey consumption with lowering the triglycerides levels. It becomes even more beneficial when used as a replacement for typical sugar.
– Honey helps in healing burn and wound.
Since ancient Egypt, topical honey treatment has been used particularly to help heal wounds and burns faster. Over time it has become prominent until even today.
Based on a review of 26 studies about honey and wound care, it has been found that honey is most effective when used on partial-thickness burns as well as wounds that were infected after going through surgery.
Honey has also been found to be effective in treating diabetic foot ulcers, which is considered a serious complication that can even lead to amputation of the affected area.
Researchers believe that the healing power of honey comes from its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects. It may also be because of its ability to nourish the surrounding tissue.
– Honey helps suppress coughs among children.
Cough is a common health problem among children especially those with respiratory infections. While a cough is not a serious thing, it can affect sleep and the quality of life not just for the children but also among parents.
While there are mainstream medications available, they are not always effective, and in fact, can even have side effects on children. Honey, meanwhile, is a better option, and many pieces of evidence are available to prove such a claim.
By now, you are probably in awe already of what honey contains, and how nutritious it is, and how beneficial it is to your boy, but most likely, you are even more wondering now why can’t babies have honey. Well, I won’t make you wait any further. Let’s proceed to the real deal.
Why can’t babies have honey?
According to experts, the reason why babies cannot consume honey at least on their first year of life (some would stretch it out until their little ones are two years old) because of the risk of developing botulism, which is an illness that is caused by bacteria that may put your baby’s digestive tract in danger.
Unfortunately, raw honey is found to have clostridium botulinum, which is a bacteria that is normally found in soil.
What is infant botulism?
To further enlighten you why can’t babies have honey, let’s look into what this illness is all about.
As mentioned, botulism refers to an illness acquired because of certain bacteria, which poses danger to the digestive system to infants in particular. Infant botulism is said to be most critical for little ones who are aged between three weeks and six months old.
But what about honey? What is the connection? How honey can lead to botulism? Well, experts say that when the spores of clostridium botulinum (a bacteria that is present in the soil, as well as dirt and dust), make their way into honey, they then contaminate it.
Should an infant ingest the contaminated honey, the spores can multiply in the intestine where there is low oxygen supply. Since babies’ digestive system is not well-equipped yet (in fact, at such a young age, the digestive tract is still developing), such activity can cause serious illness to their stomach.
But do not worry, because experts say that the risk of infant botulism is low, and if a baby is diagnosed early, it can be treated. But you know, as the saying goes, “prevention is better than cure.” Better not take the risk.
What are the symptoms and treatments for botulism?
Now that you already know why can’t babies have honey at least in the first year of their life, let’s move on to how you will identify if your baby has botulism. Here are some of the common symptoms to watch out for:
- A weakness of facial muscles
- Problems in swallowing
Meanwhile, the treatment of infant botulism involves intubation. This is done to help prevent any respiratory failure, as well as anti-toxin. Usually, care is given in the intensive care unit.
What to do if your baby accidentally ingests honey?
If your baby accidentally ingests honey, don’t panic. According to experts, botulism is rare. What you can do is wait for your baby to show signs or symptoms of botulism. If your little one does show any of the signs mentioned earlier, immediately bring your baby to the nearest emergency room. The healthcare provider will then conduct an assessment of your baby. Botulism, by the way, is typically diagnosed by conducting a stool test.
What are possible alternatives for honey that you can offer to your baby?
Experts answer this is to give your little one naturally sweet food like fruits and vegetables. Generally, babies are not advised to eat any other sweets at such a young age.
Personally, I prefer fruits and vegetables. Although my baby’s doctor also advised us not to give unhealthy options to our kid as much as possible. Unhealthy means processed ore preserved baby food, which usually contains sugar. Instead, I cook my baby’s food every day, making sure he only eats health and what’s appropriate for his age.
When can your baby have honey?
Experts say that as soon as your baby turns a year old, he or she can now take honey. However, some parents prefer to delay it because of fear. Some would rather offer honey to their little ones when they are older like two and above.
What are the precautions or side effects of taking honey?
Honey is generally safe among adults and older children when taken by mouth or applied on the skin. However, you have to be very careful in choosing the type of honey you are getting because the ones made from the nectar of Rhododendrons can be very harmful to your health. Experts say that such type of honey contains a toxin that may lead to cause heart problems, chest pain, as well as low blood pressure.
Meanwhile, precautions must be made among the following:
– Pregnant and Breastfeeding. Honey is safe when taken in food or reasonable amounts. However, not enough proof is available about the safety of taking honey for medicinal purposes when pregnant or lactating. To be safe, better avoid honey.
– Children. As discussed, while honey is generally safe among children aged one year and above, it is harmful to babies below one-year-old.
– Diabetic Patients. Consuming large amounts of honey may increase blood glucose levels, thus proper precaution must be made if you are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. In addition, applying honey at dialysis exit sites is not advisable as it may increase the risk of developing an infection.
– People Allergic to Pollens. Obviously, honey is made from pollen. So if you are allergic to such, better stay away from honey.
Honey is no doubt nutritious and beneficial to our health and overall well-being. However, just like any natural food or remedies, there is always an exemption to the rule.
Babied are generally delicate, and in fact, even when they are outside already, most of their internal organs are still developing – including its digestive tract, which is precisely the reason behind why can’t babies have honey. Otherwise, it may lead to further health problems. To avoid such a thing, better be on the safe side. Wait until your baby is older – just like what I did.