Health benefits of honey for toddlers and children include sustained energy for longer period of time, supplies vitamins and minerals, helps in healing wounds faster, offers liver protection and controls cough in children.
Honey is one of nature’s magnificent gifts to mankind. Honey, as we know is one of the sweetest foods that nature can offer us. It is actually produced from nectar obtained from various flowers. Honey bees that collect honey play a vital role in honey production. As honey bees collect nectar from various flowers, they swallow it and regurgitate in the hives and transform nectar into honey. The enzymes in honey bees system help in transforming nectar into honey.
For many millennia, honey has been consumed by humans and many old cultures and civilizations such as Egypt, Greece, Rome, Middle East, Africa, India, China, Aztec and Mayan from Central America knew about honey and consumed it on various occasions.
Many of these ancient cultures believed honey to possess medicinal properties, especially Egypt, India, Greece and Rome. There are several instances where famous philosophers wrote in their treaties that honey possessed several medicinal properties and has ever since be used in their respective traditional medicines.
Can honey be given to babies?
No. According to medical experts and pediatricians, honey should not be given to children below the age of at least 1 year. The major reason behind it is that honey may contain dormant endospores of a bacterial species known as Clostridium botulism. These endospores have a high risk of causing infant botulism by transforming these endospores into toxic bacteria in the infant’s lower digestive system. This is a serious illness and can sometimes result in death. The best way is to avoid it until your baby is at least 1 year old. To be on safer side, make sure that you don’t give your baby honey to your baby until he or she is 18 months of age. When it is given to toddlers who’ve reached 1 year or 1½ years of age can be honey without any issues. (Shapiro, et al, 1998).
Health benefits of honey for children
Here are some of the health benefits of honey for children
Honey is more than just sugar: There is a misconception that honey is just sugar syrup, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. Honey has different types of sugars that include sucrose, the regular sugar that we use; glucose, one of the simplest forms of sugars; fructose, which is fruit sugar that is generally found in sweet fruits. Each of these sugars are different from the regular table sugar that we are used to. The difference in chemical structure means that each of these sugars digest differently. These sugars make honey a great food in terms of supplying energy for quite a long time. Generally, when we eat sugar, the blood sugar levels suddenly shoot because, sucrose and glucose are easily digested and enter into the blood stream easily. When fructose is present, it takes longer time to digest. Thus, while sucrose and glucose in honey are digested within no time, fructose remains longer in the digestive system and enters the blood stream later on and provides energy for longer durations.
Supplies vitamins and minerals: Though the list of nutrition on honey may not sound much, but the listed vitamins and minerals are good enough at least for children. Honey also contains several amino acids that are very good for physical development.
Offers liver protection: Honey has a protective effect on liver, especially with paracetamol induced liver damage. Paracetamol overdose is known to cause liver failure and some experiments showed that honey has a protective effect on the liver. Thus, to decrease the side effects of paracetamol doses in children, you can give them honey. (Galal, et al, 2012).
Helps in healing wounds faster: Wound healing activity of honey has been noted very recently. When honey was applied onto wounds, healing of those wounds have been noted in comparison with wounds that haven’t been applied with honey. The experiment has given a whole new usage for honey. (Vijaya, et al, 2012).
Controlling cough: Traditionally, honey has been given to children who suffered cough. Cough during night time can affect the sleep of the child. When honey is given to a coughing child, it acts as a soothing agent on inflamed mucus membrane and irritation that cause cough. Apart from irritating cough, honey is also useful in reducing difficulties associated with swallowing. (Ashkin, et al, 2013).
Measures to be taken while giving honey to your children
Here are some of important measures that can be taken while giving honey to your children.
Infant botulism: Infant botulism is a serious form of food poisoning that can take place in infants, below the age of 1 year, who’ve been given honey. As discussed earlier, honey can contain spores of bacteria that can cause infant botulism. Thus, avoid feeding honey to your infant child. Only after your baby is 1 year or older, that you can give honey.
Pollen allergy: Apart from infant botulism, there is also a risk of pollen allergy in honey. Although the risk of getting pollen through honey is very small, yet it is a known risk. Many people have an allergy for pollen and honey can have traces of pollen. So, it is better to avoid giving honey to infants below the age of 1 year, as babies get affected by allergens more than anyone else.
Opt for certified organic honey: Certified organic honey is very good option than local honey and commercial honey. The risks of buying local honey are greater due to non-certification. The risk of botulism and pollen are reduced in commercial honey but, commercial honey can contain pesticide or other chemical traces. That’s why, it is better to opt for certified organic honey. Also insist on labeled honey, just to know what kind of ingredients that have gone into the honey.
Nutrition in Honey
According to the National Nutrient Database from the United States Department of Agriculture, the nutrition found in honey include
|Nutrition||Value per 100 g||Nutrition||Value per 100 g|
|Water||17 g||Energy||304 kcal|
|Protein||0.3 g||Carbohydrate||82.4 g|
|Sugars||82.12 g||Fiber||0.2 g|
|Calcium||6 mg||Iron||0.42 mg|
|Magnesium||2 mg||Phosphorous||4 mg|
|Potassium||52 mg||Sodium||4 mg|
|Zinc||0.22 mg||Vitamin C||0.5 mg|
|Riboflavin||0.03 mg||Niacin||0.12 mg|
|Vitamin B-6||0.024 mg||Folate||2 ug|
Shapiro RL, Hatheway C, Swerdlow DL., 1998, Botulism in the United States: a clinical and epidemiologic review., Ann Intern Med. 1998 Aug 1;129(3):221-8.
Galal RM, Zaki HF, Seif El-Nasr MM, Agha AM, 2012, Potential protective effect of honey against paracetamol-induced hepatotoxicity, Arch Iran Med. 2012 Nov;15(11):674-80. doi:
Vijaya KK, Nishteswar K, 2012, Wound healing activity of honey: A pilot study. Ayu. 2012 Jul;33(3):374-7. doi: 10.4103/0974-8520.108827.0121511/AIM.006.
Evan Ashkin, Anne Mounsey, 2013, A spoonful of honey helps a coughing child sleep, J Fam Pract. 2013 Mar; 62(3): 145–147.