So I read about them a lot. I don’t have any children yet, but someday I hope to. And when I do, raising them healthfully will be high on my priority list.
Nutrition is going to be a major part of this. Something that in the first few years of their lives (except for the odd bug and handful of dirt) I will have complete control over. What a huge responsibility.
I finished a book today called Winning the Food Fight: Every Parent’s Guide to Raising a Healthy, Happy Child by Dr. Joey Shulman. Dr. Shulman lives in my city (Toronto), and she is a highly sought after authority on pediatric nutrition. Total guru status.
Her book was really interesting, and although I found some of it to be basic review from my nutrition courses, there were enough startling facts and practical tips that kept me reading. Here are a few of them:
1. Researches are now finding fatty plaque developments in the arteries of children as young as age three. (p.10)
2. Doctors receive extensive pharmaceutical training, but a mere three hours of training on nutrition. (p.10)
3. Food is intimately linked with emotion. There is no separating the two completely. (p.20)
4. A Swedish study found that an ordinary bag of potato chips may contain up to 500 times more of a chemical called acrylamide (a carcinogen) than the amount allowed by the World Health Organization in drinking water. (p.31)
5. Most whole wheat brown breads are made from white flour with some added bran to make the flour appear brown. If you see the words refined, enriched, fortified, bleached, or white, on a product, that product is not a whole grain. Make sure your whole wheat bread lists the words “unrefined flours” to be sure you are eating a whole grain food. (p.65-66)
6. Lower levels of the type of nutrients found in fruits and vegetables are associated with poor academic performance. (p.73)
7. Nitrates are a chemical used to preserve hot dogs, luncheon meats (like balogna), hamburgers, bacon, ham, and sausages. It helps meat keep its red, pinkish colour, but when nitrates combine with gastric juices in the stomach a dangerous compound called nitrosamine is formed. Nitrosamine is carcinogenic (cancer causing) when tested on laboratory animals.
Nitrates also bind to hemoglobin, which prevents it from carrying oxygen to our cells. High levels of nitrates can cause “baby blue syndrome,” a condition in which an infant turns blue due to a lack of oxygen in the system. Nitrates have been banned in baby foods, but are commonly found in foods fed to toddlers and children. (p.79-80)
8. The human brain is structurally comprised of more than 60 percent fat. Experimental evidence in animals has shown that the effect of essential fatty acid deficiency during early brain development is damaging and permanent. (p.100)
9. White sugar paralyzes a child’s immune system for at least half an hour. The average leukocyte (white blood cell) in our bodies can kill 13.9 invaders in one hour. Within 15 minutes of consuming 100 grams of refined sugar (such as what we find in children’s breakfast cereals, lunches, prepackaged snacks), that number drops to 1.4. This means our children lose over 90 percent of their immune function, often several times throughout the day. A sugary Popsicle is one of the worst things to feed a sick child. Try a fruit with immune-boosting Vitamin C instead.
10. Sugarless chewing gum is one of the most common ways that aspartame is absorbed, because sugarless gum is sweetened with aspartame. Aspartame contains methanol, which is toxic in humans even when consumed in relatively small amounts.
I get really upset when I see parents feeding their children poorly. And I get furious when I see children who generally know what is good for them, who want to be more physically active, but are met with obstacles from their parents.
I don’t believe that children are as lazy as we make them out to be. I have never had any trouble getting a child away from a television or a computer screen by offering a game or a trip to a park or a little quality time. But a lot of people ignore their kids. We sit them in front of a television set, and then blame them for being unhealthy. Maybe it’s time we started paying a little more attention.