I’m a big girl, and big girls eat grown up food. I have been eating solid foods for almost a year now. With that much experience, I’m pretty much an expert in this area. There have been bumps along the way, but overall it has been a pleasant journey.
When I began this adventure, mommy wanted to introduce me to an easy to digest food that would replenish my iron supply. Babies are born with about 6 months worth of iron. After that the supply needs to be replenished through an iron rich diet.
My very first big girl meal was infant oatmeal. Cereals made for babies are fortified with iron and they make an excellent staple food for a baby’s diet. I still eat oatmeal almost every day and I love it. It’s especially good with a bit of fruit mixed in. Sweet and creamy. Occasionally I’ll have a multigrain cereal instead just to keep things interesting.
There are many different baby cereal options out there. They can be made with various grains and come in a variety of flavours. Because iron fortified infant cereal tends to become a cornerstone of a baby’s diet, it’s important to choose the right one.
Believe it or not, we’re all consuming poisonous elements just about every time we eat. Should we be concerned? Maybe. The question to ask is not whether or not we’re eating poison. The question is, how much of it are we eating?
There are several toxic elements which can be found in common foods. Cyanide is found in the seeds and pits of fruits such as apples, apricots, and pears. The amount of cyanide these fruits contain is very small and it’s just about impossible to eat enough seeds to succumb to cyanide poisoning.
Cyanide is unlikely to be present in your infant cereal. What is more likely to be lurking there is arsenic. This element is naturally occurring and it exists in two forms. There is the organic arsenic which tends to be found in plant and animal tissues. There is also the far more toxic inorganic arsenic found in rocks, soil, and water.
Arsenic is found in nearly all of the things we eat but in very small quantities. Trace amounts of arsenic can’t harm us. There are some foods which tend to contain more arsenic than others. The food with the highest concentration of inorganic arsenic happens to be rice. It is unfortunate that many infant cereals and snacks are made primarily with rice.
Why does rice contain so much arsenic? There are three main factors that cause this to happen. The majority of rice is grown in parts of the world where large amounts of arsenic exist in both the soil and the water. Rice grows in flooded fields which require lots of water. Rice plants absorb more arsenic than other plants.
While arsenic does occur naturally, human activities such as pollution, mining activities, and the use of certain fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides can significantly increase the presence of arsenic in both the soil and the water. These activities release more arsenic into the soil which contaminates the ground water that is used for field irrigation. Furthermore, flooding fields with arsenic-contaminated water only increases the amount of arsenic in the soil.
Eating rice once in a while is not a problem. I enjoy the occasional rice cracker or puffed rice treat and I even have a side of rice with dinner from time to time. However, mommy is very cautious when it comes to my overall intake of rice. We little people are especially vulnerable because we are small and the amount of arsenic we ingest is proportionally larger.
Rice hides in many popular baby and toddler foods. There are the rice cereals, puffed rice treats, crackers, rice milk, and some puddings. Some infant formulas are rice-based and some formulas are sweetened with brown rice syrup. It’s a good idea to read product labels in order to have a good handle on the overall intake of rice in any person’s diet.
Inorganic arsenic can cause a number of health problems and make it more likely that an individual may develop a chronic disease. It has been linked to cancer, heart disease, hypertension, vascular disease, and type 2 diabetes. Because arsenic affects brain functions, it is especially harmful to babies, children, and teenagers. It may impair memory and concentration leading to reduced intelligence.
Some sources of rice are better than others but as a consumer, it is impossible to know how much arsenic a particular rice product may have. The best way to safeguard against overexposure to arsenic is to simply limit the amount of rice that is being consumed. This is true for everyone, but it is especially important for those of us who haven’t yet finished growing and developing.
If your baby is relying on that rice cereal, perhaps it’s time to consider switching to a cereal made from a different grain. May I suggest oatmeal? Try it with pureed pear or banana. That’s my favourite.