Nutrition Spotlight: Omega-3’s and DHA

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Image source: india.com

Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential nutrient in the body. They are used by the body in the brain and eyes and are thought to have many disease-preventing benefits. It’s important that everyone consumes enough of them, but it is even more so for pregnant and breastfeeding women and their toddlers as they develop – especially if they are eating a vegetarian diet.

There are three main omega-3 fatty acids:

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

All three of these play crucial roles in the body and can only be obtained from food. DHA is considered to be one of the most important fatty acids in the brain development of infants and toddlers. In fact, DHA is the most abundant building blocks of brain and retina tissue and adequate DHA levels have been associated with intelligence and happiness later in life. Because of this, breast milk is extremely high in DHA. But what about after breastfeeding?

The most plentiful sources of DHA are cold water fatty fish, like salmon and tuna. This can leave those wanting to raise their child on a vegetarian diet (or those who have a toddler who just doesn’t like fish!) in a tough place. Fortunately for vegetarian families, there are plenty of ways to ensure your toddler’s brain health if you prefer not to eat fish or use fish oil supplements.

While there are no common vegetarian sources of DHA, it is made in the body in small amounts during the breakdown of ALA, along with EPA. Many oils and seeds are plentiful in ALA – chia seed, flax, hempseed, walnuts, pecans, olive oil, and more. Because of this, most adult vegetarians and vegans have a low but steady level of DHA in their body.

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Image source: flickr user

For infants and toddlers with growing brains, they may need a little more. There is no established dietary reference intake for DHA specifically, but the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids suggests a total intake of 15 milligrams of DHA per pound of body weight in children over the age of 1. Many pediatricians recommend a DHA supplement for omnivorous and vegetarian children alike, as well as their pregnant and nursing mothers.

Vegetarians can take comfort in knowing that there are kid-friendly supplement options. Since fish get their DHA from algae, it is only natural that DHA supplements derived from algae have hit the market. Algal oil DHA has been found to be as effective as DHA from fish and is available in liquid and capsule form for kids of all ages.

All in all, for a healthy growing brain, make sure your toddler is getting at least one serving a day of oil or seeds high in omega-3s along with an appropriate algal oil supplement. Vegetarian moms-to-be and breastfeeding moms should also supplement with DHA for baby’s best start!

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Omega 3 Banana Avacado “Ice Cream” Recipe (Vegan)

Ingredients:

2 ripe frozen bananas
½ avocado
¼ cup pistachios
1 tablespoon sliced almonds
1 tablespoon shredded coconut
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Chop bananas into pieces a day or two ahead of time and place into freezer
2. If pistachios are still in shells, remove them
3. Place ingredients into a blender or food processor; blend until thick and creamy
4. Spoon mixture into bowl! If you would like it thicker, place it into the freezer for a couple hours after making
5. Top with well-ground up pistachios or flax seed for an extra boost of omega-3

Tip: This recipe can be modified to create a puree for little ones transitioning to solid foods, using just half a banana and half an avocado!

Written by: Amanda Dunham

Sources:
Omega-3 fatty acids: considering microalgae as a vegetarian source of EPA and DHA
Harvard Ask-the-Expert
Divine Glowing Health blog

6 Steps To Pregnancy

Written By: Leana Varvella

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Baby fever on the brain? Time to start planning for the near future, which means eating the right things for you and your (soon to be) bundle of joy! Unless you are on a strict cheeseburger and french fries with a side of chocolate cake diet, changing your eating habits to prep your body for a baby is quite simple! Here are the top 6 things to do while trying to conceive.

1: Go Organic Studies have shown that eating produce containing pesticides are linked to certain birth defects. Dodge that bullet by buying from your local farmer’s market or by simply looking for the organic section in your supermarket. Tip: Double check and make sure the produce bar code starts with the number 9! Any other number is not certified organic and can contain pesticides.

2: Complete the Trifecta: Folic Acid, Calcium & Iron These three minerals are a crucial part to a pregnant woman’s diet, and taking them earlier is always better. Folate helps prevent neural tube and brain defects, calcium aids in the muscular and circulatory development and iron can lower the risk of preterm birth while helping the fetus’ muscles develop. These three nutrients can be found in produce and dairy, but also in a prenatal vitamin. Too much can be a bad thing though, so be sure to double check with your doctor before buying a prenatal.

