Your diet plays a huge role in determining your state of health, and this rule applies to your child too. This is why, following healthy eating habits is extremely essential right from childhood.DHA, short for docosahexanoic acid, is known to be extremely crucial for the development of a child- but what exactly is it? Keep reading to find out that, and much more.
What is DHA?
Simply put, DHA is a type of omega 3 fatty acid, which is known to play a crucial role in the brain development of a baby. When combined with EPA, it is thought to reduce the risk of mental disorders in children including autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and aggression.
Why is it Important?
Contrary to the popular belief, DHA is not just important for children, but also for adults. It plays a vital role in brain and eye development, and is needed in appropriate amounts especially during the first and second years of life.It is believed that in the first five years of life, a baby’s brain volume increases upto 3.5 times, which is why, adequate amounts of this component is needed.
Several studies have also found that DHA plays a number of other vital roles in children.
- Improves heart function and keeps it healthy
- Supports normal functioning of the brain
- Maintains rapid eye and brain development
- Improves memory and cognitive function
Getting DHA in your Kid’s Diet
Now that you know how DHA plays an important role in your child’s overall development, it is essential to note the different ways in which you can include it in your kids diet. Alpha linoelic acids, which are another type of omega 3 fatty acids, are abundantly found in food sources like walnuts, flaxseed oil and canola oil. Consuming these foods can also give your child his much needed amount of DHA, since ALA is thought to break down into DHA in the body.
Apart from these, you could also consider getting your child foods that already contain DHA in the natural form.
Foods Rich in DHA
Both DHA and EPA are found in abundant quantities in fish. However, this may pose a problem for individuals who follow a vegetarian diet or don’t consume fish that often. What’s more, due to water pollution, fishes today are packed with toxic metals and components like mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls etc, which may in turn, impact the child’s mental development negatively.According to the US Food and Drug Administration, young children can consume around 12 ounces of low mercury fish per week. Parents can feed their children Pollock, salmon and catfish and must stay away from fishes like king mackerel, swordfish, tilefish etc which have higher levels of toxins.
Those who stick to a vegetarian diet can consider getting the needed amount of DHA through plant sources such as nuts, seeds, dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, collard greens, cauliflower and broccoli and whole grains. Some algae and seaweed are also believed to contain appropriate amounts of DHA. Plant and nut oils like walnut oil, soybean oil and olive oil too, contain traces of the compound.
It is important to note that your child must receive DHA in the required amounts only. Based on his age and body weight, his requirement may vary. The American Pregnancy Association has set forth a standard when it comes to DHA consumption in growing children.
For infants between 1-18 months of age, 32 milligrams worth of a combination of DHA and EPA for every pound of body weight is considered to be good enough. Kids between 1.5 to 15 years of age should consume 15 milligrams of EPA and DHA per pound of body weight.
Children who do not consume fish and other sources of DHA can also be given a DHA supplement to help them meet their body’s requirement of the compound. Parents should take care and choose supplements from reliable and well known brands, and should prefer using a vegan supplement that contains algae instead of fish oil.
You may also want to have a talk with your child specialist or a healthcare provider to learn more about which supplements could be safe for use for your child.