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You Ask, I Answer: Nitrates & Baby Food

Posted Jan 11 2009 2:53pm
I read that I should buy jarred baby food for things like spinach since the fresh produce has nitrates, which can be really badfor babies.

Does that sound right?

-- Jane Shou
Waltham, MA

Hmmm. Seems like whatever you read was written by a confused author.

Let's do some untangling.

First, the issue of nitrates (also known as nitric acid salts.)

Since they naturally exist in water and soil, it makes sense that most vegetables naturally contain them (root vegetables and leafy green ones contain them at higher levels).

Although growing conditions affect actual levels, spinach, kale, and cabbage are typically the "worst offenders."

Nitrates can become dangerous if they body converts them to nitrites (which can cause a particular type of anemia in babies.)

Some basic human physiology, though, explains why there is truly no reason to worry.

By the sixth month of life, babies have a sufficient amount of hydrochloric acid in their stomachs to destroy bacteria that convert nitrates to nitrites.

Since solid foods should not be introduced until the sixth month anyway, babies are protected from harm by the time vegetables can be introduced in their diet.

Commercially prepared vs. made from scratch is completely irrelevant.

Since nitrates are naturally occurring, jarred baby food containing any of these vegetables will also have nitrates (this includes organic brands.)

So,vegetables that naturally containnitrates can safely be fed to babies six months or older.
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