The food that you give to your baby below the age of 2 years needs to be simple, easily digestible and nourishing. In our day to day life, there are many processes that we carry on during food preparation that enhance the digestibility and nutritive value of food. Soaking, fermenting and germinating and malting are such procedures that increase the digestibility of food.
Germination or sprouting.
Germination is a process in which whole grains or whole pulses are soaked in water overnight, taken out the next morning and tied in a muslin cloth for another 7-8 hours until the seedlings appear. The more general term for germinated seeds is sprouts.
Benefits: The process of germination largely increases the bioavailability of nutrients in the grains. When a seed germinates, the changes are profound. During sprouting the dormant enzymes get activated thereby increasing their digestibility and improving the availability of nutrients. During sprouting, minerals like calcium, zinc and iron are released from their bound form and thus are bio-available. The content of vitamins like riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, choline and biotin are increased.
Usage: Use of germinated seeds in a baby’s daily diet provides her with a large variety of easily digestible nutrients. Germinated seeds can be steamed and mashed to be used in a baby’s diet. The older babies can have them in this way.
It is a process of controlled germination of cereals. It activates the enzymes in the grain and causes conversion of complex starches into simple easily digestible form of carbohydrates. Malting also releases proteases (enzymes that help in the breakdown of proteins), in the grain and cause breakdown of proteins into simpler forms that can be easily digested.
Benefits: Malting is one of the very useful procedures that helps us to increase the digestibility of an otherwise complex form of food. Many baby food, breakfast cereal and milk concentrate manufactures use the process of malting to increase the digestibility of their products.
Amylase Rich Foods (ARF).
ARF is germinated cereals flours which are extremely rich in the enzyme alpha amylase. The baby food generally is thick, viscous gruel, which may be low in energy density. These foods are difficult to ingest and may not provide enough nutrients to the baby.
Usage: ARF are added to the baby’s food in powdered form. The amylase present in ARF causes partial digestion of infant’s food and makes it more digestible.
Benefits: It also increases the bio-availability of nutrients in the food. ARF’s also increase the energy density of the infant food. It also reduces the viscosity of infant food, thus making it easy to consume and hence increasing the acceptability of food.
These processes are very helpful in enhancing the nutritional status of babies by filling up any gaps in nutrition and they also help to increase the acceptability of food by the baby. A good knowledge of the processes help you determine what is best for your baby.