What foods are perfect or best for us?
Often people look to exotic fruits—things like goji berries, cacao beans, and maca powder, imported and overflowing with certain nutrients. I’m a fan of those things—but I’m not so much a fan of their price tags. I like the idea of micronutrient loading, and promote it to my clients and students–that we should be trying to get the most nutrient density (quality) in our food as we can. Additionally, staying away from the empty calorie stuff as a habit is important (but hey, if you have a piece of pizza and a cupcake once in a while, that’s not going to ruin your health!).
Lately, I’ve been focused primarily on eating traditional foods that have been essentially phased out in our culture—in their original form, anyway.
If we were to look at how our ancestors ate (no, I’m not talkin’ Paleolitic, I’m talking just a few generations back) when a famine or a Depression was not occurring, we can gain much useful practical information. Those people most likely consumed organic, non-hormone, non-antibiotic, pasture-fed meats, dairy, and eggs. Most likely, their dairy was primarily fermented (or aged, in the case of cheese). Veggies were preserved for the off-season by culturing them, which boosted the nutrient content and digestibility exponentially. Obviously, processed foods, soda, and empty calorie fruit juices were not consumed. They ate real food made out of real ingredients.
What is different now? Maybe you eat waffles that go in the toaster, eggs and chicken that come from a gross chicken house (or worse yet: powdered eggs and mechanically separated chicken), beef and dairy products that come from a CAFO (with gosh knows what in it!), things like “maple syrup” that is just brown colored high fructose corn syrup, and processed food that sort of resembles the original but is made out of chemicals.
My feeling? These substances are not actually food. I’m going to refrain from ranting more here about what people should not be eating, and just focus on a few super foods–true superfoods that our ancestors ate in their un-messed-with formats. If we focus on adding the good quality versions of certain staple foods to our diets, our mental and physical health will benefit beyond any expectation.
Baby’s first food–what should it be?
I searched the literature, and found that rice cereal is the exact opposite thing you would want to give your tiny baby. Why? It’s carby and nutritionally void–it begins a trend of carb cravings and a mindset (unintentionally) of filling the belly but not maximizing the nutrient intake. Babies don’t yet have the proper enzymes in abundance in their digestive tracts to break down carbs/starch (Have a gassy baby? Quit the carb-overload!).
Try an egg yolk.
Yes, I mean that. No, I’m not going to talk about cholesterol here, but I will say that the egg/cholesterol myth is sufficiently debunked now–dietary cholesterol does not contribute to blood cholesterol, and in fact, the contents of an egg yolk (not the white—that’s the part babies can be allergic to!) are wonderfully supportive of brain development and baby’s overall health. There are many research studies and evolutionary evidence that demonstrate this is an amazing baby food choice, beginning around 4 months for babies who will tolerate it. Ideally, you’d get your eggs from a farm–pasture-raised chickens as the source (or chickens given feed containing flax, for the essential fatty acid benefit that they would get from eating bugs in the grass).
A little later?
Pureed meats (high quality pasture-fed organic meats of course)–if you’re really gutsy, you can add some grated liver!
Cod liver oil (for vit A, D, and essential fatty acids necessary for brain development)
Banana (it contains amylase, so the baby gets assistance in breaking down the carbs)
Other pureed veggies
My next suggestion is more of an exotic food, and care needs to be taken when choosing a source:
Coconut cream/milk – in some cultures, coconut is fed to the baby as her first food, and is done so in a religious ceremony. Lauric acid in coconut is supportive of baby’s exceptional health (breast milk and pasture-fed butter are the other primary sources).
Also, coconut milk/cream should not be from a can! My favorite source is Wilderness Family Naturals—you’ll pay an arm and a leg for shipping, but it’s the best quality I’ve found.
Unfortunately, Americans (and much of the world) think fat is a bad thing, and spend way too much time counting grams of it, and counting calories in general. If you want to vilify something we eat—please focus your blame toward sugar and simple low quality crappy carbs. (Another topic I don’t want to go into right now, but I sure do have lots to say about it!)
Another food to add relatively early is homemade yogurt (or an organic non-hormone, non-antibiotic plain yogurt from pasture-fed cows). Not only does it introduce the sour flavor to baby, but it also introduces useful bacteria into the digestive tract—raw milk would be best, definitely non-homogenized, and goat milk is good too.
The most well-supported sources I could find for baby food choices include: The Weston A. Price Foundation — this specific page has quite an in-depth reference list, and I cross-referenced with Mary Enig’s work, Mindy Pennybacker’s work, and the studies about the nutritional effects of egg yolks on babies. You can also find information about why not to use rice cereal at Dr. Mercola’s site. I hesitate linking to him, because some people get really fired up and call his advice too extreme–I do happen to think his standpoint on this issue is comprehensive, supported, and realistic. Sally Fallon’s book, Nourishing Traditions, has a couple-page blurb about feeding babies, but I believe you can find all the same information on the Weston Price Website (including instructions on how to prepare the egg yolks).
The funny thing about all of this?
If you asked me what today’s superfoods should be for growing kids and grown-ups, I would answer the very same things as I listed for baby foods (well, you probably don’t need to puree your chicken…).
*All foods given to a baby (and, in my opinion, to human beings in general, but especially for babies) should be non-GMO, organic and high quality without additives or preservatives. It matters because the chemicals and substances have a greater impact on smaller body–it makes sense, right?
*Additionally, you should never just start feeding your baby anything without the guidance of a professional (in person, not through the Internet). If your doctor does not support this type of approach, find a new one who will.
I’m a stickler for quality of food, but not for counting calories or fat grams. Human bodies will put up with a lot of abuse in the form of processed and crappy quality food, but it’s not necessary, and it’s most distressing to me when I see children suffering because of it. Give them (and you) and advantage, and just step back in time to when food was real, and nutrients were abundant (and health care bills were probably paid in chickens…).
What do you think about this topic?