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A Sweet Treat or a Risk to Avoid: Can Pregnant Women Eat Honey?

Honey is a nature’s sweet and sticky treat, rich in antioxidants and healing properties. However, as an expectant mother, you might wonder if honey is safe for you and your baby during pregnancy.

Can You Eat Honey During Pregnancy.

Following dietary recommendations is important when you are pregnant. Certain products, such as deli meats, raw fish, and many unpasteurized foods are best left alone until after you give birth. But what about honey?

In this article, we provide evidence-based recommendations about eating honey while pregnant. You’ll discover whether it’s safe for your developing baby and find a list of healthy alternatives for when you crave sweets.

Is it safe to eat honey during pregnancy?

The main concern with eating honey during pregnancy is that in rare cases it can contain a bacteria called Clostridium botulinum, which is responsible for infant botulism.

Botulism is a dangerous infection that can lead to severe complications. In infants, it presents with constipation, lethargy, floppiness, droopy eyes, poor feeding, loss of head control, and generalized weakness.


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During the first year of life, an infant’s digestive and immune systems are still developing and may not be strong enough to deal with bacterial spores and toxins. Therefore, giving honey to infants younger than one year, even in small amounts, is not recommended.

When a healthy adult ingests botulism spores, they are typically destroyed during digestion and do not pass through the placenta to the unborn child. However, you may want to stay away from honey during pregnancy if you are at risk for gestational diabetes or have gastrointestinal problems.

Conditions such as Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, previous gastric surgery, and allergies can make digesting honey more difficult and leave you more susceptible to infection.

While there is no evidence suggesting that raw honey is unsafe for pregnant women, you can choose pasteurized honey that has been rapidly heated to 160°F (71°C) and then rapidly cooled, killing potentially harmful bacteria.

However, until recently honey has been pasteurized at lower temperatures to delay crystalization and kill yeast cells that can affect flavor, not for health reasons. And, unfortunately, many pasteurized honey brands contain added sugars, including high fructose corn syrup. Buyer beware.

Although there haven’t been many large studies comparing raw and pasteurized honey, proponents of raw honey argue that the pasteurization process reduces its antioxidant, antibacterial, and antimicrobial properties, and eliminates many of the healthy nutrients and beneficial enzymes raw honey contains. It’s up to you to weigh the risks and benefits.

Which honey is safest for pregnancy?

There is no evidence that one type of honey is safer for a pregnant woman than another. Healthy adults can eat raw or pasteurized honey without any problems. However, if you are still wondering about safety, choose properly pasteurized honey or use another sweetener.

Which honey is safest for pregnancy

Can pregnant women eat honey?

Yes, pregnant women can safely eat raw honey. But remember that it’s still an added sweetener, so don’t overdo your honey intake.

Although honey has a slightly lower glycemic index than table sugar, it still has an impact. If you suffer from diabetes or cardiovascular problems follow the same rules you would with other sweeteners in your diet.

Is eating honey good for a baby?

Until your baby turns one, it’s best not to let them eat honey in any form, even in baked goods. Although honey has many health benefits the threat of infant botulism is real.

Babies up to one year of age are at a greater risk of developing botulism due to:

  • Immature digestive system: A baby’s digestive system continues to develop throughout the first year of life. Their stomach acid and digestive enzymes aren’t as effective at killing bacteria and breaking down toxins.
  • Developing intestinal flora: Our intestinal walls are coated in valuable microorganisms that help us digest food, absorb nutrients, and kill harmful bacteria. But a young baby’s intestinal flora is not fully developed, making it an easier target for infections.
  • Weak immune system: An infant’s immune system is not as strong as that of an older child. If bacteria proliferate, a young baby may not be up to fighting them off. This can lead to prolonged infection or other complications.

Studies suggest that after your baby’s first birthday, you no longer have to avoid honey for safety reasons.

Benefits of Honey During Pregnancy

Many aficionados call raw honey ‘nature’s medicine’ with good reason. Organic honey is used to alleviate colds, soothe coughs, heal minor wounds, and kill bacteria. If your doctor or midwife agrees, feel free to enjoy the many benefits of eating raw honey during pregnancy.

Benefits of raw honey during pregnancy:

Nutrient-rich: Raw honey contains many different nutrients and antioxidants, including vitamins A, C, D, E, and B-group vitamins—all essential for your immune and nervous systems. Raw honey is also rich in minerals such as iron, calcium, and potassium, and contains beneficial enzymes.

Antioxidant properties: Raw honey has lots of antioxidants, particularly in its raw and unprocessed form. Antioxidants help protect your cells from oxidative stress and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Humans have been using honey to treat wounds, counteract infection, and strengthen the immune system for at least 8000 years.

Natural cough suppressant: You may remember your mother giving you warm tea with honey when you were sick. Honey soothes a sore throat and calms a dry cough, making it an effective natural cough suppressant. Add it to your favorite herbal tea or lick it off a spoon.

Wound healing: Raw honey has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, which means it can help prevent infection and promote the healing of minor cuts, burns, and other skin injuries when applied topically. Salves made with propolis (‘bee glue’) or honey extract are less messy.

Pain management during labor: One study found that eating honey during labor may help reduce labor pain. Check with your midwife and add it to your birth plan. In fact, honey can give you a kick of energy when you need it most.

Benefits of Honey During Pregnancy

Natural sweetener alternatives for pregnancy

For those of you who would rather not eat honey while pregnant, we have compiled a short list of alternatives.

Maple syrup: This natural treat is not just for pancakes. You can substitute maple syrup in baked goods or use it as a sweetener in your coffee and tea. However, maple syrup has a distinct flavor that can change the taste of your drink.

Stevia: Stevia is a natural sweetener derived from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant. It is considered safe during pregnancy when used in moderation. Be sure to choose high-quality stevia that doesn’t contain added chemicals or fillers.

Agave nectar: This sweetener is derived from the agave plant and has a lower glycemic index than regular sugar, meaning your blood glucose increases at a slower rate. Agave nectar is sweet and has a soft caramel flavor that can be a great addition to homemade desserts.

Date paste: Dates are a good source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Date paste is a natural sweetener that can be used in cooking and baking. You can buy date paste from your grocer or make it at home by blending rinsed, organic dates with water until the paste reaches your desired consistency.

Coconut sugar: Coconut sugar is made from the sap of coconut palm trees. It has a lower glycemic index than regular sugar and retains some valuable nutrients. It doesn’t have a strong taste, so you can use it in any recipe without changing the flavor.

Although most sweeteners are perfectly safe for healthy adults, it’s best to consume them in moderation.


The verdict: Honey is safe for most pregnant women

Honey is a healthier and more nutritious alternative to processed sugars. Even during pregnancy, you can enjoy the benefits of this antioxidant-rich sweetener.

Honey is:

  • rich in vitamins and minerals
  • anti-inflammatory
  • full of antioxidants
  • healthier than processed sugars

However, keep in mind that indulging in too much honey can cause your blood sugar to spike and increase your risk of gestational diabetes. To stay on the safe side, eat honey in moderation and don’t exceed the recommended intake of 2 to 3 tablespoons of honey per day.

When in doubt, always consult your healthcare provider.

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