Land Vegetable Considerations
My daughters Emi and Mari helping in the garden
Locally Grown, Organic Vegetables
Conventionally grown vegetables are often treated with chemical fertilizers, fungicides, and pesticides, and chemical companies make genetic modifications to vegetable and fruit seeds to standardize their appearances and last longer during transportation. Synthetic chemical preservatives, such as petroleum-based waxes and coloring agents, are often added after growing to increase visual appeal and shelf life.
Buying local, naturally grown produce offers a multitude of benefits. Even if vegetables are not organic, locally grown vegetables are fresher and more flavorful. Feeding your baby locally grown produce also means connecting him to the seasons with foods that warm his body in winter and cool it in the summer. In addition to these health and environmental perks, shopping at farmers’ markets strengthens your local economy.
Cruciferous vegetables have an abundance of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. This group, however, contains goitrogens that may affect hormone production in the thyroid gland if eaten raw, so it is important to cook cruciferous vegetables for your baby. Cruciferous vegetables can be difficult for your baby to digest at early stages, so wait until seven to nine months to introduce them as a solid food. Make sure they are well cooked, and monitor your baby for possible digestive upsets. For a nursing mother, eating raw cruciferous vegetables can reduce the iodine levels in her breast milk. Cook thoroughly by steaming, boiling, sautéing, or preparing a soup.
Potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, and eggplants belong to the Solanaceae plant family, known as nightshades. Nightshades contain solanine, a low-level toxin adapted to keep predators away from the plants by causing diarrhea, vomiting, hallucinations, and headaches. I recommend waiting until your child is over one year old to introduce nightshades, and observe his condition for a reaction.
Nightshade vegetables are grown mostly in a hot climate and provide a cooling effect on the body. If you want to balance the yin and yang within a meal comprised of nightshades, you might consider a yang cooking method with high heat, such as grilling or deep-frying, or using yang ingredients, such as salt or miso. The combination of tomatoes cooked with a little bit of miso produces a perfect match and a delicious, hearty pasta sauce.
Spinach, Swiss chard, parsley, and rhubarb all contain oxalic acid, which hinders calcium absorption.
You may hear that it is unsafe to feed your baby home-cooked food made with vegetables that are high in nitrates. However, the chances that your baby will get nitrate poisoning from homemade baby food is very unlikely. By six months, your baby’s stomach has developed the acids needed to fight the bacteria that help nitrate conversion.
Nitrates can be due to groundwater contamination near a commercial agriculture site from chemical fertilizers or can be added as a preservative in packaged foods. Nearly all vegetables contain a natural level of nitrates that vary according to growing conditions and the soil’s nitrate levels. Organic vegetables have a naturally lower risk of exposure because they are not grown in soil treated with chemical fertilizers.
If you live in an agricultural region, do not use use well water for mixing formula. For concerns about nitrates in water, speak with your health care provider, and have your water tested. Reverse osmosis and distillation water filters can remove nitrates from well water.
Fungi are separate from plants, animals, or bacteria—they grow in soil and on dead matter, plants, animals, or other fungi. Despite their anti-cancer properties, raw mushrooms contain carcinogenic compounds that get destroyed in the cooking process, so mushrooms need to be cooked before eating. You can introduce cooked mushrooms to your child between 12 and 18 months of age. Cooked mushrooms break down toxins and mucus, and they are a natural flavor enhancer.