Honey is a sweet viscous fluid produced by bees from plant nectars. The nectar from a flower is collected by the bees and processed in the upper aero-digestive tract of the insects. Its pH is almost 3.9, and its water activity is between 0.56 and 0.62.
Because it is gotten from the hive and bottled, it may also contain trace amounts of yeast, wax, and pollen. Due to its high fructose content, it is often used as a healthier substitute for processed sugar or a sweetener in food.
Though not scientifically proven, Nigerian honey has been widely known to be an ancient remedy for several things like cough, catarrh, inflammation, and mouth ulcers.
Nutritional components of pure Nigerian honey
- Minerals and vitamins: Honey is rich in certain vitamins and minerals that help break down cholesterol in the body. The vitamins in honey are B6, riboflavin, thiamin, and niacin, while the minerals include calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zinc.
- Carbohydrates: Honey contains carbohydrates in the form of glucose and fructose, which is an excellent substitute for refined sugar.
- Natural sugar: Honey contains 80% of natural sugar, which is healthier because of its unprocessed state.
Health benefits of pure Nigerian honey
- It is used as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antibacterial agent.
- It may help to relieve teething pain in babies older than one year.
- It may reduce cough and throat irritation.
- The fructose content helps regulate insulin response, which may help manage diabetes.
- It may prevent the risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases
- It may reduce the risk of gastrointestinal diseases.
- Acts as a drying effect on wounds and burns
- The probiotic contents aid in gastrointestinal issues and influence the body’s immune response.
Should you give your baby pure Nigerian honey?
Due to the production and extraction process, honey is prone to contamination. Some kinds of honey are produced from rhododendrons' nectar, making it likely unsafe. While honey has side effects, mainly because of some of its components and source, it is not entirely unsafe for babies.
Children under 12 months should be kept off honey. This is because they run a risk of infant botulism at that age. Symptoms can appear within a few days after ingestion of honey.
What is infant botulism?
Infant botulism occurs when a baby ingests toxins from a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum, an organism found in soil and certain foods like honey. It may affect babies due to their immature digestive system. It is a rare but life-threatening infection because it primarily affects a baby’s gastrointestinal tract. Infant botulism occurs between 6 weeks and 6 months old babies.
- Poor appetite
- Difficulty in breathing and swallowing
- Weak cry
- Weak facial muscles
- Poor vision
Infant botulism is treatable if detected earlier with an antitoxin called Botulism Immune Globulin Intravenous (BIGIV). Taking your baby to a pediatrician is advisable if symptoms threaten your baby’s health.
The pediatrician will run a series of diagnoses to confirm if it’s infant botulism and commence treatment from there. With prompt treatment, a baby can fully recover without long-term effects.
Natural sugar alternatives
Honey is a great substitute but not until after 12 months. If there’s a need to replace sugar in your baby’s meal, you may consider the following;
- Coconut and dates purée
- Mashed fruits,e.g., Banana, mango, passion fruit, etc.
Myth or fact: Does honey increase a baby's brain performance?
Studies have proven that honey improves the oxidative status of the brain because of its antidepressant effects. It also contains polyphenols which enhance memory and improves cognitive functions.
However, babies below 12 months should completely stay off the intake of honey. Other meals contain the nutrient responsible for brain formation; breast milk has just the right amount of nutrients needed for your baby’s development.
Your baby’s everyday meal does not necessarily need sugar or other sweeteners. Although sugar is not bad for children, practise moderation. In case of any imbalance in the health of your child, visit a paediatrician and do not subscribe to traditional treatment methods.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
1. Can I give my baby natural honey?
Giving your baby natural honey is risky and unsafe if they are within the range of 6 weeks to 12 months.
Can honey increase my baby's brain performance?
Studies have shown that pure honey improves the cognitive ability of the brain.
What is infant botulism?
Infant botulism is a rare bacterial infection in babies.
Can I give my baby adulterated honey?
Adulterated honey is harmful to your baby’s health.