The Beef Checkoff Program has recently released new research regarding beef as baby’s first food. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend the introduction of complementary foods to infants by 6 months of age. At that age, the infant’s needs for several nutrients, including iron, zinc, and calcium, can no longer be met with breast milk alone. Beef as a First Food resource explores the infant’s nutritional requirements and explains how beef provides infants with the iron and zinc needed for optimal cognitive and physical development. A new infographic has been developed as a resource and can be downloaded from http://www.iabeef.org/resources/nutrition-resources.
Importance of Iron
Iron is an essential nutrient for various metabolic processes and cognitive development in infants and children. Dietary iron is available in two forms, the heme iron found in meats is more bioavailable and has higher rates of absorption compared to nonheme iron. A primary function of iron is to make red blood cells which carry oxygen from the lungs to the muscles and brain which is vital for infants.
Zinc for Infants
Zinc is an essential mineral for growth and development. Current evidence shows its role in improving recall skills, reasoning, and attention in children. Zinc has critical functions in several body processes, including forming DNA, the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and protein for energy, boosting immunity, helping the body heal wounds, and maintaining normal blood glucose levels. Zinc deficiency in infants and children presents a special challenge, as recognition of the public health importance of inadequate intakes of zinc and its effects on morbidity and mortality in young children is growing.
Work with your physician
Although single grain cereals have been traditionally introduced as a first complementary food, strong evidence suggests that meats are a good source of high-quality protein, iron, and zinc, and should be added as one of the first solid foods for infants. The main indicators of whether a baby is ready for solid foods is the maturity of the digestive tract and the baby’s developmental readiness. It is recommended to work with your physician or healthcare provider to ensure the child is developmentally ready to introduce solid foods. For more information regarding beef research visit http://www.beefresearch.org/
About the Iowa Beef Industry Council: The Iowa Beef Industry Council is funded by the $1-per-head National Beef Checkoff Program and the $0.50-per-head Iowa State Beef Checkoff. Checkoff dollars are invested in beef promotion, consumer information, research, industry information and foreign market development, all with the purpose of strengthening beef demand. For more information, visit www.iabeef.org.