Do kids need Omega 3 fatty acids? Here’s what our nutritionist says

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What does a walnut pie, a fish biryani, and a Spanish omelette have in common? They are all rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids have countless benefits when it comes to child’s growth and development. They are not only essential for a toddler’s healthy physical growth but important for his brain development as well. So what is this new nutrition superstar all about? We tell you all about it food, benefits and sources.

What is omega 3? 

Omega 3 is a type of essential fatty acid that is important for our body to function properly. They are essential because our body cannot synthesis omega 3, and it must be obtained from external food sources, the most popular being fish, fish oil, cod liver oil

Results from clinical research studies looking at the effect of omega-3 fatty acids, on children, on cognitive ability have noted some improvement in reading, learning and memory.

What are the food sources for Omega 3?

There are three types of Omega 3 fatty acids – EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid), DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) and ALA (Alpha Linolenic Acid). EPA and DHA are found in:

  • Fishes like Salmon, Sardines, Mackerels, Tuna, catfish  
  • Oysters
  • Eggs 

plant sources of ALA are:

  • walnuts,
  • flaxseeds, 
  • olive oil,
  • broccoli, 
  • leafy vegetables like spinach  
  • soya beans.

Additionally, certain foods are also good sources of Omega 3 fatty acids like:

  • Milk, curd and juices fortified with Omega 3 fatty acids. 
  • Cod Liver oil 

Benefits of omega 3

Omega 3 fatty acids have a wide range of health benefits to offer to all age groups right from the growing foetus to ageing centenarians. You can incorporate omega 3 rich food in your child’s diet even at the time of weaning. The positive effects of omega 3 fatty acids in children are :

  1. Immunity Booster : They enhance body’s immunity system. EPA and DHA strengthen the immunity cells, that constantly search for viruses and bacteria in our body. 
  2. Reduce inflammation : Omega 3 fatty acids reduce inflammation a known cause of many disorders such as heart diseases as we age.
  3. Brain Development and cognitive functions: Research says that regular consumption EPA and DHA during pregnancy has positive effects on the brain development of the foetus. DHA is also important for developing sensory and motor neural systems in a child’s brain that are responsible for various cognitive functions like attention and focus, learning abilities, problem solving etc . 
  4. Can Improve Eye health : DHA produces cells in our retina. Deficiency of DHA may cause visual problems in children. 
  5. May fight depression in children : While our bodies use DHA to structure neurones , EPA can influence the chemical levels in our brain that control our moods and behaviour. This way Omega 3 fatty acids may reduce the symptoms of depression like sadness, pessimism, sleeplessness in children.

Food over supplements for your child’s diet

Food sources are always better than eating supplements. Hence, the best bet is to include Omega 3 rich food in a child’s diet. Include fish such as salmon, mackerel, or tuna at least once or twice a week.

Your could serve fish in an interesting way such as Fish fry, Steamed and shredded fish used as a sandwich filling, fish curry, fish cutlets, fish biryani, or baked fish fingers.

Vegetarians could opt for plant sources such as walnuts, flaxseeds or soya products such as soy milk or tofu.

Recipe ideas for vegetarians include tofu chapathis, vegetable curries and kormas where flaxseeds or walnuts are ground and used, home-baked banana walnut cakes and flaxseed bread, dry fruits laddoo with walnuts, and spinach pasta. Among others, Flaxseed oil can also be used as a medium of cooking.

While the benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids are many, like with any other nutrient, exercise moderation. Give your child a variety of foods to eat and stay healthy.

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