What’s the most common health complaint your kid has had? Most likely, an upset tummy? During childhood, their little bodies are getting used to the new mashed and solid foods that you are introducing, and digestive trouble is a part of this process. While research has shown that popular prebiotic and probiotic foods (that help in building stores of healthy bacteria in the body and smoothen digestion) are crucial at this and later stages of life, these are not the only sources of gut-healthy nutrients for your kid. Whole grains are simple, easy to use, superfoods for healthy digestion.
Whole grains are complex, but the reason for feeding them to your kid is simple!
Whole grains are grains that contain every part of the grain including the bran and germ (outer layers). In processed/refined grains, the bran is removed which is where most of the nutrients are stored. Whole grains have additional nutrients like vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, and most importantly, fiber. During growing years, your child needs maximum nutrients for efficient development. Since whole grains are a good source of such essential nutrients, they will provide your kids with all the required nourishment.
According to a study conducted in 2013, we need to replace refined grains with complex whole grains; at least 2 servings of whole grains every day reduces the risk of getting type 2 diabetes later in life. Exposing your child to whole grains at an early stage lays the foundation of healthy eating for life. Examples of whole grains include whole-wheat flour, oats, brown rice, ragi/millet, bajra, jowar, maize, and rajgira/amaranth.
Benefits of eating whole grains
Whole grains have a lot of fiber, vitamins, and minerals – essential for several body functions and overall health. Research has shown that kids whose regular meals contain whole grains have significantly higher intakes of fiber and magnesium than those who don’t eat whole grains.
Good fiber intake is a major benefit of feeding your kids whole grains. It is key for efficient bowel movement and reduces constipation in kids. Toddlers (1–3 years old) need 19 grams of fiber each day, and the best way to meet this need is to include whole grains and fiber rich food in every meal of your child.
Healthy metabolism, nervous system, and immunity
Whole grains are rich in the B vitamins thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin, all of which are involved in metabolism. Your child needs these vitamins to convert and produce energy from fats, carbohydrates, and glucose. These vitamins are also important for a healthy nervous system. Whole grains are rich sources of zinc that keeps your immune system in fighting shape.
Prevents anaemia and strengthens bones
Another benefit of eating whole grains is that they are rich in minerals like iron, magnesium, and calcium. Iron transports oxygen throughout the body and helps prevent anemia. Magnesium and calcium build strong bones and release energy from the muscles.
Prevent chronic diseases in later life
As per research, consuming fiber (and/or whole grains) is linked to a 15%–30% lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, colorectal cancer, and death.
Whole grains are powerhouses of antioxidants that build your kid’s immunity and help fight infections and diseases. A study indicates that eating whole grains regularly leads to lower rates of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Reduction in cancer and premature death is another benefit linked to eating whole grains.
Help keep weight in check
A 2016 study showed that feeding your kids whole grains is one of the most efficient way to keep them from becoming obese. Eating whole grains increases the feeling of fullness (while getting all the nutrients), resulting in less food intake. They also increase metabolism and digestion, in turn helping in weight control.
May reduce the asthma risk in kids
Feeding your kids whole grains like oats early in life may ward off asthma and other such allergic conditions. According to a study in 2010, children who were fed oats as infants were less likely to have persistent asthma.
How is gut health linked to whole grain consumption
Gut microbiota is an ensemble of bacteria that live in our large intestine and help the body digest foods that are not digested in the stomach or small intestine. They are also responsible for producing some vitamins (B and K). A healthy gut microbiota is important for a healthy immune system and digestive functioning.
In the first 2-3 years of life, the gut microbiota of infants quickly becomes diverse and rich. Disruptions in the evolving gut microbiota during this critical developmental period can impact brain development and compromise their immunity and digestion.
“We know that the first few years of life are important for microbiota establishment. You are born with very few microbes, and microbial communities assemble on and in your body through those first years of your life,” said Joseph Petrosino, researcher at Baylor and senior author of this study.
Researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine (Houston, USA) found that the developing gut microbiome undergoes three distinct phases of microbiome progression: a developmental phase (months 3–14), a transitional phase (months 15–30), and a stable phase (months 31–46). This makes it super important for kids to eat high-fiber foods like whole grains and cereals that can nourish these microbiotas.
Make whole grains a must-have for the child
Whole grains have such a profound effect on kids’ growth and development that making them the star of kids’ diet is a no-brainer! Being a mom means that you are always in the middle of hectic activity, cooking food, cleaning spills, and singing soothing lullabies. So, here’s a tip to make whole grain inclusion as convenient as possible for you. Buy organic whole grains online (going organic will give added benefits for your kid) and have them delivered right at your doorstep at your convenience. Coming to the next step: how to make the little one eat it? Feeding whole grains to your child does not need to be boring! Include these in your everyday recipes and figure out the dishes that the kid is most likely to gobble up. Get creative and make the meal enjoyable and fun for your little one.
Pick the right grains, tweak some recipes
Whole grains are found in foods like bread, breakfast cereals, whole wheat pasta, or noodles. So an easy and efficient way to increase the amount of whole grain in diet is to replace white bread with wholegrain bread. Try incorporating different whole grains such as oats and millet through oatmeal and oat biscuits.
One of the easiest and fastest way to include whole grains in a 6-month baby’s diet is by feeding them oats porridge or ragi porridge. Organic oats are even better as they are free from synthetic fertilizers and chemicals.
Some other excellent whole grains are Proso millet and Barnyard millet which have a higher nutritive value compared to major cereals such as wheat, rice, and maize. Millet contain high calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, zinc, dietary fiber, polyphenols, and protein content and are ideal for children who are gluten intolerant. As millet is easy to digest, it is perfect for consumption by infants. A simple recipe would be to make millet or oats porridge and add in a grated fruit like apple and make a tasty and nutritious meal for you child.
Each grain has its own unique nutritional value. So include most whole grains in some or the other form to reap all the nutritional benefits. So what are you waiting for? Grab a whole grain of your choice, try a recipe for your little one and let us know your experience.