There is so much talk about the benefits of Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids that this topic definitely deserves some attention and clarification. What are they? Why do we need to worry about them? And how do we make sure that our kids are getting enough of them?
Omega 3’s & Omega 6’s are essential fatty acids (EFA’s) vs. the rarely talked about Omega 9’s which are non-essential. “Essential” because our bodies can’t make enough of them so we must get them from the food we eat. Omega 9 fatty acids on the other hand are non-essential because our bodies produce them in sufficient quantities.
The problem that we must concern ourselves with is that whereas the ideal ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids lies somewhere between 1:1 to 4:1, the average Western diet consists of a ratio of 10-25 times more omega 6’s than omega 3’s. We must bring this ratio back into balance in order to reap the numerous benefits that the EFAs provide.
Specifically, Omega 3 fatty acids have a positive effect on our children’s brain, heart, nervous system, eyes, and joints, to mention just a few benefits.
The following are a set of guidelines regarding the quantity of Omega 3 fatty acids that our children should be consuming in their diets:
0-12 months 500 mg
1 yr 600 mg
2-3 yrs 700 mg
4-6 yrs 1,000 mg
7-9 yrs 1,200 mg boys / 1,000 mg girls
10-12 yrs 1,400 mg boys/ 1,200 mg girls
13-15 yrs 1,500 mg boys / 1,200 mg girls
The following are a list of dietary sources of Omega 3 fatty acids:
Fish are the highest source of omega 3 fatty acids (Ex. salmon, mackerel, sardines, and fresh tuna)
Grass fed products (pasture fed animals are believed to be higher in Omega 3 fatty acids)
Algae & seaweed (Ex. soak seaweed and drizzle soya sauce, honey, & sesame seed dressing on it)
Flaxseed oil is one of the highest plant sources of Omega 3 fatty acids
Hemp Oil, Olive Oil, Soybean Oil
Nuts (ex. almonds, walnuts…)
Fish oil capsules
Some important factors to be aware of:
High heat, light, and oxygen destroy EFAs so try to avoid cooked or heated forms (ex. raw nuts are a better source than roasted nuts)
Don’t cook with flaxseed oil (use for salad dressings, etc.)
Replace margarine, butter, & common oils with flaxseed or extra virgin olive oil with a pinch salt (which will simulate the taste of the former)
When a recipe calls for vegetable oil replace it with half as much olive oil and a pinch of salt
Extra virgin olive oil and Grapeseed oil are good for cooking since they can withstand high heat
Additional ways to incorporate more Omega 3 fatty acids into your child’s diet:
Add flaxseed to salads, yogurt, cereal, smoothies, etc.
Drizzle flax oil on food (ex. Veges, salad dressings)
Use flax oil on bread instead of butter or margarine
There are an abundance of ways to get your children eating a diet higher in Omega 3 fatty acids – either directly though fish or indirectly through the numerous ways I have suggested. Adding a boost to your child’s diet is as simple as that!