The popularity of commercial baby food in recent decades has had quite the impact on what we as consumers assume babies need. While many major food companies have jumped on this lucrative band wagon, it’s important to step back and analyze what you feed your child.
According to recent reviews, many commercial baby foods aren’t as healthy as we are led to believe. Manufacturers spend millions marketing infant formula, baby food and beverages for toddlers, assuring parents their product is nutritious and healthy. Yet many ingredients in commercial baby food are not only ultra-processed, but contain contaminants with links to a variety of serious health problems.
If you have not been aware of these dangers, then this article will show you how to avoid them to make sure your child continues in good health.
Breastfeeding Is Healthier
From a health standpoint, breast milk has serious advantages over commercial varieties, because it’s free and contains over 200 components that play a role in general development and growth. Breast milk also specifically encourages the growth of Lactobacillaceae, helpful bacteria that can inhibit many disease-causing gram-negative bacteria and parasites. In fact, breast-fed infants have a level of lactobacillus that is typically 10 times greater than that of formula-fed infants. This leads to fewer illnesses and deaths during the first year than babies fed formula, says tensteps.org.
“While there is a place for liquid supplements and toddler milk, only a small number of youngsters need them”, said Angela Lemond, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She added that “for the first year of life, breast milk is the gold standard liquid nutrition.” (CBS News)
Breast milk is a living biological fluid researchers continue to associate with long-term health. As various factors associated with different diseases are analyzed, they often find that children and adults who were breastfed as infants are less likely to experience health problems later in life.
Commercializing the Early Years
Though many store-bought baby foods now contain organic ingredients, closer inspection proves there is still a long way to go. Infant formulas are typically processed under high heat, leading to the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGES), sugar molecules that attach to and damage proteins in the body.
Studies prove that infant formulas processed with high heat may have 100 times more AGEs than breast milk, showing why infants switched from breast milk to commercial formula within the first year of life have double the levels of AGEs found in people with diabetes. (ScienceDaily 2011)
Baby food manufacturers also hook little bodies with sugar. According to the Archives of Diseases in Childhood, a study comparing 479 commercially available baby foods found that 65% were sweetened. Babies learn to crave that artificial sweet taste, with several generations now having become heavy sugar consumers. This has led to epidemic proportions of diabetes and obesity, even among young children.
Baby foods are also dumping grounds for other unsavory ingredients including industrial vegetable oils, corn syrup, preservatives, emulsifiers and refined flours. Even natural flavors are usually made up of complex compounds designed by companies to create flavor addiction. (The Alpha Parent).
Shockingly, many of baby foods are not tested for heavy metals. Ellipse Analytics, an accredited lab in Denver, Colorado teamed up with the non-profit Clean Label Project and tested 700 baby to early toddler foods for toxins. The results showed 35 percent of formula samples tested positive for some level of lead.
This dovetails with a report from the Environmental Defense Fund, which also found detectable levels of lead in approximately 20 percent of baby food samples tested over a decade. Obviously current standards do not reflect the latest science about potential health risks, especially since even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect IQ, ability to pay attention, and academic achievement.
The Clean Label study also found sixty five percent of baby foods proved positive for arsenic, 58 percent for cadmium and 10 percent for acrylamide, a chemical linked to cancer and brain damage. (TMJ4.com)
Pesticide traces are also an increased health risk in inorganic baby foods. “The Environmental Working Group (EWG) found up to 16 pesticides in eight leading baby food brands, including three probable human carcinogens, eight neurotoxins, five pesticides that disrupt normal functioning of the hormone system, and five categorized as oral toxicity category one, the most toxic designation. While these levels are considered below federal standards for adults, they do not specifically incorporate protection for the immature bodies of infants or young children.” (OneGreenPlanet)
A 2009 Guardian article stated that “Some main baby food brands are less nutritious than a cheeseburger.” They contain less than a fifth of a baby’s recommended daily supply of calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron and other crucial minerals (University of Greenwich 2012). In essence, babies fed solely on store-bought formula milk and jars is akin to feeding them junk food.
“Whole food with minimal processing is best for all ages. Toddlers should be exposed to a variety of foods, says onegreenplanet. “When transitioning from breastfeeding to solids start with fresh fruits, such as mangos, apples or carrots, or cook and puree whole cereal grains like oatmeal, quinoa, millet, or buckwheat.”
You may notice it’s more time consuming to have your child eat healthy, but there are also no unhealthy mystery ingredients. Nutrition is always important in life, and never more so than for a small children.