You may have heard about the many health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. Is your child getting enough of them in their diet?
"Pretty much everybody’s diet is deficient in omega-3s,” says David C. Leopold, MD, director of integrative medical education at the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine in San Diego. “I think that’s why adding them back in seems to have so many health benefits..."
Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly those found in fish oils, are necessary for our bodies to work properly and furthermore, are believed to prevent cholesterol from clogging our arteries, keeping our hearts healthy. Omega-3s are also thought to help fight everything from diabetes to cancer — they may even aid neurological repair and provide benefits to people with certain psychological disorders.
Omega-3s are especially important for children’s health right from the beginning, and in fact, even from before they're born. Here’s some of the evidence.
Cognitive development Some studies show that infants fed formulas enriched with the omega-3 fatty acid DHA show improvements in hand-eye coordination, attention span, social skills, and intelligence test scores. Studies have shown that children born to mothers who took supplements of omega-3s (DHA and EPA) during pregnancy and then during the first months of breastfeeding scored higher on cognitive tests at 4 years of age compared to children whose mothers did not take supplements of DHA and EPA.
Asthma risk A 2008 study found that the teenage children of women who took fish oil during pregnancy were less likely to have developed asthma.
Growth There’s some evidence that when omega-3s are added to formula, it promotes growth and brain development in premature infants.
Preterm labor A 2003 study found that women who ate eggs enriched with omega-3s were less likely to go into premature labor than women who ate standard eggs.
Although none of these studies are conclusive, there’s good reason to make sure that infants – and pregnant women -- are getting their omega 3s such as DHA and EPA.
Where Can Omega-3 Fatty Acids be Found?
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in salmon, tuna, sardines and anchovies, and other types of fish – doctors recommend eating fatty fish at least twice a week.
Simple Omega-3 Recipes
- For an Omega 3-friendly smoothie, mix 1 banana, a cup of frozen blueberries or raspberries, 1/4-cup of low-fat yoghurt, a cup of soya milk and enough ice for a good blend.
- Tuna is a great source for Omega-3 fatty acids, and tuna sandwiches are fast and easy. Mix a can of cooked tuna in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and a handful of chopped celery. Spread and serve.
- Introducing spinach to picky palettes can be a challenge. Try a simple spinach pasta dish. Start by blanching washed spinach for one minute; drain, chop and set aside. Then start your pasta. In a food processor, mince a clove of garlic, your spinach, 1 cup of low-fat cottage cheese and 1/4-cup milk. Combine 1/4-cup of Parmesan cheese, a pinch of salt and pepper, and a handful of of jarred roasted red peppers. Toss with pasta and serve warm.