Dried fruits and nuts like figs, raisins and apricots are loaded with nutrients. However, they are often accused of being high in sugar content. So, are they good or not to give to your children?
By Dr Neha Sanwalka
While some nutritionists advocate dried fruits and nuts for children, calling them a powerhouse of nutrition, there are others who present a different shade, leaving parents hassled and confused.
So, we, at ParentCircle, took the onus to debunk the myths and present the facts. Here’s all you need to know about dried fruits and nuts.
Dried fruits are fruits that are dried either naturally, by drying in the sun, or using specialised dryers. They include raisins, dates, figs, apricots, prunes, sweet lime and kiwis.
Nuts or tree-nuts are fruits with a hard shell and seeds that are edible. They include almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts, Brazil nuts and pecans.
Yes, they are beneficial. Here are some of their benefits:
Some children are known to develop allergies to nuts. Hence, it is recommended that nuts should be introduced in the child’s diet only after he completes one year. It is further recommended that if a child has a family history of allergy to nuts, they should be introduced in the diet only after the child completes three years. As dried fruit allergies are not very common, they can be introduced in a child’s diet when the child is around 10 – 11 months old.
Children between the ages of one and five may not have a very
co-ordinated chewing and swallowing action. Therefore, to prevent choking, nuts should be pounded to powder and dried fruits should be chopped very finely or made into a paste before giving them to children of this age group.
After five years of age, children may be given whole dried fruits and nuts. But, it is always better to keep an eye on children below the age of ten, to make sure they chew the nuts well and do not swallow them whole so as to prevent choking.
Did you know that dry fruits and nuts like almonds and raisins offer a host of benefits? Go through this video that discusses five dry fruits that are not only delicious but extremely healthy.
Traditionally, nuts are known to be warm in nature. Hence, it has always been recommended to soak nuts in water for some time before consuming them. It is believed that this tends to reduce the heat. But, there are no scientific studies supporting this belief. However, it is still recommended that nuts such as almonds and walnuts should always be soaked for four to five hours, peeled and then given to the child. This would reduce the anti-nutritional factors in nuts and improve the absorption of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. It is also beneficial to soak dried fruits such as raisins, figs and apricots overnight as it facilitates better digestion.
The maximum amount of dried fruits and nuts that can be included in the diet varies for each age group.
When consumed excessively, dried fruits and nuts can cause diarrhoea. Therefore, they should be consumed in moderate portions.
Being rich in fibre, dried fruits and nuts have a high satiety value and give a feeling of fullness. Therefore, the ideal time to give them to children is mid-morning or mid-evening. This will also tackle their hunger pangs between meals.
It is beneficial to include 2-3 soaked almonds or walnuts in children’s diet, once a day, from the age of two years. It aids memory and concentration, and improves overall health.
Once children reach puberty and enter adolescence, it is beneficial to include dried fruits and nuts in the diet, on a daily basis, as they are a store of nutrients and help in proper growth and development. Including dried fruits such as raisins, dates, figs and apricots in young girls’ diet is also known to help cope with menstrual pains.
Dried fruits and nuts are concentrated sources of calories. However, only if a child consumes dried fruits and nuts beyond the recommended intake, would his total calorie intake go beyond his daily requirements. And, that excess consumption of calories may result in weight gain.
Similarly, even though nuts have fats in them, consumption in right quantities do not increase blood cholesterol. In fact, as dried fruits and nuts are rich in fibre, minerals and vitamins, their inclusion in children’s daily diet can help keep blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure under control and prevent obesity. Only when consumption is very high as compared to the recommended intake, would there be a fluctuation in cholesterol levels leading to fattening.
Dried fruits are not known to cause allergies. However, a child can be allergic to nuts, including groundnuts, which are actually pulses. However, studies have shown that 20-40% of people who are allergic to groundnuts are also allergic to nuts. Hence, parents with children who have groundnut allergy should be careful when including other nuts in their children’s diet.
MYTH: Dried fruits and nuts only contribute calories and fats to the diet.
FACT: Dried fruits and nuts are a rich source of many vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids.
MYTH: Dried fruits and nuts help only to increase body weight.
FACT: Dried fruits and nuts are good for memory, prevent anaemia, build strong bones and boost immunity.
MYTH: Dried fruits and nuts should not be given to children who are below the age of five.
FACT: Dried fruits and nuts can be included in children’s diet after they complete one year.
MYTH: If a child has groundnut allergy, it means he is allergic to all nuts.
FACT: If a child has groundnut allergy, it does not mean he is allergic to all nuts.
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