Whoa Baby! Even Some Baby Food is Acidic!
We heard about a baby with reflux who was on antireflux medication and so we wondered — Could there be acid in baby food, too? We tested 30 baby foods (Gerber, Beech Nut, and Earth’s Best brands). We were interested in whether organic baby foods were less acidic than those that were processed, and we were surprised to find that some of the “organic” baby foods had added citric acid as a preservative.
Before telling you the results of the testing, I would like to convey to you an insight I had relatively recently. A few weeks ago, I had sitting in my office a beautiful 20-year-old singer who likely will be performing on Broadway someday soon, but her reflux had been so bad that she had to have reflux surgery (just two weeks prior to her visit to me). When she came in, she was smiling ear to ear, “My voice has never been better.” I thought to myself why would a 20-year-old healthy woman with good habits and a good diet have such bad reflux? Then, she turned and said to me, “ALL my friends have reflux.” At that moment, it hit me that there are generations of refluxers. I, as a baby boomer, was a “first generation refluxer.” I didn’t start getting exposed to the food supply acidity, saturated fat, etc. until my college years. This 20-year-old, however, was born in 1990, and all she ever had experienced as a “second generation refluxer” was acid, acid, and more acid in almost everything that she ate and drank. Now, babies are born as “third generation refluxers.” For this new generation, virtually everything, including even some of the “organic” labeled baby foods have acid added. What’s organic about adding citric or ascorbic acid? Is it just that it comes from citrus? Let’s help protect our babies by limiting the acidity of their food intake. That’s what prompted this post on the acidity of baby food.
We went to three grocery stores, and we were a little surprised that there were only three brands of prepared baby food (Gerber, Earth’s Best, and Beech Nut). We tested 30 bottles/cartons containing fruit, vegetables, pasta, meat, and starches. All of the pH measurements were made using a Minilab ISFET pH meter (Model IQ128 with Silicon Chip Sensor, Pulse Instruments, Carlsbad CA). The pH meter was carefully cleaned between measurements; it was noted that the device returned to neutral pH before making the next measurement.
We tested the pH of the three brands, Gerber, Earth’s Best, and Beech Nut Baby Foods. These were all prepared foods, and thus we were concerned about the “Title 21 effect,” the adding of acid as a preservative to discourage bacterial growth; see “The Missing Link” in this blog for more on Title 21. First, there is acid added to “organic” baby foods. I guess that this is considered organic by the manufacturer, because it is citric acid. It is not, however, in the interest of reflux. To me, organic means the food is unadulterated! Second, some of the fruit is just acidic by itself. Green apples have a pH below 4.0, so some of the truly organic apple sauce also is acidic. Here’s the message: your baby can have apple sauce sometimes, but it should not be a staple of her/his diet. Feed your baby low-acid foods to the greatest extent possible, especially if she/he has reflux. Finally, there is consideration for fat content. Thankfully, all of the baby foods we tested except for the Beech Nut Macaroni and Cheese were low in saturated fats.
Top 10 baby Foods for Reflux That We Tested (Obviously we couldn’t test them all)
|Beech Nut||Turkey Rice Dinner||5.7||None|
|Beech Nut||Mixed Vegetables||5.7||None|
|Earth’s Best||Organic Garden Vegetables||5.4||None|
|Gerber||Chicken Noodle||5.3||Folic Acid|
|Earth’s Best||Organic Spinach & Potatoes||5.3||None|
|Beech Nut||Corn & Sweet Potatoes||5.3||None|
|Earth’s Best||Organic Corn & Butternut Squash||5.3||None|
Bottom 10 baby Foods for Reflux That We Tested
|Gerber||Apple Blueberry||3.7||Ascorbic Acid|
|Earth’s Best||Organic First Apples||3.8||Ascorbic Acid|
|Beech Nut||Applesauce||3.9||Ascorbic Acid|
|Beech Nut||Pears & Raspberries||3.9||Ascorbic Acid|
|Gerber||Pears||4.0||Ascorbic and Citric Acid|
|Beech Nut||Rice Cereal and Apples with Cinnamon||4.0||Ascorbic, Citric, and Folic Acid|
|Beech Nut||Oatmeal & Apples||4.0||Ascorbic, Citric, and Folic Acid|
In summary, we recommend that babies generally be fed foods with a pH of greater than 5. having more acidic food sometimes is okay, but not as a regular diet.