Karlene Karst, RD
Big gulps, burgers, chips, chocolate bars, and video games...sound familiar? Keeping children healthy in today's super-sized, convenience-food, fast-paced environment is immensely challenging. It is better to start today by creating a healthy lifestyle for our children than it is to deal with the health problems that may develop down the road.
Big gulps, burgers, chips, chocolate bars, and video games…sound familiar? Keeping children healthy in today’s super-sized, convenience-food, fast-paced environment is immensely challenging.
It is better to start today by creating a healthy lifestyle for our children than it is to deal with the health problems that may develop down the road. One of the things we can do is to lead by example, especially in the area of nutrition.
Changing your child’s food preferences may not be easy and will require patience. Start by limiting all refined sugar, then by changing the type of fat your child eats to reduce saturated (meat and dairy products) and hydrogenated oils (trans fats found in many packaged and convenience foods). Then, increase the levels of good fats in their diet.
Incorporating nuts and seeds and adding fatty cold-water fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel, and tuna to the diet will increase the level of healthy omega-3s that your child requires. Since it may be difficult to give your children enough of the omega-3s necessary, cod liver oil is a great option.
Cod Liver Oil Revisited
You may remember the day when your mother made you swallow cod liver oil by the teaspoonful. You hated every minute of it because of the fishy taste, but what you didn’t realize is that each teaspoon of cod liver oil kept your health in tip-top shape.
Cod liver oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Omega-3s are essential nutrients that our bodies cannot make and must get from our diet. Unfortunately our diet is not providing us with enough of the omega-3s; in fact, most North Americans are suffering from a deficiency of these important fats.
Omega-3s help keep our cells fluid, which keeps toxins out and allows nutrients like vitamins and minerals to be absorbed by the cells. Healthy, fluid cells are important to prevent many diseases and help our body cope during times of stress like growth spurts and hormonal changes.
Omega-3s for Brawny Brains
Did you know your brain is over 60 percent fat, 25 percent of which is made up of the omega-3 fatty acid, DHA. Both DHA and EPA are important for optimal brain, nervous system, and even visual function (the retina of the eye has the largest concentration of DHA).
Attention Deficit and Omega-3s
Research has also shown that children who are deficient in omega-3s are more likely to develop learning and behavioural disorders like ADD and ADHD. If your child is currently suffering from ADHD-related symptoms, omega-3s can be of great benefit.
One study, published in Progress in Neuro Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry (2002), looked at 41 children aged 8 to 12 years with specific learning difficulties and above-average ADHD ratings. They showed improvements in attention, restlessness-impulsiveness, anxiousness-shyness, and cognitive problems after receiving supplementation with omega-3-rich fish oil and evening primrose oil.
DHA and Stress
Other research has examined the effect of DHA in helping students cope with stress. Dr. Hamazaki of Toyama University in Japan provided medical students with DHA supplements or a placebo for three months prior to writing university exams. There was a much higher rate of hostile and aggressive dialogue in the 19 medical students who received the placebo during the high-stress period as compared to the 22 medical students receiving the DHA.
Researchers performing these trials feel the significant dietary changes that have taken place over the last 20 years (the reduction in good fats, and increase in refined/simple sugars) are responsible for the increase in the number of children (as much as four to five times) being diagnosed with these behavioural conditions.
Tasty Cod Liver Oil?
Cod liver oil has come a long way in terms of its taste and palatability. Most of the cod liver oil on the market today has a delightful citrus or berry flavour to mask any unwanted fish taste.
If you’re fishing for new ideas to supplement your child’s health, cast your line for some cod liver oil at your local health food store.