An infant’s gastrointestinal system is very immature at birth, and mother’s milk is the most ideal food source for her, which she is best able to digest. With the growth of the infant, her intestinal system matures, the villi and the enzyme systems are undergoing major changes, and slowly the conditions are created for liquid and semi-solid foods to be introduced.
Every mom has a different opinion regarding this matter. Some do everything by the book, following pediatricians’ recommendations exactly. Some, on the other hand, pay close attention to the demands of the baby, and patiently begin to introduce purees when the baby seems ready.
Because every baby is different, it is very difficult to arrive to a common understanding on this topic. However, it is important to know that there are a few golden rules that must be followed, as vegetables and leafy greens introduced irresponsibly may seriously affect an infant’s health.
A baby was recently hospitalized with a serious life-threatening condition, simply because she was fed beetroot puree. Now you can learn which are the vegetables that could put the lives of babies at risk, and why they are harmful to health.
Some leafy greens such as lettuce and spinach as well as vegetables such as beets, carrots and celery are especially efficient at absorbing nitrates from the soil. Unfortunately, both soil and water are becoming increasingly polluted due to chemicals and fertilizers seeping into them, and the nitrate content in both the soil and rivers has increased significantly in recent decades. As a result, the nitrate content of vegetables grown in these soils is also very high. (Yet another reason why we should insist on buying organic products). Consuming such vegetables represents an extra strain to the adult human body, but enzymes in the intestines are able to eliminate the nitrates.
The situation with babies, however, is totally different. The intestinal system of infants is immature at 12 months of age, so it is unable to neutralize nitrates from food. The problem is not the nitrates themselves, but from the resulting nitrites. Nitrites affect the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood adversely, and they can cause a malfunction called methemoglobinemia. As a result, the cells don’t receive adequate oxygenation and the baby begins to “suffocate”. Clinically, this condition is manifested in shortness of breath and cyanosis (bluish-purple discoloration of the skin), and it represents a major medical emergency; if the baby doesn’t receive first aid, she may even lose her life.
In the above mentioned case of poisoning, the nitrate level in the baby’s blood was so high that she may not have survived without the intervention of a specialist.
Most of the press just treated the case as “toxic beetroot” or “beetroot poisoning”. The public, however, received some clarification from medical doctors, emphasizing that the poisoning is not the primary producer’s responsibility (as highlighted in the press), but the result of food introduced too early in the baby’s diet.
Here’s a list of usual nitrate content for various vegetables
|Nitrate mg / kg||VEGETABLES|
|More than 1000 mg nitrate/kg||Beets, spinach, lettuce, celery|
|Between 100-1000mg / kg||Cabbage, potatoes, eggplant, green beans|
|Less than 100mg / kg||Tomatoes, peppers, asparagus, onions, fresh fruits (raspberries, strawberries, currants, cherries)|
Once again, we must emphasize that the nitrate content of beetroots, celery, carrots, lettuce and spinach sold in the market is not verified, so feeding puree made of these vegetables and greens is not recommended for babies under 12 months of age.