Thursday, April 12, 2018

Selecting baby cereals

Baby cereal is one of the first foods babies are introduced to. One of the most common among them is rice.

What makes rice cereal so special? Nothing, for the babies. However, rice is easier than other grains for manufacturers to turn into cereals. This is the only thing that makes it special.

What is the nutritional value of rice? Well, it is an excellent source of two "nutrients": starch and arsenic. The amount of protein in rice in comparison to other grains is negligible. The nutritional value of starch is well known: it is the most common source of empty calories, meaning that your baby can't grow well when fed predominantly rice cereal.

What about arsenic? This problem is much more significant than low protein content. Due to the way rice is grown, arsenic accumulates in rice at several times higher concentrations than in other foods. Arsenic is a known carcinogen, and adversely affects memory, intelligence, the heart, reproductive system, and skin.

There is one advantage of rice over some other cereals. Rice does not contain gluten, a protein found in many grains, including wheat. Gluten has been one of the most important sources of protein for humans for millennia, but only recently it became a source of widespread concern. The fear of gluten is based mostly on scientifically unfounded articles. 

Regardless of whether gluten fear is real or not, living without fear is much healthier than with. One of the best substitutes for rice in gluten-sensitive or gluten scared people is buckwheat. Buckwheat has no gluten, is loaded with protein and minerals, which give it this dark color. All protein reach grains have darker colors due to higher mineral content. The minerals in grains are bound to proteins, which means that colored grains are rich in protein.

Try to follow this rule: select grains of other colors than white, such as buckwheat, barley, oats, and quinoa depending on the absence or presence of the fear of gluten.

Sergei Shushunov, MD