By Julia Moravcsik, PhD, author of Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food
A recent study found that babies have high levels of chemicals called advanced glycation end products. These chemicals are the result of exposing food to high heat, and are especially high in processed food and fast food. Processed food is made with high heat, and fast food restaurants use high temperature oils or grilling to cook their food.
AGEs can cause many modern diseases, like diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer's. AGEs cause inflammation, which may be involved in countless other diseases, such as allergies and autoimmune disorders. Scientists are just beginning to discover the ramifications of the high level of AGEs in the modern diet.
Babies emerge from the womb already high in these AGEs. Because the bloodstreams of the mother and fetus are connected, the AGEs in the junk food that the mother has eaten finds its way into the baby.
Babies who are fed formula continue to get large amounts of AGEs -- they were found to have twice the levels that adult diabetics have. Many of these babies actually had elevated insulin levels -- something that we think of as an adult health problem.
How to Reduce AGEs in Your Child's Diet
You can take these steps to reduce the AGEs in your child's diet:
- If you're pregnant, avoid processed foods, fast foods, and foods (especially meats) cooked at high temperatures.
- Breastfeed your baby.
- Most of your child's food should be homemade. Packaged food has been processed at high heat to extend shelf life.
- Limit the amount of fried food that you give to your child.
- Use low temperatures for frying. Never grill meats.
- Before frying, coat the food with high antioxidant foods, such as cherry juice, herbs, or spices. These will protect the surface of the food, which is in contact with the high temperatures, and reduce the formation of AGEs.
- Feed your child lots of fruits, vegetables, and other low-fat plant foods.
- If you give your child meat, make sure it's cooked at a low temperature. Stewing is especially good -- it produces few AGEs.
- While I hate to recommend a completely raw food diet because of its nutritional imbalances, you can still benefit from using raw food recipes. There are many good raw food cookbooks, and there may even be a raw food restaurant near you.
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