You must have heard a lot about docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), but you may not know that this omega-3 fatty acid is essential to the development of infants and toddlers. This is evident in various types of infant formula milk since these days it can be found in most of them. No doubt, DHA-fortified foods can benefit your child’s development, especially the eyes and brain.
Benefits of DHA for kids
As an important food for the brain, docosahexaenoic acid is good for pregnancy wellness, fetal development, and infant health. That’s to say, consumption of DHA-enriched foods can make your baby smarter. Because it is difficult for babies’ body to synthesize enough this substance to meet the brain’s growing needs, diet can be another important source. By the way, since Alpha linolenic acid (ALA), another type of omega-3 fatty acid, can be converted into DHA and EPA in the body, eating ALA-rich foods is highly suggested too. Otherwise, the lack of this nutrition may lead to brain dysfunction, such as memory loss, declined information-carrying capacity between brain cells, sensory loss and the like.
Brain nutrition professor from Britain found that eating fish, instead of meat, could help children get higher IQ scores, thanks the higher intake of docosahexaenoic acid. As mentioned earlier, docosahexaenoic acid is good at promoting the development of brain cells, increasing the extent of nerve fiber generation in the brain, increasing brain capacity, enhancing sensitivity and cognitive skills, and so on. In fact, in addition to helping brain development in baby, other benefits still include improving vision and enhancing immune system.
DHA rich food list for babies and toddlers
1. Breast milk. Breast milk, particularly the colostrum, is rich in DHA. It is worth mentioning that the food pattern determines its content in mother’s milk. In other words, if the mother eats more fish, DHA levels in breast milk are usually much higher accordingly. In the world, Japanese breastfeeding mothers have the highest DHA content of 22%, followed by Australia mothers, about 10%. And the lowest levels, only 7%, are found in the United States.
2. Formula milk. DHA-enriched formula is also a major food source for children to absorb this nutrition. Because it helps boost infant brain development, now both docosahexaenoic acid and arachidonic acid are added to almost all brands of formula sold in the United States.
3. Fish. They include tuna, bonito, salmon, mackerel, sardines, scads, sailfish, croaker, saury, eel, hairtail, crucian, and the like. By the statistics, per 100 grams of the above-mentioned fish contain up to 1000 mg or more of this nutrition. When it comes to a certain kind of fish, the part with highest content is orbital fat, followed by fish oil.
4. Nuts. The recommended nuts include walnuts, almonds, peanuts, and sesame because they contain plenty of alpha linolenic acid, which can be converted into DHA and EPA inside the body.
5. Algae. Edible algae, often called seaweed or sea vegetables, is another important dietary source of DHA. As an added bonus, algae come in a range of shapes, tastes and textures for you to choose from.
6. Supplements. These days on the market there are two options – it is extracted either from deep sea fish oil or from algae. In contrast, algae are considered a better source. DHA algae oil is extracted from cultured marine microalgae. So far, it is the world’s purest, safest source since it does not transport through the food chain. It is particularly worth mentioning that its concentration is much higher than that of fish oil extracts. What’s more, it is stable, odorless, and tasteless. So it is especially suitable for fetuses, infants and toddlers.