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When the baby reaches six months, a new stage in his diet begins, new flavors and textures are made present for his enjoyment, receiving by another means, in addition to his milk (breast milk or formula), the vitamins and minerals he needs for their healthy growth and development. And, here, parents quickly think about vegetables, although at this point you have to be very careful. These are the Green leafy vegetables not recommended for children under one year of age.
Moms want to go through stages with their baby, so when the babies are half a year old, they get excited and want to give them a taste of everything they prepare at home. That's pretty cool, up to a point. Complementary feeding should be started step by step, under the advice of a specialist in this matter, because not all foods can be introduced at the same growth stage.
This recommendation applies, especially, to green leafy vegetables such as chard, spinach, beets (beet, beet), arugula, fennel, radish, Chinese cabbage, lettuce and celery (celery), due to their high concentration of nitrate, on average , more than 1000 mg per kilo. Also included in this list is borage, a vegetable of high culinary preference for the production of purees in some regions of Spain.
Nitrate is a substance that, by itself, is not very toxic, but it is easily converted into nitrite, which is negative for health. This transformation of nitrate into nitrite is produced by bacterial reduction in food, either in the stages of its production (irrigation, growth, processing and / or storage) or in our body (by contact with our saliva and in the intestinal tract) .
Small amounts of nitrites in the body of children under 1 year of age can cause them to oxidize the iron contained in hemoglobin and this is transformed into methemoglobin, which makes it difficult to transport oxygen in the blood, causing breathing difficulties in babies and whose most characteristic symptom is cyanosis (bluish color).
This condition is known by the name of 'blue baby syndrome', due to the coloration that your skin acquires in the absence of oxygen. When the methemoglobin concentration in the blood exceeds 3%, this cyanotic condition occurs. However, the Committee on Nutrition of the American Academy of Pediatrics cautions that symptoms can be minimal down to a concentration of 20%.
Surely you will wonder why this happens only in babies, if we adults consume them without problems. It turns out that children, in their first months of life, produce a low amount of acids, favoring the bacteria contained in their intestines to transform nitrates into nitrites in a short time.
When methemoglobin is formed, an enzyme called methemoglobin - reductase, is responsible for converting it back into hemoglobin, however, this enzyme presents in babies and young children, an activity close to 50% of that observed in adults and that turns them into highly susceptible to methoglobinemia.
Nitrates have also been shown to react with amino acids in food in the stomach, producing substances with carcinogenic effects. After 12 months, the digestive system of children is more mature and is capable of proper processing of these components.
Therefore, it is best recommended that children under 1 year of age do not consume these foods. Due to important changes that occur in its metabolism, from one year on, the baby's body supports higher levels of nitrates and, after 3 years, it is mature enough to tolerate them without problem.
Often, these vegetables are an important part of the food preferences of the family group, they are highly desired for their good taste and high nutritional value, so it is very likely that they are included in the diet of children before reaching one year, minimizing the risk of its consumption compared to its high nutritional benefits.
They are an important source of vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, folic acid, C, K, and E, as well as minerals including manganese, magnesium, iron, copper, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and zinc. Therefore, it is important to take into account the recommendations of the European Food Safety Authority to reduce nitrate exposure in infants and young children. Let's see:
- The main recommendation, as a precaution, remains do not incorporate these products among the foods of children under 12 months. If you decide to include it, ensure that its amount does not exceed 20% of the food to be consumed.
- Do not give more than one serving a day of these foods to children between 1 and 3 years old.
- Do not incorporate these foods in the diet of children when they are presenting bacterial stomach infections, since at that time they are more sensitive to nitrates.
- Once cooked, do not keep these vegetables at room temperature, refrigerate them if they are to be consumed the same day, otherwise freeze them.
- Make sure that the food where you include these foods, also has important contributions of vitamin C, Since it has been shown that this significantly reduces the presence of nitrites in the body and helps absorb the iron present in these vegetables.
- Prefer leafy greens that have been grown in the open airBy receiving greater amounts of sunlight, photosynthesis is favored and the amounts of nitrates it accumulates are reduced.
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