10 October 2011

The Right Foods Can Make all the Difference

The drought affecting the Horn of Africa has had a devastating impact on the people of Somalia who have already suffered from 20 years of war, a lack of infrastructure and development, and the most basic services.  Now that international efforts to treat the hundreds of thousands of severely malnourished children is well underway, it is clear that feeding children the right foods can make the difference between life and death.  

All the evidence is here:

Doctors Without Borders is one of the many organizations that is treating malnourished children under the age of 5 with "ready-to-use" therapeutic foods such as "Plumpy Nut," which contain animal protein like milk. Experience has shown time and again that the standard food aid package of blended cereal grain flours does not have the proper nutrients to prevent malnutrition in rapidly growing children under five, or to prevent disease and death in already malnourished children.  

Based on this evidence, two things seem apparent: 

1) It is unacceptable that we provide foods to babies in poor countries that we wouldn't feed our own babies (i.e. we wouldn't give just cereal to children under 1-year without still supplementing with breast milk or formula).
2) It is pretty clear that cereals have little nutritional value. They may fill bellies and provide caloric energy, but children do not grow or develop because they are eating cereal. This begs the question, "why do we even feed babies cereal at all?" 

I am convinced that the human body was designed to survive on animal foods. No sentimentality or ideological beliefs can change this.


3idam said...

Thank you for sharing this

PottsAntiques said...

So sorry to read this, and to learn we seem to have trouble treating others with dignity; i.e., giving them real food.

Stephanie said...

Thank you both.

Mac-Nutrition said...

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the idea that if we did away with cereals and grains that we could not sustain populations such as those in Africa on animal produce alone....

Stephanie said...

My short answer would be - you are right; we could not. In fact, we wouldn't have the global population we have today if it weren't for modern agriculture and grain production.

But my argument here is not that we should do away with grains. They are a staple food in many cultures and support the dietary (but not necessarily nutritional) needs of whole populations. They fill stomachs and provide energy for older children and adults. My argument is that it doesn't contain the nutritional value that allows babies to develop and grow. So if it isn't appropriate for children under two in developing countries, it certainly isn't appropriate for babies anywhere.

Most doctors in western countries recommend rice cereal for "babies first food" and I wonder why. There are some who would argue that introducing grains before 1-year can generate food allergies and inflammatory diseases like celiac and other auto-immune conditions, as well as begin the cycle of insulin resistance increasing the risk of diabetes, obesity, and other chronic diseases later in life. Whether or not this has been proven, I still don't see the rationale in feeding babies empty calories that turn to sugar - when we who live in wealthy countries have every opportunity to feed babies quality food like milk, vegetables, eggs, meats, and fruit.

I am no expert in agriculture or any kind of farming, and I am not so idealistic that I think the entire world can live on the diet that I subscribe to (although I know that even the people in Somalia that we speak of had cattle and farm animals they subsisted on before the drought). The purpose of this post is to provide evidence that corn, soy, and other processed grain flours are not nutritional foods. Therefore those of us who have a choice should make the right ones. That includes what we eat, what we feed our children, and what we encourage our governments to donate to the rest of the world.

Mac-Nutrition said...

No real need to continue the conversation really... I 100% agree with everything you have said and don't feel I can add anything! haha.