Nutmeg (Jaiphal) is an aromatic spice obtained by grounding the dried seeds from the fruit of Myristicafragrans, an evergreen tree. The spice is known for its peculiar aroma and sweet taste. It also has some potential health-promoting properties.
While you may use nutmeg in your food to enjoy its delicate taste and reap some benefits, can you use nutmeg for babies, too?
This post shares about the safety of nutmeg for infants, the right age to feed nutmeg, its possible uses, and precautions to take while feeding nutmeg to babies.
Is Nutmeg (Jaiphal) Safe For Babies?
According to the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA), nutmeg is generally recognized as safeto use as a food ingredient (1). However, there are no specific recommendations about its safety for infants. Therefore, consult a pediatrician before adding nutmeg to your baby’s diet.
When Can Babies Have Nutmeg?
If your pediatrician gives you a nod, you can feed small amounts of ground nutmeg as a flavoring agent or spice to babies older than six months. You can prepare nutmeg powder or paste using dried nutmeg seeds.
How Much Nutmeg Can Babies Consume?
According to the American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC), nutmeg intoxication can occur after ingesting as little as one to four teaspoons (5 to 20g) of ground nutmeg in one serving (2) (3). Therefore, use no more than a pinch or two of nutmeg powder or paste in a single portion of baby food.
Nutritional Value Of Nutmeg (Jaiphal)
Nutmeg powder contains certain nutrients in small amounts that contribute to the meal’s overall nutritional value. A teaspoon (2.2g) of nutmeg powder offers 4.69mg of phosphorus, 4mg of calcium, 4.03mg of magnesium, and 7.7mg of potassium. It also provides trace amounts of folate and vitamin A (4).
Possible Benefits Of Nutmeg For Babies
Nutmeg contains several bioactive compounds possessing therapeutic properties. Its use is common in folk and alternative medicine to treat ailments and offer overall health benefits (5).
- Relieve indigestion: The use of nutmeg to treat digestive disorders is prevalent in traditional medicine. A freshly prepared decoction of nutmeg with honey is known to relieve gastrointestinal issues, such as indigestion (6). This decoction may be useful for babies older than 12 months who can consume honey (7).
- Improve appetite: Nutmeg has carminative effects, helping relieve flatulence, gas, and bloating (6). These effects may also help promote appetite in babies.
- Support immunity: Nutmeg has several bioactive compounds, such as eugenol, isoeugenol, and methoxyeugenol, with antioxidant properties. Besides, it has anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties that may boost an infant’s immunity in the long run (6) (8).
- Promote oral health: Nutmeg has antimicrobial properties that could promote oral health by fighting off oral problems, such as bad breath, cavities, and bleeding gums. It can also relieve toothache through its pain-relieving properties attributed to eugenol (6) (8) (9).
- Aid in skincare: Topical application of a paste of nutmeg powder with curd, raw milk, or honey to improve skin texture is an age-old skincare. Its use to treat skin infection is also prevalent in traditional medicine (5) (10).
Most alternative uses of nutmeg are colloquial, and little is known about its safety in babies. Therefore, consult a doctor before using nutmeg as a home remedy in babies.
How To Select And Store Nutmeg?
You can purchase whole or ground nutmeg powder. Consider the following points while purchasing nutmeg for babies.
Tips for selecting and storing whole nutmeg
- Prefer to buy the whole, dried nutmeg seed if you use nutmeg occasionally. It will ensure you always get a freshly grated, flavorful spice for use.
- Buy from a reputable and trusted store to ensure the product’s quality.
- Discard produce that looks discolored, water-logged, or moldy. A nutmeg with tiny holes indicates pest infestation.
- Buy nutmeg that is hard to touch, has a rough surface, and feels heavy for its size. These are the features of a good-quality nutmeg.
- Store nutmeg in an airtight container in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight, heat, and moisture to keep it effectively useful for years.
Tips for selecting and storing ground nutmeg
- Always buy ground nutmeg in small quantities as the spice in its ground form loses its aroma and flavor quickly.
- Buy ground nutmeg from a trusted manufacturer and store. Powdered nutmeg has higher chances of adulteration or contamination.
- Check for “manufacturing” or “to be used by” date for proper storage.
- Store the powder in an airtight container and keep the container in a cool, dry place away from heat, direct sunlight, and moisture.
- Refrigerate the opened pack or container for longer shelf-life.
Precautions To Take While Feeding Nutmeg To Babies
Below are some precautions to observe while feeding nutmeg to babies and toddlers.
- Before grating the whole nutmeg for use, wash it thoroughly under cold running water to remove dust and dirt that might be present on its surface.
- Grate the whole nutmeg to make its smooth paste, ensure no lumps or chunks are left.
- Every time you use ground nutmeg, rub a small amount of powder between your fingers and smell. If there is a faint aroma or no aroma, it usually signifies that the powder has become stale.
- Mix only a pinch or two of nutmeg paste or powder to a serving of baby food. Feeding nutmeg in excess can increase the risk of nutmeg intoxication (3).
- Preferably feed nutmeg with a food item that your baby is already consuming comfortably. It will help identify intolerance, sensitivity, or allergy towards nutmeg easily.
- If your baby looks uncomfortable after ingesting nutmeg, discontinue feeding and try again later.
- Nutmeg allergy is rare but possible (11). Consult a pediatrician before feeding nutmeg to the baby, especially if they have a family history of food and seed allergies.
- Keep the ground nutmeg away from your child’s reach to avoid accidental ingestion.
Nutmeg is a fragrant and flavorful spice with potential health benefits. You can use whole or ground nutmeg in minimal amounts to add flavor to your baby and toddler’s foods. Purees, soups, stews, porridges, cereals, drinks, and baked goods are some recipes where nutmeg can go with other complementary herbs and spices.
2. Nutmeg; AACC
3. Jamie E. Ehrenpreis et al.; Nutmeg Poisonings: A Retrospective Review of 10 Years Experience from the Illinois Poison Center, 2001–2011; NCBI
4. Spices, nutmeg, ground, FDC ID: 171326; Fooddata Central; USDA
5. Ehab A. Abourashed and Abir T. El-Alfy; Chemical diversity and pharmacological significance of the secondary metabolites of nutmeg (MyristicafragransHoutt.); NCBI
6. NamraNaeem et al.; Nutmeg: A review on uses and biological properties; Researchgate
7. Infant botulism; CDC
8. FelitaDhaslin et al.; Antioxidant, antimicrobial, and health benefits of nutmeg; JPR solutions
9. KritikaJangid et al.; Achievable therapeutic effects of myristicafragrans (NUTMEG) on periodontitis a short review; Researchgate
10. V.P. Samaranayake et al.; Efficacy of Nutmeg as a Face Cream an Mukhsdushika; Researchgate
11. Nutmeg; Anaphylaxis Campaign