The transition to solid foods is an exciting time for babies and parents. You love watching your little one enjoy pureed sweet potatoes, green beans and bananas. But are you giving them the best baby food out there? Baby food isn’t necessarily good for kids just because it’s stocked on the shelves of your local supermarket. Many infant foods have tested positive for toxic chemicals, some of which are naturally present in the soil and water that are used to grow the produce.
What Toxins Are Present in Baby Food?
A 2019 report by Healthy Babies Bright Futures found that 95 percent of the infant foods that were tested had at traces of at least one toxic heavy metal. The heavy metals that the company tested for included:
Arsenic naturally occurs in the environment. It’s present in soil, air and water. Therefore, it can make its way into any food that is grown from the earth. Experts have found arsenic in juice and rice products as well as other items in our food supply.
Low levels of arsenic won’t immediately poison you. However, the metal has been linked to cancer, vascular disease, hypertension, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Lead is also found in the environment and can be absorbed by plants. It may also be incorporated in foods via production processes. For example, pipes that contain lead can transfer the metal into the water that is used to make the food. An Environmental Defense Fund report determined that lead levels are higher in baby foods than other similar products. For example, 89 percent of grape juice for infants contained lead, compared to 68 percent of regular grape juice.
There are no safe levels of lead for the human body. Even low levels can affect children’s behavior and IQ.
Cadmium is not as well-recognized as lead and arsenic. It’s also found in the environment and can leach into food supplies. Cadmium has neurotoxic impacts on children. It can affect their learning. The risk of developing cognitive problems is higher among children who are exposed to levels of cadmium that were once considered safe.
Mercury is a pollutant that enters the atmosphere through sources such as power plants. It’s also found in many fish and seafood. The developing brain is especially sensitive to mercury. This metal can lead to intellectual disability, memory problems and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Are Organic Baby Foods Safe?
Whether you buy your baby food in pouches, jars or canisters, you could be exposing your child to heavy metals. Twenty-six percent of baby foods contain all four toxic metals.
Whereas you can limit your child’s consumption of artificial ingredients, preservatives and pesticides by feeding them organic baby food, you won’t necessarily reduce their exposure to heavy metals by doing so.
Foods naturally absorb these heavy metals from the environment. Root vegetables and leafy greens hold onto the toxic chemicals more than other foods. Therefore, organic spinach might be just as toxic as its non-organic alternative.
Making homemade baby food won’t necessarily reduce the risk of heavy metal exposure. Rice absorbs arsenic more than any other crop. Even if you boil and puree rice for your infant, you are probably exposing them to arsenic.
What Are the Best Foods for Infants?
Some of the foods that are more likely to contain heavy metals include:
- Rice puffs
- Teething biscuits
- Infant rice cereal
- Fruit juice
- Sweet potatoes
Rice puffs are a convenient snack for little ones, but there are many other options on the market. Consider buying rice-free snacks to reduce the toxic heavy metal load by up to 93 percent.
If your infant is teething, you can offer fresh foods instead of teething biscuits. Put frozen chunks of banana or cucumber in a mesh feeder. The cold food will feel good against your baby’s gums, and the mesh feeder prevents the food from becoming a choking hazard.
Some parents introduce solids by offering instant cereals to their children. One of the most popular is rice cereal, which can be mixed with breast milk, cow’s milk formula, goat milk formula or water.
Rice cereal might be a good way to introduce a baby to new textures, but isn’t particularly nutrient-dense. Multi-grain cereals and oatmeal are better options and can expose your child to 91 percent less heavy metals.
Even if your baby loves sweet potatoes and carrots, you should offer a variety of fruits and vegetables. You’ll reduce the amount of heavy metals that they’re exposed to and expand their taste for a variety of foods.
Finally, you don’t have to give your baby juice. It’s loaded with sugar and doesn’t often have much nutritional value. Skip it altogether. You can continue to give your infant breast milk for as long as both of you desire. If you feed your baby formula, you don’t need to transition away from it until they’re at least a year old. After your infant is at least 6 months old, you can offer them water when they’re thirsty as long as you’re not using it to replace breast milk or formula.
This information may be shocking for parents who want to optimize their children’s health. It’s particularly frustrating to learn that the FDA and baby food companies may not be doing enough to reduce children’s exposure to toxic chemicals.
Start feeding your child high-quality formula from an early age. When it’s time to start solids, don’t limit your little one’s diet to the one food that they love. Change up the foods that you offer, and choose items that are rich in nutrients instead of bland products that just fill up your child’s belly. At Tastyganics, we are committed to helping parents find the best products to maintain their kids’ health from day one.