To Carb or Not to Carb: Babies and Toddlers.
Charlotte and Olivia, my daughters aged 1 and 2, do not eat any refined foods. That means no pasta, bread, wheat crackers, cookies, biscuits, cous cous, candy, or cakes (with an exception on their birthdays)! They do eat tons of carbohydrates, however. That means lots of fresh fruits and veggies. As the basis for both child and adult diets - yes-we need carbohydrates. But choosing the right ones is critical.
There are basically two kinds: simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. Simple includes: fruit sugars (fructose); milk sugars (lactose); sucrose (table sugar) and glucose (sugar circulating in the blood stream.) Complex carbohydrates are known as starches and found in root veggies, grains, bread and cereals. It's the food that contain simple sugars and highly refined grains that spike our blood sugar and in turn cause ups and downs in our energy levels. These effects appear more dramatic in children as they are sensitive to the effects of glucose. It is a diet that is consistently rich in these foods that tend to lead to poor health outcomes such as cravings and tooth decay. If these patterns continue into adulthood, chronic illnesses such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes can result. This is typical for those following a "Western Diet" or the "Standard American Diet
(SAD.) Also, a diet rich in refined foods also tends to be less nutritionally dense meaning that the vitamins and minerals have been stripped from the whole food, leaving us with empty calories. This is not beneficial for the little growing bodies of our babies. The rapidly growing bodies of babies, toddlers and children require essential nutrients such as calcium, zinc, iodine, copper, magnesium, selenium and essential fatty acids. They also need fibre (a prebiotic) which is removed in the processing of grains to help feed the good bacteria in the gut, thus allowing for the micorflora to proliferate. This part is important: it's the intestinal microflora that may prevent infection by interfering with pathogens. Here lies the important element: feed ourselves and our wee ones foods that heal, not foods that hurt so as to avoid illness (and to be well enough to attend nursery school...home with an ill baby, or two, is just the worst!) A healthy gut and immune system is the cornerstone to good physical and mental health. With constant insults from refined flours, particularly wheat, the gut lining can become porous and leak toxins and impurities into our bloodstream. This theory of "leaky gut" or intestinal permeability, states that leaky gut can cause systemic inflammation and lead to conditions such as scleraderma, eczema, and chronic fatigue syndrome.
So...there you have it, a few reasons why I avoid feeding my daughters refined grains..except for on their birthdays (which makes no sense but that's a conversation for another blog!)