- Busting the myth of nitrates in food – what’s harmful and what’s not.
Over the past few years, there has been a bit of buzz around feeding your babes fresh carrots and other root veggies due to a risk of nitrate consumption and potential poisoning. Not only does this include the yummies you whip up at home, but also the kick ass blends our team at Little Spoon is happily offering your budding foodie. You may have heard something along these lines: “Root vegetables from some parts of the country contain large amounts of nitrates that can cause an unusual kind of anemia (low red blood cells or hemoglobin) in young infants. Large, shelf-stable baby food companies screen their produce for nitrates and since you cannot do this at home, it is safer to give your baby commercially prepared foods instead of serving your child fresh food.”
It is time to finally bust this crap and put it to rest! The type of nitrate reaction that we have been warned repeatedly against is called methemoglobinemia. There has only been one reported case in the United States that stemmed from homemade baby food. That case was reported in 1973 and there has not been another case since. All other cases of methemoglobinemia in babies have come from mixing powdered infant formula with nitrate-contaminated well water.
It is also important to point out that while mass production commercial baby food companies (think: the one with a cute babe on the containers) can screen their produce, they cannot remove the nitrates. So their screening test only indicates if there are elevated levels of nitrates, but they still use the produce in their baby food.
The truth is the main issue is with the age of the baby. The only risk of nitrate poisoning or methemoglobinemia from homemade root vegetable baby food occurs when the baby consuming the food is 3 months or YOUNGER. So if you are following the American Association of Pediatrics’ guidelines of starting solids no earlier than 6 months of age, your little nugget will be nothing short of perfect.