Introducing new foods to my baby has generally been low on my list of “favorite things.” Can her stomach really handle this? I wonder. Will she develop an allergy if she accidentally gets her hands on some peanut butter? Her pediatrician said that the only thing that was off limits was raw honey, but I still get a little bit nervous about handing her “complex” foods, like chicken. And also, it seems like every few years there are new guidelines: fish is out, but peanuts are in, peanuts are out, but be careful with eggs.
I’m especially nervous because it seems as though so many allergies are becoming so much more common. Gluten sensitivities, serious nut allergies, lactose intolerance more and more people I know have these diseases. Will feeding these foods to my baby too soon give her health issues for the rest of her life?
Recently I tossed a couple of cans of tuna into our favorite soba noodle dish and then hesitated for a minute about whether I should let my daughter try some, or just give her another bowl of applesauce. I crossed my fingers that there wasn’t anything I didn’t know about how harmful tuna could be to 9-month-olds, and let her have at it. It was just a little bit, I rationalized, certainly it couldn’t do her any harm.
It turns out there was something I didn’t know about serving fish to babies, but thankfully it was good news: Several studies have shown an association between eating fish at an early age and reduced allergies later on, the New York Times reports. Children who are introduced to fish between 6 and 12 months are less likely to have asthma-like symptoms and allergic diseases. Whether the association is a cause-and-effect relationship or evidence of other lifestyle choices is still known. However, one theory on why eating fish fights allergies has to do with immune-boosting omega-3 fatty acids: allergic diseases have increased as our consumption of these important fatty acids have decreased.
I’m glad to know I didn’t accidentally hand my child a spoonful of mercury poisoning or some harmful disease at dinner that night. And I’m glad to know that adding a can of tuna to our soba noodles every now and then may actually be more beneficial than I expected it to be.