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Citrus fruit – juicy, but good for baby?

Citrus fruit – juicy, but good for baby?
Jodi Harris

Citrus fruits are packed with vitamin C, fibre and antioxidants and babies love them because they are sweet and juicy. Tangerines, satsumas and mandarins are also super-easy to carry and peel when out and about so they make the perfect winter snack.

When can you offer oranges to baby?

The question is when is the right time to introduce oranges? Citrus fruit is a common food allergen and may trigger reactions like upset tummies, diarrhoea and eczema in some children 1.
Our advice is to ensure you introduce citrus fruit after 6 months even if you have started weaning earlier and ideally after you have introduced some solids already. If you baby has allergies to other foods including dairy, please talk to your doctor or nutritional profession before introducing citrus fruit. Also, babies are more likely to develop allergies if parents or siblings have a eczema, asthma, hay fever or food allergies so take that into account before introducing citrus and talk to your health provider if you have any concerns.
Once you are ready to introduce citrus fruit, remember to offer oranges, lemons (may be a little juice in their purée) and grapefruit on their own with no other new foods being introduced 3 days before or after to ensure any reactions can be easily identified. If a reaction appears, remove citrus from the diary and reintroduce a couple of weeks later. If a reaction occurs again, talk t again, talk to your doctor or nutritionist.

Why are oranges and other citrus fruit so good for baby?

Citrus fruits are rich in polyphenols as well as vitamin C2, which have fabulous antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and can modulate the immune system and prevent allergies and other reactions to foods 3.
And of course, in the middle of winter, baby’s immune system is in need of a boost with all those bugs going around, and oranges are at their very best, which means more nutrients including immune-friendly Vitamin C!
Oranges, satsumas, tangerines, lemons and so on are also a great source of potassium, which is a fundamental mineral for baby growth and development 4
Babies need folic acid for adequate growth and citrus fruits are packed with this vitamin 5, as are many other fruits and vegetables.
And let’s not forget about beta-carotene and amazing antioxidant that you baby’s body can transform to vitamin A. And, yes, vitamin A is incredibly important to support brain and eye development.

Is orange juice a good option?

Nope, it isn’t! Even if freshly made. Mind you, fresh orange juice contains vitamin C but it is also quite high in sugar and since it has lost most of the fibre in the juicing process, the sugar is absorbed incredibly quickly. This can lead to spikes in energy followed by pronounced dips that both children and parents might find difficult to deal with!!
Fibre is also your baby’s gut best friend as it feed the good bacteria in the intestine and helps not just nutrient absorption but also keeping food reactions at bay 6
And if that wasn’t enough, vitamin C and the glucose in juice compete for the same transporters into the cells, so all that health-boosting vitamin C may actually not be absorbed 7.
Ready-to-drink juice contains much lower levels of vitamin C than the fresh fruit because this vitamin degrades over time 8 and long life juice has been pasteurised at high temperature which can reduce the vitamin C content 9 too.

So what can we do to preserve the nutrients in citrus fruit?

Avoid juicing and either enjoy straight after peeling and chopping/processing or freeze any purées as quickly as you can.
Ensure you and your little one enjoy the entire fruit, ideally freshly peeled because as soon as all that lovely vitamin C gets in touch with the air, the oxygen starts degrading it 9.
We use our Béaba Multiportion ® to freeze little shots of orange pulp when in season to add a vitamin C boost to pureés, smoothies and soups!

And here are some quick ideas with oranges, mandarins and even lime!

Orange-berry smoothie: Peel your oranges and remove the pips, then blend them until reduced to purée, add some frozen raspberries, breast or formula milk and you have a super healthy smoothie!

Veggie Purées: How about a steamed beetroot and orange purée? Lovely and sweet and packed with folic acid and vitamin C, just needs a little protein after 6 months, so why not add a handful of cooked cannellini beans and blitz again?

Hummus: Ensure you add lemon to help preserve the important vitamin E in olive oil.

Ice lollies are great to help soothe those teething gums. Just blitz a couple of handfuls of soft fruit (frozen is fine) in your Béaba Babycook ®  and add a few segments of fresh orange after removing any pith and pips and process until smooth. You can have that as a lovely smoothie with breakfast adding a little milk to thin it or freeze for a refreshing treat after dinner!

Finger food: thinking about how to feed your little one on-the-go, mandarins and tangerines are great finger foods and a staple in the baby-led-weaning repertoire. And can add a little sweetness to any lunch box!

Keep the bright colour of other fruits by drizzling lemon or lime juice on cut fruit to avoid discoloration – which is a sign of oxidation and therefore indicates nutrient loss! Especially avocado, a little lime juice rubbed on the cut side will stop it from getting brown and preserve vitamin C and E! You can use this little trick with on-the-go purees too – just add a little lemon or lime juice to preserve more nutrients on your way to the park or play dates.

And finally, it is important to expose your little one to all kinds of flavours including them more bitter citrus fruits, if nothing else, to avoid developing a sweet tooth!

Written by Purple Carrot Nutrition: https://purplecarrotnutrition.co.uk/