Kids are like puzzles. All the correct pieces have to be in order to create the complete picture, making proper nutrition a necessity from the get-go.
A healthy, balanced diet helps children develop properly from head to toe, and just like the bones need calcium to grow and stay strong, the brain needs some assistance, too. Help your kids become the little smarties you know they can be with DHA.
The Facts on DHA
Also referred to by its full name, docosahexaenoic acid, DHA is a type of omega-3. Omega-3s are essential fatty acids that you need to consume everyday in your diet, because the body cannot produce them on its own. DHA is one of the main components of brain tissue, making it essential for proper cognitive health and function, as well as the retina of the eye. DHA and other omega-3 fatty acids can also help lower cholesterol and protect the heart.
The most common way to get more DHA through food is by consuming fatty fish like salmon, nuts and certain fruits and vegetables, like avocados. In supplement form, most people take a fish oil supplement, which is usually a liquid or softgel.
Why Kids Need DHA
DHA is essential for children because it helps the brain develop properly. Ingesting DHA on a daily basis helps boost brain activity and makes children more mentally aware with an even temperament. Studies show children who receive the proper amount of DHA have a higher IQ, better hand-eye coordination and are at a lower risk for development mental issues like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and depression. Beyond the brain, DHA is crucial for developing the entire central nervous system so it functions properly. Lastly, DHA is needed for the eyes to develop for optimal vision.
Here's a guide to help you know the minimum amount of DHA your child needs daily, according to Parenting magazine:
Unborn babies -- 400 mg
Newborns up to six months -- 400 mg
Six months to two years -- 100 mg
Two to five years -- 200 mg
Opinions are still mixed on how much DHA should be consumed beyond this crucial formative period and into adolescence. However, on average, 100 mg a day is the suggested minimum amount of DHA they should get to continue supporting the brain during their prime educational years.
Getting Kids to Take DHA
As your children age, you can try to add more DHA and omega-3 fatty acids to their diet through food. Supplements have also improved to help kids take DHA more easily. The biggest change is most are now flavored with natural ingredients, giving them a more enjoyable taste, like lemon or strawberry. Liquid formulas (fish oils) can be taken on their own or mixed into a child's drink or food, where appropriate. Small softgels are available for older children able to swallow them and you can also find chewables and gummies for younger ones. When shopping for a supplement, make sure the nutrition facts break down the omega-3 fatty acids, so you can see exactly how much DHA you're getting per serving.
Another tip for getting them to happily take their DHA? Explain what it's for. Children are all about asking questions, as soon as they're old enough, so tell them it will make them smarter and stronger. Maybe compare their new "powers" to a favorite character or superhero and they should be more convinced. Making it seem like a treat, or something to look forward to.
Shop for children's supplements at eVitamins and help your kids reach their full potential with DHA. As with all the other amazing things you do for them, they'll thank you later.