There are a lot of things that have been said and many age-old adages exist that hold true to this day. Despite tons of research and changing news and views on many areas of our lives based on new findings, some things never change. Healthy eating and strong nutritional habits is one of those things. No matter how we cut it, diets that are low in fat and cholesterol, incorporate a significant amount of leafy greens, fruits and other vegetables plus lean meats – remain the best and most balanced nutrition possible. So it’s no surprise that researchers report that salt cravings begin at very early ages and stages.
We know that the formative years of an individual creates that person’s nutritional habits for life, for the most part. But how early does it start? Now that researchers from the non-profit Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia have studied babies’ reaction to salt water versus water with no salt or higher concentrations, the answer is clear. The slate seemed fairly clean at age 2 months, when the babies in the study were given two different solutions – one of plain water and one salty. At that age, babies were either indifferent to or did not like the salt water. Dr. Leslie Stein, PhD and colleagues reported that four months later the babies leaned toward the salty water, after having been exposed to table foods with higher starch content like mashed potatoes with milk and margarine or infant cereals.
The bottom line: the more exposure to salty foods in the time frame between age 2 months and 6 months, the more likeness for salty foods was present in children.
So my question is this: if babies can perceive the tastes they like or dislike as early as 2 months old, shaping how they develop just a few short months later – why can’t we go one step further back and prevent this disposition to unhealthy salty foods before they are even born? It is a known fact that while in utero the foods that mother eats are passed on to babies. Whether that means that they can taste it or if they just develop a natural inclination to the mother’s choices is not the point. The idea that prior to birth babies can and do develop tastes to certain foods means that it is all-important for the mother to watch what she eats during pregnancy.
Continuing with this concept, I strongly believe that the same should carry on during the breastfeeding stage. We know that tastes are transferred through breast milk, providing the infant and toddler with myriad variance of tastes. So, if it is in our hands to control how we shape our children’s palates and if we can do it to help teach early on the difference between liking healthy food versus not-so-healthy foods, what’s stopping us?
Now that we have this research to back up what I have been saying for years, I will further make it a point to advocate fostering early strong nutrition habits in toddler, infant and in-utero stages. And as I come across thousands of people through my practice as a Social Media Medicine expert, I hope to further this message to anyone and everyone that will listen.
It is important to note that though this research suggests the affinity toward salty foods to those exposed early on, the same concept can and most likely does apply to other food choices too. I have seen mothers that ate nothing but junk food during their entire pregnancy and lo and behold – those same children to this day even as adults, lean toward junk food rather than make healthy eating choices. The same holds true for processed carbohydrates (a pregnancy favorite for many moms), high sucrose, fructose and sugar items plus foods that have high cholesterol content.
Going back to the National Institute of Health-supported study that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, to further corroborate their findings researchers studied a subset of the original 61 babies to see whether 26 of them at preschool age were still exhibiting the same preference for salty foods. Based on reports by the preschoolers’ mothers, those that had been exposed to salty foods from age 2 months to 6 months were actively liking salt, even licking it from the surface of foods. What this seems to indicate is that the older kids get, the stronger the cravings become which is not necessarily a good thing when we’re dealing with less-than-healthy foods.
The new findings provides good food for thought – if we all watched what we ate during that relatively short 9 months of pregnancy, just think how healthy we’d be overall as a society!
Dr. Veronica Anderson is an MD, Functional Medicine practitioner, Homeopath. and Medical Intuitive. As a national speaker and designer of the Functional Fix and Rejuvenation Journey programs, she helps people who feel like their doctors have failed them. She advocates science-based natural, holistic, and complementary treatments to address the root cause of disease. Dr. Veronica is a highly-sought guest on national television and syndicated radio and hosts her own radio show, Wellness for the REAL World, on FOX Sports 920 AM “the Jersey” on Mondays at 7:00 pm ET.
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