Carrots Are a Super Food for Baby!
Carrots come in all shapes, sizes and colors. We normally think of carrots as being orange, but purple carrots exist too and have just as many health benefits. Orange carrots get their beautiful glow from beta-carotene which is converted to Vitamin A in our bodies and is essential for eye health. Purple carrots have the same Vitamin A and beta-carotene that orange carrots have (they have an orange center!), but are lucky enough to also have anthocyanins, the same antioxidants that give blueberries their purple pigments! Regardless of color, all carrots are rich in dietary fiber, antioxidants and an abundance of vitamins and minerals for baby. Yum!
Highlighted Nutritional Importance of Carrots
- Vitamin A - plays an important role in vision and bone growth
- Vitamin C - helps to build a healthy immune system and help baby's gums stay healthy during teething!
- Niacin - a B vitamin that helps keep skin healthy by maintaining good blood circulation
- Folate - another B vitamin that helps support brain and nervous system functi
- Potassium - an electrolyte mineral that helps with muscle function and heart rhythm
- Calcium - vital for building strong bones and teeth
- Phosphorus - another mineral that is crucial for building baby's bones and teeth
- Sodium - this is an electrolyte mineral similar to potassium that is needed to regulate cardiovascular function and water balance in the kidneys
But What About Nitrates?
Nitrates have a bad rap, especially in the homemade baby food world. Nitrates are naturally occurring and found in almost every veggie that we eat and the soils they are grown in. By the time baby is 6 months old, they will have formed the necessary stomach acids needed to fight the bacteria needed for nitrate conversion. In other words, when baby's tummy is developed enough for solid foods, normal nitrate exposure will not be an issue! Nitrate poisoning is incredibly rare and when it does occur, it is normally traced back to ground contamination, not nutritious, yummy vegetables. With that said, age is important here! In order to avoid risk of nitrate poisoning, it is important to wait until baby is 6 months old to introduce carrots.
"Baby" Carrots for baby?
These cute, convenient carrots might not be the best choice when it comes to baby food. They are specially formed by a machine that cuts them out from full sized, older carrots. The concerning part: baby carrots are cleansed in a solution that often contains chlorine so that the carrots won't turn white in the packaging. Chlorine is definitely not something we want to add into baby's food, so it's important to avoid these, no matter the convenience.
How to Select and Store Carrots for Baby Food
According to the EWG, carrots aren't on the "dirty dozen" list, so going organic is up to you. If you do choose to go conventional, you will want to peel your carrots before eating to remove the skins. This is also an important step for baby since infants have a hard time digesting the skins of vegetables.
When choosing carrots at the grocery store, look for those with minimal sprouting or "hairs" which indicates an older carrot. Fresh is key! Store the carrots in your veggie drawer in your refrigerator in order to preserve the freshness, crispness and beta-carotene content. When you are ready to use them, steaming is the best cooking method as it will allow the beta-carotene to be more readily used by the body. More beta-carotene = more Vitamin A!