Every parent knows that good nutrition is important. But have you heard the latest research on healthy fats and vitamin D for your child?
Essential fatty acids are crucial to brain function as well as to normal growth and development. Essential fats mean the body doesn’t produce them; therefore, we must obtain them from foods.
Omega-3s benefit behaviour and learning
Omega-3 fatty acids, in particular, are vital to a child’s cognitive function and nerve development. In the body, omega-3s are broken down into more absorbable forms called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
A new trial found that supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids for three months improved behaviour and symptoms of hyperactivity in children aged three to eight years.
Research has shown an improvement in the behaviour of autistic children following a six-week pilot trial of supplementing with omega-3s.
Another study looked at five- to 12-year-olds who had been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Supplementing with essential fats in combination with zinc and magnesium for three months was found to reduce ADHD symptoms, reduce emotional problems, and reduce problems falling asleep.
Omega-3 favourite foods
Omega-3s are in flaxseed oil, cold-water fish, nuts, seeds, and omega-3 eggs. Many children, however, don’t get enough of these foods and/or are picky eaters. As a result, omega-3 deficiencies in children can result.
Vitamin D gets an “A” for children’s health
Like omega-3s, vitamin D is crucial to optimal growth and development. It’s required for proper bone formation, as well as for modulating immunity and hormones.
Vitamin D is synthesized by the skin after sunlight exposure, but due to the many variables involved (e.g. altitude, latitude, time of year, skin pigmentation, age), many vitamin D needs are not being met.
A recent survey of Canadian toddlers aged one to five years old found that 82 percent have vitamin D insufficiency, and almost one-third (32 percent) are outright deficient.
Health Canada’s recommendations for vitamin D are:
- Infants 0 to 12 months 400 IU (10 mcg)
- Children 1 to 8 years 600 IU (15 mcg)
- Children and adults 9 to 70 years 600 IU (15 mcg)
It’s important to ensure your child obtains enough vitamin D and omega-3s during development. Many new products—everything from flavoured oils to tasty gummies—make it easy for parents to add these essentials to a child’s diet.