You have probably heard the media hype around super-foods. It is quite a controversial area since many people believe that the term is nothing but a marketing device designed to get us to spend money on exotic sounding foods. At Bump & Beyond Nutrition, we define super-foods as nutrient-dense foods considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being. So-called ‘super-foods’ are really just everyday foods with an unusually high content of antioxidants, vitamins or other nutrients so, with that in mind, here are our top ‘super-foods’ to include in your baby’s diet.
Beetroot is a perfect first food as it’s a sweet vegetable, which babies take a liking to quickly. Beetroots are a good source of folic acid and is high in potassium and beta-carotene. Roast or steam them until they are super-soft, and then either cut into chunks for baby led weaning (BLW), or mash them.
Kale boasts high amounts of iron, vitamin c and folate, and is rich in antioxidants like lutein and zeazanthin, which protect the eye and aid in its development. These amazing leaves are also excellent sources of calcium and vitamin K, which are superb bone builders. Studies show that vitamin K is needed to activate bone proteins to help give your baby a strong skeleton. Kale should be lightly steamed and served with healthy fats, such as coconut oil or grass fed butter, to enhance the absorption of fat soluble vitamins.
Coconuts are an incredible first fruit as they contain medium chain fatty acids. Principally lauric acid, which are similar to those found in human breast milk and scarcely found anywhere else in nature! Lauric acid can boost the immune system, improve digestion, and balance the blood sugar. Fresh coconut meat is an excellent addition to any smoothie or puree, and it can even be eaten as a finger food. Coconut flour is a fantastic gluten-free flour alternative. Finally, coconuts are not only high in protein and packed with fibre, but they are bursting with essential fats and natural sweetness, which means there is less need for sugar.
Avocados are one of our top super foods and a favourite in my household. They are a great source of monounsaturated fat, which is required for healthy brain development. Avocados are also the perfect baby fast food as all you need to do is mash it or chop it into chunks for baby led weaning.
The African super-fruit Baobab contains six times more vitamin C than oranges, twice as much calcium as milk, and more iron than a steak! It also boasts more antioxidants than blueberries, cranberries or pomegranates, and it tastes just amazing. It’s rare to come across fresh Baobab in the UK, but you can buy the powdered version and sprinkle a little into any fruit puree.
Chia seeds are also worth a mention as they contain a higher ratio of antioxidants than blueberries and have more calcium than whole milk. They are also very high in omega-3s, magnesium, fibre, iron, potassium, and protein. You can add them to your baby’s porridge, soups, muffins, and smoothies.
Sweet potatoes are much higher in vitamins and minerals than white potatoes. They help to stabilise blood sugar levels, and keep little stomachs feeling fuller for longer periods of time. To retain the most nutrients, sweet potatoes should be baked in the oven and then mashed with grass fed butter. For BLW you can cut them into thick wedges, drizzle with olive oil, and oven bake.
Shiitake mushrooms are a nutritional powerhouse and an excellent addition to anyone’s diet, especially your baby’s. They are a rich source of B vitamins, selenium, copper and zinc. They are also an excellent source of vitamin D, which is hard to come by! Vitamin D is vital for healthy bone development, but did you know that 50% of us have insufficient levels? It is important that all mushrooms are well cooked before serving.
Okra is a brilliant source of various vitamins, such as vitamin A, C, B, thiamin, niacin, folate and vitamin E. These all vitamins play an important role in your baby’s physical and mental development. Okra has a laxative effect as it supplies the essential dietary fibre that enables smooth bowel movement, and therefore reduces the risk of constipation. Regular consumption of okra also increases a child’s blood count. Given okra’s slimy texture, it is difficult to make it into a smooth puree. Therefore its best to wait until your baby is big enough to chew the fingers (9 months+).
Egg yolks are a top super-food as they supply vitamin A, amino acids, and cholesterol, required for mental development. Organic, cage-free chicken’s eggs also contain omega-3 fatty acids that stimulate brain development. Eggs can be hard boiled and the yolks either crumbled into purees or sliced.