I’ve often wondered about how kids now differ from the ones back in my day. Apart from the incessant tapping and sliding fingers using a touch screen, kids these days seem to have a growing percentage of autism, heightened sensitivity to allergies, and poor nutrition.
So what has changed? Children’s eating habits are now often driven by needs other than physiological ones. Most, if not all, eat food not just for its nutritional value. They eat because they like the taste, because “it’s time” to eat, and because snacks (usually fast food) are readily available in an instant. It comes as no surprise that children are reaping unwanted results.
It is completely understandable why parents find it so difficult to encourage healthy eating among their children. While the intention to serve nutritious food is surely there, processed food has so many factors that make them so appealing, especially to young children. It is so convenient to hand to kids “on-the-go” snacks that they can eat in the car, or other places when there is enough time to prepare food. Moreover, they are usually cheap – not always, but usually compared to individually prepared meals. Finally, there is the advertising factor. Given the choice between a slice of fruit or a colorful box of crackers with assorted sprinkles, chances are high that children will most likely choose the latter.
Unfortunately, the problem is magnified further: nowadays, even something as innocuous as a slice of fruit, a serving of vegetables, or a glass of milk can be detrimental to our children. But how can that be?
Due to the necessity of feeding a rapidly expanding population, there has been a growing dependence on pesticides and growth hormones in agriculture. Approximately 1.1 billion pounds of various chemicals are used each year, with the sole intention of mass producing food. Though these chemicals help fast-track the supply chain, there is a strong possibility that they are likewise contributing to long-term disadvantages to mental and physical health. Indeed, this is especially true in the case of children.
Recently, I had a very nice and highly informative lunch with Ed Feist, who is the former president of the Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association of the Philippines. Over an all-organic meal composed of leek, asparagus, and herb soup, quinoa and black beans, and sliced fruit, Ed explained in detail how neurotoxic pesticides in food are the main reason why there is significant increase of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), autism and widespread declines in IQ among children. Moreover, exposure to pesticides during the prenatal period is also linked with neurodevelopmental delays in children, especially psychomotor skills and other measures of cognitive function.
I was shocked at what Ed was saying, especially since these pesticides are widely used in farming and food production all over the world. To illustrate his point further, he showed me a study conducted in Yaqui Valley, Mexico that produced alarming results: children who were exposed to pesticides and chemically modified food showed significantly lower scores in IQ exemplified by their inability to draw a simple concept like a person. On the other hand, children that had little exposure to chemicals and pesticides demonstrated a far better grasp of abstract reasoning and were able to draw people figures. If you compare the drawings, the difference is night and day.
Based on this and numerous other studies it is clear that children can benefit greatly from a diet of organic food, particularly at a very young age. From the time they are conceived until they are a little over one year old, infants are most vulnerable to the effects of toxins in food. To begin with, their smaller size automatically means that they take in more chemicals and pesticides per pound of body weight than adults. Once ingested, their immature digestive systems absorb these faster, and their kidneys are less able to filter out and break down these chemicals, thus remaining in their system for a longer period.
Accordingly, an organic diet is best complemented by high-quality, certified organic milk. Akin to its solid food counterpart, the best organic milk comes from cows that are cared for using completely natural methods, graze on pesticide-free grass, and consume a diet that is 100% free from hormones and antibiotics. As a result, genuine organic milk is composed only of lactose, and is free from maltodextrine, corn syrup solids, and sucrose, which can cause bloating, gas, diarrhea, and obesity. Likewise, its LCP (long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids) content – essential for the healthy development of the brain, nervous system, and eyes – is completely naturally – occurring, as well as its GOS (galacto-oligosaccharides) to support the growth of healthy gut bacteria.
Too much of something can never be good, and it seems this applies to food science as well. It may be high time to go back to how mother nature intended us to eat, and to “think organic.”