How Babies Across the World are Introduced to Spicy Foods

It might seem quite intense to introduce chili peppers to babies, but in other parts of the world, spicy foods and chili peppers are the norms especially in cases of tradition.

In some countries. there are beliefs that chili peppers are good luck for the baby, while in some countries it is not lucky at all.

Most countries use spices not only to add flavor to their cooking but also to home remedies as many people believe chili peppers and spices have healing properties.

Here are some ways families around the world introduce Chili Peppers and Spicy Foods to their babies:

LIBERIA ~ it is custom for someone in the immediate family (except the mother) to put a smudge of cayenne pepper in the newborn’s nose within the first 3 days of birth. This is repeated four or five times in the coming months. It is believed that cayenne pepper will help the baby be prepared for the rough times in life - to make her/him courageous and strong and not fall sickly. Liberians use cayenne as a staple, not only in cooking but also for treatment and prevention of colds and other viruses and pains.

INDIA ~ At about 8 months, when the baby has graduated from baby food, Indian families introduce curry spices lightly to the baby’s diet. To tame the spice, they mix the spices in yogurt and ghee.

SOUTH KOREA ~ In some Korean families, tradition has it that when a baby is born families perform a ritual called Geumjul. It is the simple task of hanging a bit of twine at the entrance of the front door. The twine is twisted to the left and white pieces of paper and charcoal are inserted in between the woven pieces of twine. It the baby is a boy, dried red chili peppers are also inserted in the twine. This ritual is done to ward off any evil spirits away from the baby’s home.

In addition, parents warm their baby’s palate to the spicy foods early on by feeding them Kimchi, spicy and fermented cabbages and radishes used as a condiment in many Korean dishes. By the age of one, children are already accustomed to spicy native foods.

JAPAN ~ Whether it be superstition or folklore, pregnant women in Japan are warned not to eat spicy foods. It is believed that her baby will be born with a short temper. However, after the baby is born wasabi, the very spicy paste-like condiment, is introduced to the baby to try with their first sushi roll.

MEXICO ~ a common food for babies in Mexico when they are at the age to consume mushy foods is avocado smashed with a bit of chili and lime.

UNITED STATES ~ An old wives’ tale has it that when a pregnant woman eats strawberries or chili peppers, her baby could be born with a birthmark. In the US, children are not conditioned to eat spicy foods. Most baby foods are bland and unseasoned - eating jarred baby foods, to rice cereal, to chicken nuggets.

NOTE: Many of these are old traditions, wives’ tales, or folklore. Please consult your pediatrician and doctor before giving spicy foods and/or chili peppers to a baby or consuming spicy foods when pregnant.

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