The Importance of Omega 3s for Children
Most of us are well aware that Omega-3 fatty acids play an integral role in adult health, but Omega-3 benefits do not escape our littles, either! A diet filled with brain-healthy fats has been shown to positively affect behavioural and physical development, reduce inflammation, and even aid emotional health. We’ll take a look at why you should never skip Omega-3 foods, and I’ll even give you a few baby food ideas to help Omega-charge the whole family.
What the Heck is an Omega-3?
Omega-3s come in three forms: ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). ALA is found in plant oils such as canola, soybean, and rapeseed, while DHA and EPA hide happily in seafood. When baby led weaning, include different sources of each type in your family’s diet to make sure they’re getting enough.
Essentially, Omega-3s provide a cushion for cells. They’re one of the “main ingredients” of the membrane surrounding them—like a protective lubricant. Omega-3’s support the growth, regeneration, and overall structure of each cell, which is something we definitely want for our developing children.
Omega-3 Benefits Have No Age Limit
Omega-3 foods for babies and children are important to ensure cell function is healthy and supported into adulthood, especially for brains and hearts. This is why those horse-sized prenatal supplements are recommended during pregnancy—baby needs them before they even leave the womb.
For kiddos who’ve already made their way to the dinner table, there are special Omega-3 benefits:
Studies have shown that babies given DHA fortified formula develop better hand-eye coordination, social skills, higher IQs, and attention. Furthermore, breastfed children whose mothers took regular Omega-3 (DHA and EPA) supplements also score higher on IQ tests at four years of age compared to children whose mothers did not.
DHA appears to enhance physical and brain development in premature babies, leading to the belief that DHA aids in overall cell growth.
Children (and adults) who have asthma may benefit from Omega-3’s anti-inflammatory power. Neater still, children born to mothers who took DHA and EPA supplements while pregnant may be less likely to develop asthma at all.
Conclusive evidence is still in the air, but a few studies show that children diagnosed with ADHD are often deficient in Omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oil supplements have been used to reduce hyperactivity and behavioural problems, as well as heighten attention span.
This one applies to children of any age, 1 to 100. Fish oil has been implemented in studies for depression, bipolar, and anxiety treatment, and positive results have been shown in children. Researchers found these patients often had lower levels of Omega-3s in red blood cell membranes, resulting in decreased neuro-communication. Also worth a thought—cultures who eat more fish report lower instance of chronic depression.
Evidence shows that children at risk for type 2 diabetes are less likely to develop the condition if fed a diet high in Omega-3 foods.
This one is my favorite! Perhaps our littles don’t need any extra power, but as parents, we can always use a healthy pick me up. Incorporating Omega-3 foods into your diet will help give you a constant one-up in the fuel department.
Perhaps the greatest Omega-3 benefit is that eating a balanced, healthy diet makes it difficult to become deficient, but it’s good to be aware of the risks.
Lacking Omega-3s is believed to lead to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, improper eye and brain development, memory loss, and mental and behavioural health impairment, as well as other developmental problems.
Omega-3 deficiency is associated with retina deformation in infants—it is a major player in eye development. Neuro-developmental complications have also been linked to deficiency, as Omega-3 is a cognitive building block that works in your child’s brain until they’re around two years old.
How Much Does My Child Need?
Don’t worry! Your children only need a teeny bit, so healthy diet should do the trick.
Babies from birth to twelve months old need 0.5 g of Omega-3 per day. Toddlers need about 0.7 g, and preschoolers (between 4 and 8 years old) need 0.9 g per day.
As children age, boys require more than girls. Boys 9-13 should have 1.2 g and girls 1.0 g per day, while boys 14-18 need around 1.6 g and girls 1.1 g.
If you’re considering supplements, make sure to speak with your doctor first.
Where to Find Omega-3s
Omega-3 foods are so easy to find! They’re in fatty fish, nuts, seeds, and oils, but many foods are also fortified with DHA and EPA.
For your reference, here’s a quick list of Omega-3-rich yummies.
Cod Liver Oil
Soybean Oil, Canola Oil, Rapeseed Oil
Breast Milk, especially when mom takes a DHA/EPA supplement
Fortified Sources (check your labels):
There are many more, so don’t be afraid to look them up! You’ll be surprised just how easy it is to make certain you and your littles are getting the right amount of Omega-3 in your diets.
Baby Led Weaning Recipes to Make Your Omega-3 Life Easy Peasy
Here are some of my favorite Baby Led Weaning Cookbook recipes that are packed with Omega-3 goodness!
These little patties are perfect for your entire family and are absolutely YUM! They contain the fish of your choice, eggs, and yogurt—all great Omega-3 foods!
Chia and flax seeds are wonderful sources of Omega-3s, and what better way to get your daily dose than a fruity treat? This baby led weaning recipe is also a great fiber boost and easy to tote for a quick snack.
Teaching you babes to love salmon at an early age is a wonderful start to an Omega-rich life. Mint yogurt dips adds an extra chance to add the fats, and the pancakes are veggie loaded! Win-win all around!
Seafood Chowder is one of my favorite baby led weaning foods and always a winner with the kids! It’s also an Omega-3 powerhouse thanks to salmon, milk, egg, and mussels.