With summer 2016 holidays now in our memories, it is time to consider how best to nourish our bodies for a happy, healthy and successful new school year. The topic is not only relevant to school age kids but also to us, adults. Why? There is an increasing evidence that Omega-3 fatty acids positively influence not only learning capabilities, but also our behaviour and mood.
EPA and DHA, the Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, seafood, are vital for our health. Researchers suggest that relative deficiencies of these fatty acids may contribute to various physical illnesses (such as cardiovascular and immune system disorders), as well as to many disorders of mental health and performance across the lifespan. 1 & 2
BENEFITS of Omega-3 fatty acids-rich foods:
- Essential for brain and nervous system function
- Maintain the fluidity of your cell membrane
- Reduce inflammation throughout your body
- Keep your blood from clotting excessively
SYMPTOMS showing your body might be lacking Omega-3 fatty acids:
- Dry, itchy skin; brittle nails and hair
- Attention and memory problems; inability to concentrate
- Depression; emotional sensitivity or instability, anxiety, excessive mood swings, irritability or temper tantrums
- Sleep problems
- Joint pain
Omega-6 fatty acid is another type of fat required for our body’s proper function. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats are dietary essentials and they must come from the diet, because they cannot be manufactured within the body. Omega-6 fats are abundant in modern, Western-type diet (in vegetable oils, grains, nuts and seeds and also meat, eggs and dairy), however Omega-3 fats are often lacking, especially from diets rich in highly processed foods.
Over the last century, ratios of Omega-6 to Omega-3 in Western-type diets have risen significantly due to increased industrialisation of the food supply, from approximately 3:1 to more than 20:1 in some cases. Omega-3 intake is widely acknowledged to be sub-optimal in the UK and other developed countries. Hence, for optimal health, we need to make sure we eat sufficient amount of foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.
Eating oily cold-water fish is an excellent way of getting more Omega-3s into yours and your child’s diet. Please note, that some fish carry possible contaminant risks and are best to be avoided by vulnerable groups, such as young children or pregnant women. Usually, the larger the species the higher the risk (i.e. shark, marlin, tuna, swordfish), and should not be consumed more than twice a week. Choose from smaller species like mackerel, sardines, herring, scallops, and salmon.
BEST FISH FOR BRAIN FATS (Amount of DHA in 100g):
- Mackerel – 1,400mg
- Herring – 1,000mg
- Sardines – 1,000mg
- Tuna (steak, not tinned) – 900mg
- Anchovy – 900mg
- Salmon – 800mg
There are also some excellent plant food sources of Omega-3 fats, as per the table below.
BEST PLANT FOODS FOR BRAIN FATS:
- Chia seeds
- Hemp seeds
- Pine nuts
- Pumpkin seeds
- Soy beans
- Haricot beans
- Romaine lettuce
- Brussels sprouts
- Collard greens
- Green beans
If you and/or your child are super fussy eaters you may want to consider Omega-3 fatty acids supplementation. Please get in touch with me for the most suitable recommendation.