Are Your Baby’s Jars Missing a Mineral Munch? Uncover What Lurks in Store-Bought Baby Foods!

When it comes to feeding our little ones, store-bought, ready-made baby food might seem like a convenient option. But beware, a recent study at the University of Greenwich School of Science reveals that such baby foods contain just a fraction of the recommended daily amounts of essential minerals.

A Critical Nutrient Gap in Baby Food

The study analyzed eight sample jars produced by four popular brands sold at leading supermarkets. The samples included four meat and four vegetable varieties, with one jar containing pasta. The investigation found that an infant fed one meat jar, one vegetable jar, and 600ml of formula milk would receive less than 20% of the recommended daily supply of calcium, zinc, magnesium, copper, and selenium.

For a growing infant, deficiencies in zinc and calcium can be especially concerning. Zinc is vital for normal growth, development, and the function of enzymes and hormones 1 2 3. As zinc does not store well in the body, a daily intake is essential for growth.

Calcium, on the other hand, is crucial during a baby’s first year, when their skeletal mass doubles 4. Essentially, 99% of the body’s entire calcium supply is deposited as calcium salts in the bones and teeth5 6.

Dr. Nazanin Zand, who led the research, warns, “Our investigation showed that there was a need to improve the nutritional value of some complementary baby feeds. In addition, the regulations governing them need to be tighter and more robust.” The study was published in the Food Chemistry Journal.

The Importance of Essential Minerals

An infant’s body undergoes rapid growth and development; therefore, it’s crucial to ensure they receive an adequate supply of minerals. Here’s a closer look at the importance of each mineral missing from store-bought baby foods.

Calcium: Along with building strong bones and teeth, calcium also plays a role in nerve signal transmission, muscle function, and blood clotting7. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends a calcium intake ranging from 200mg to 260mg per day for babies up to 12 months.

Zinc: Zinc is an essential component of thousands of proteins in the body and is required for cell division, wound healing, and a proper sense of taste and smell 8. The NIH recommends 2-3mg of zinc per day for babies up to 12 months.

Magnesium: This mineral plays a role in over 300 enzyme reactions within the body and is critical for muscle function, blood sugar control, and nerve function 9. The NIH suggests an intake of 30-75mg of magnesium per day for infants up to 12 months.

Copper: Copper is essential for producing red and white blood cells, maintaining nerve cells and the immune system, and forming collagen 10. The NIH recommends an intake of 200-220 micrograms (mcg) of copper per day for infants up to 12 months.

Selenium: This mineral acts as an antioxidant, protecting the body from oxidative stress, and plays an essential role in DNA synthesis, reproduction, and metabolism 11. The NIH recommends a selenium intake of 15-20mcg per day for babies up to 12 months.

Alternative Baby Feeding Options

To ensure your baby receives the necessary nutrients, consider incorporating homemade baby food into their diet. You can start by introducing pureed fruits and vegetables, such as avocado, bananas, and sweet potatoes, and then progress to more complex textures and protein sources, like pureed meat, poultry, or beans. When preparing your own baby food, make sure to follow proper food safety guidelines and avoid adding sugar, salt, or other unnecessary additives.

If you still prefer to rely on store-bought options, look for organic baby food products and scrutinize the labels to ensure the products contain essential minerals. Additionally, consider supplementing their diet with additional sources of calcium, zinc, magnesium, copper, and selenium.

In Conclusion

Although store-bought baby foods seem convenient, they may be short-changing your child’s nutritional needs. Be aware of the critical nutrient gap in these products and take the necessary steps to provide your little one with the essential minerals required for optimum growth and development.

  1. Rink L, Gabriel P. Zinc and the immune system. Proc Nutr Soc 2000; 59: 541-52. 
  2. Simmer K, Thompson RP. Zinc in the fetus and newborn. Acta Pediatr Scand 1985; 319(Suppl): 158. 
  3. Cousins RI. Zinc. In: Present Knowledge in Nutrition. Ed. Zeigler EE, Filer LJ. Washington DC. ILSI Press 1996. 
  4. Duggan C, Watkins J, Walker A. Nutrition in Pediatrics: basic science, clinical applications. BC Decker, 2008: p30. 
  5. Thomas B and Bishop J. Manual of Dietetic Practice, Fourth Edition. Blackwell Publishing, 2007. 
  6. Greer F, Krebs N. American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition. Optimizing Bone Health and Calcium Intakes of Infants, Children and Adolescents. Pediatrics 2006; 117 (2): 578-585. 
  7. National Institutes of Health. Calcium: Fact Sheet 
  8. National Institutes of Health. Zinc: Fact Sheet 
  9. National Institutes of Health. Magnesium: Fact Sheet 
  10. National Institutes of Health. Copper: Fact Sheet 
  11. National Institutes of Health. Selenium: Fact Sheet