From Lisa Barnes
According to the US EPA Department of Health and Human Services, the greatest exposure to pesticides and chemicals is in a child’s first 4 years. This is why many advocate for providing organic foods for children whenever possible. Sometimes organic is more costly than conventional foods, due to the higher cost of growing methods, land conversion and raising practices. Consider the cost of health and well being, as well as a decision to support the environment – preserving water resources and preventing agriculture-related problems. The extra cost most likely outweighs the worry and concern you have of the possibility of harming your child’s health and development.
However if you can’t always buy organic you can lower your family’s exposure to pesticides by up to 90% if you avoid the 12 most contaminated conventionally grown fruit and vegetables. What The Environmental Working Group calls the dirty dozen:
• bell peppers
• grapes (imported)
• red raspberries
Reducing Health Risks
Buying organic reduces health risks that can be attributed to commercial pesticides and herbicides. No matter how well you wash certain fruits and vegetables there are still remaining traces of potentially harmful chemicals. Babies’ bodies are much more vulnerable to pesticides because their brains and immune systems are still in a state of development. Also pound for pound, babies eat two to four times more fruits and vegetables than adults, and thus are exposed to a higher percentage of possible contaminants.
Increasing Health Benefits
A study at the University of California at Davis (my Alma matter) shows that organically grown strawberries, corn and blackberries are richer in cancer fighting antioxidants, sometimes 60% more, than the same conventionally grown crops. Other studies have proven the same for organically grown peaches and pears too. Researchers theorize that organically grown plants may produce more antioxidants because they have to work harder to fight off pests and disease, otherwise killed by pesticides and chemicals.
Some fruits and vegetables you’ll want to introduce to your child have high levels of nitrites, due to the fertilized soils in which they grow. The nitrite levels also increase when these food items are stored in your refrigerator.
High nitrite produce includes: beets, turnips, spinach, mustard, carrots, green beans, butternut squash, strawberries and cantaloupe.
Nitrites are difficult on a baby’s system, because their stomach acidity is too low to properly break them down. Over exposure can cause anemia, or encourage oxygen to be displaced into bloodstreams, resulting in rapid breathing and lethargy. Buying these items (see below) grown organically, will lessen exposure. If you buy high nitrite foods grown conventionally and make your own baby food, wait to introduce these foods until your baby is over 8 months old or buy these food items in jarred options (manufacturers are able to test nitrite levels).
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook
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