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What Your Baby’s Body Needs

A nutrient is a substance that provides energy for your baby’s body to grow and develop, repair or heal tissue when needed, and sustain his body’s functions. A healthy diet for your baby includes both macronutrients and micronutrients, along with water and enzymes. Macronutrients are the major food categories that his body needs for energy, including carbohydrates, proteins, fats and oils, water, and certain minerals.

If your baby’s body were a car, macronutrients would be the fuel that powers its daily operation. Micronutrients are smaller doses of vitamins, minerals, and other chemicals that are just as important for long-term maintenance. In the car analogy, these micronutrients and enzymes are the radiator fluid, coolant, engine oil, and other fluids that do not get checked as often but are critical to your car’s long-term functioning.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are macronutrients that include a significant amount of fiber, which is essential for brain and bowel function and for supplying basic energy. There are two types of carbohydrates: simple carbohydrates, such as glucose and fructose, and complex carbohydrates. Carbohydrates have gotten a negative reputation because simple carbohydrates are found in many refined foods with processed flour and sugar, such as white breads and pastas.

However, complex carbohydrates, such as those found in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and breast milk, are both healthy and essential. Simple carbohydrates create spikes and dips in blood sugar, whereas complex carbohydrates provide steady, prolonged energy.

Protein

Protein, another macronutrient, is the primary external source of amino acids for your baby’s body. Although his body can produce some amino acids on its own, others must be obtained through food. Amino acids are often called “building blocks” because they are essential for building muscles, skin, tissue, and hair.

Breast milk provides complete protein for your baby during the first six months of his life. Whole plant-based foods that contain protein include grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and vegetables. If you choose an animal-based diet, dairy products, eggs, fish, and meat will also provide high levels of protein.

Fats and Oils

Fats and oils, another category of macronutrients, are essential to the development of your baby’s brain, nervous system, and eyes, and are vital for proper functioning of his immune system, blood, blood vessels, adrenal glands, and other organs. They are a good source of energy and also help maintain healthy hair, skin, and nails.

“Good fats” are found in coconut, sesame, and olive oils, nuts, seeds, fish, avocados, flaxseeds, and breast milk. Meat and dairy products, such as cheese, are high in saturated fats, which can clog cell membranes and raise cholesterol levels, and they are not necessary for a healthy diet.

Water

Water is essential for all your baby’s body functions and is the solvent in which chemical reactions take place. Water regulates body temperature, digestion, and metabolic functions. Water is taken in through drinking, eating fresh vegetables and fruits, and bathing.

Vitamins

Vitamins are natural organic compounds that are plentiful in plant-based foods like vegetables, grains, beans, and fruit. They contribute to the absorption of the macronutrient proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. A wide variety of vitamins is necessary for healthy growth and development. If you are strictly vegetarian or vegan, you may consider supplements of vitamins D and B12.

Minerals

Your baby’s body needs macronutrient minerals including iron, calcium, phosphorous, potassium, sulfur, sodium, chloride, and magnesium. These minerals are essential for building bones and for vital body functions. Most minerals are ample in a well-balanced diet of grains, vegetables, sea vegetables, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, fresh fruits, and miso, as well as optional foods such as dairy, kefir, yogurt, and eggs.  Minerals regulate your baby’s hormones and nervous system, and they are necessary for the development of his bones, teeth, and muscles.

Enzymes

Enzymes regulate chemical activities and are necessary for the digestion of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Enzymes can be found in fermented and raw foods. Cooking at high temperatures and microwaving can destroy enzymes.

Your baby’s nutritional needs are very high in his first year of life, because he is growing so much and so quickly. He needs quality food that includes these essential nutrients for his healthy physical, emotional, and mental development.

Supplements

Micronutrients are necessary for your baby’s energy and balance. Whole food sources of vitamins and minerals are more bioavailable and come in more appropriate doses than micronutrients found in supplements and fortified foods. In the case of vitamins and minerals, bioavailability refers to the proportion of the micronutrient that is able to be absorbed and digested by the body, relative to the total amount of the nutrient present.

Natural preparation methods, such as soaking, sprouting, fermenting, and cooking can increase the bioavailability of vitamins and minerals in foods. Supplements and fortified foods have been processed to contain a high concentration of vitamins and minerals, and this high concentration can overwork your baby’s organs.

Although supplements and fortified foods have higher levels of vitamins and minerals, they are often not as bioavailable as those in breast milk and whole food sources and can end up in your baby’s waste. Ferrous sulfate, an iron supplement added to many formulas, is difficult to absorb and can cause indigestion and constipation. Check with your health care provider to see if it is necessary to give your baby supplements or fortified foods.

Grow Healthy. Grow Happy. Guide
By Grow Healthy. Grow Happy. The Whole Baby Guide. ™

A comprehensive and accessible resource for natural baby care. Nurture your baby with nature's principles for a radiant life. Grow Healthy. Grow Happy. The Whole Baby Guide is a complete resource for parents to give their babies a healthy beginning for the first three years.

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