Are your kids getting enough omega-3s?
You've probably heard that omega-3s (fatty acids like DHA, ALA and EPA) are an important nutrient that our bodies need. They are vital for many things including brain function, as well as cardiovascular health. Did you know that omega-3s are especially important for your children, starting even before they are born? Here, we'll tell you what your children need at each stage of development.
Amount needed During pregnancy & infancy
During pregnancy it is essential for both the mother and the growing baby to have DHA, a type of omega-3 fat, especially in the third trimester when brain and eye development are at their peak. The National Institute of Health recommends that pregnant or lactating women have 300 miligrams per day of DHA. (Normal, healthy individuals should have 160 milligrams per day.) However, DHA is not found in most prenatal vitamins.
Sources of DHA during pregnancy and breastfeeding
Significant amounts of DHA are found in animal organ meats (liver) and fatty fish. Because pregnant women are advised to avoid consuming large amounts of fish due to the mercury content, Dr. Barbara Levine, associate professor of nutrition in medicine at Weill Medical College of Cornell University, the purest source of DHA is not the fish itself, but rather what the fish consume: the ocean's vegetarian plant algae. She recommends DHA supplements produced from marine algae as a safe way for pregnant women to boost their fatty acid stores.
Once baby is born, it is important that nursing mothers continue to take 300 miligrams per day of DHA to ensure that baby receives enough DHA via breast milk. There are also formula options that include DHA nutrients.