Surely you've heard the buzz about Omega-3 essential fatty acids. Turns out most American's aren't getting enough of them. So what exactly is Omega-3, and why do our kids need it? Well, Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid that works in the body to balance Omega-6 essential fatty acids. Here's why: Omega-6 causes an inflammatory response in the body, and Omega-3 causes an anti-inflammatory response. So, as you can see, these two work well together. The problem is, we're getting up to 25 times more Omega-6 than Omega-3! That's not a very good balance, so it's no surprise us American's are so sick all the time!
So, what foods do we get Omega-3 from? Ideally, our bodies get Omega-3's from cold-water fish like salmon, tuna, or halibut. I know what you're thinking. There is no way my kid is going to eat salmon, tuna, or halibut. I hear you. However, before you brush off trying to introduce these fishy creatures into your diet, consider why Omega-3 is so important:
- It plays a crucial role in brain function, as well as normal growth & development in children.
- Having healthy brain function is important for healthy behavioral function (i.e. less temper tantrums, anyone?)
- It can reduce the symptoms of many common childhood ailments like asthma, eczema, and ADHD.
That being said, I suggest you try, at least once a week, to get your child to eat a cold-water fish. Even a couple bites is a fair shot. My children, surprisingly, started eating salmon on a regular basis after they realized it reminded them of chicken (I, of course, remove all the skin, just giving them the meat, so it looks nice and neat on their plate, no sliminess). In the meantime, there are also other ways you can get Omega-3 awesomeness into your kids:
1. Fortified Foods. Often, you'll see foods at the grocery store labeled 'fortified with... '. If your kids like scrambled eggs for instance, I highly recommend you spring for the eggs that are not only organic and free-range, but that are also fortified with Omega-3. Your kid's bodies - and brains - will thank you.
2. Flaxseeds. Flaxseeds contain a version of essential fatty acid called ALA. What this means is that your body has to convert this into the useable form found in fish, EPA and DHA. Flaxseeds come ground up, and are stored in the refrigerator, and can be snuck into about every single thing your children eat. I regularly put flaxseeds in things like oatmeal, pancakes, cookies or other baked goods, and yogurt. A teaspoon here and there will add up!
3. Supplements. Some parents are not into supplementing their kid's diets, and that's fine. We choose two supplements for our boys: A fish oil (naturally strawberry flavored, from Nordic Naturals) and a greens-based multivitamin made with various powered forms of things like chlorella and wheatgrass. It's a great way to add in what the diet may be lacking, because even though I know what my kids are eating at home, it's a different story when they go to school or a friend's house. *Please always check with your healthcare professional before adding supplements to your child's diet: I am not a doctor*
Now that you have some reasonable steps you can take to get more Omega-3's into your kid's diet, do it! It takes a few weeks for the benefits of regular Omega-3 consumption to become evident, so please don't give up. It is also so important to continue once you do start seeing positive changes - this is a lifelong addition, and what a wonderful gift it is to give health to a child!