3: Ditch the Alcohol and Smoking Not only do these two substances damage your organs and brain, but they also can affect your fertility. A study from the British Medical Journal stated that smoking in women has been shown to decrease conception rates in females by up to 40%, while alcohol use increases risk of miscarriage and lowers the fertility rate in men.

4: Maintain a Healthy Weight Obesity is a growing epidemic in our world, and with it comes many risks and challenges. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight before you are pregnant is important because remember: your health reflects on your baby. The American Society for Clinical Nutrition stated that pregnant women who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of gestational diabetes and hypertension, as well as birth defects, premature labor and even mortality.

5: Get up and Move! Whether you love to run, practice yoga or strength train – starting these activities before you are pregnant allows your body to adjust to that certain type of movement and stress on the body. That way, when you do conceive, you are all set to go and have nothing to worry about! Many women think that exercising while pregnant can harm the fetus, but that is so far from the truth! If anything, working out only helps by increasing blood flow and nutrients to the baby.

6: Check In with Doc When doing anything that will alter your body drastically, such as having a baby, you should always make an appointment with your doctor to go over your health. Not only will your doctor go over any health issues you may have while becoming pregnant, but also answer any and all questions you may have to ease your anxiety and excitement through this amazing process.

Follow these 6 steps and you will be on your way to having a healthy and happy pregnancy! Remember, the healthier you are, the healthier your (future) baby will be!

Source: March of Dimes

Health Benefits of Strawberries

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Strawberries are traditionally one of the favorite fruits with children because they are sweet in flavor, easy to pick up, and have a soft texture.  These berries are also full of essential nutrients!  Did you know that 1 cup of strawberries provides 100% of the RDA for Vitamin C?!?

Here are a few benefits of consuming strawberries and adequate Vitamin C!

  • High in fiber!
  • Enhances immune function
  • Enhances iron absorption
  • A deficiency in Vitamin C causes bleeding gums, loose teeth, weakness, hemorrhaging of hair follicles, poor wound healing, swollen ankles, and diarrhea.
  • Provides an excellent source of Manganese and Potassium which are essential for proper bone growth and health!

Uses Of Strawberries: Throw them in smoothies, on top of cereal or yogurt, mash them to make your own jam or cook them down to make a quick simple syrup for desserts!

How To Buy: When looking for strawberries look for berries that are bright red in color and firm.  Dull red berries indicate that they are overripe and will not only spoil quickly but are usually not as flavorful.

Health Benefits of Bananas

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Bananas are quite possibly one of the most loved fruits by people of all ages, especially kids.  They are sweet, easy to eat, and are a great fruit to toss in the diaper bag or lunch box on busy days!  In addition to this, Bananas are also full of essential vitamins and minerals, which makes them a great snack!

  • Bananas are naturally fat and cholesterol free. Use mashed bananas to substitute for some or all of the butter or oil when making cookies!
  • As with many fruits, bananas contain a good amount of vitamin C. One banana provides  about 15 percent of your daily recommended amount.
  • Since B vitamins are more commonly found in animal products, it may come as a surprise that bananas are an excellent source of vitamin B-6 which makes them a great alternative source for vegetarians and vegans.  One banana supplies 35 percent of your daily B-6 requirement which is vital to help with cell growth!
  • One banana has 3 grams of fiber which will help your little ones stay full for longer periods of time!
  • Bananas are a great source of carbohydrates so they will help fuel your children during the day.
  • Since bananas are easy to digest, it makes them an appealing fruit to many.  If your child does not like whole bananas, try slicing them or mashing them to change the texture!
  • Try throwing a banana into smoothies, on cereal and oatmeal, or in a fruit salad!

Source: USDA

Health Benefits of Quinoa

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I am sure by now, you have all heard of the newest superfood, Quinoa, but do you know what makes it such an amazing addition to your meals?  Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is not a grain; it is actually a seed and related to the spinach family. When cooked, quinoa is light, fluffy, slightly crunchy and subtly flavored similar to brown rice. Since it has a similar texture to most grains, can substitute quinoa in place of a variety of grains in many recipes!

Health Benefits of Quinoa

▪ Complete protein. Quinoa contains all 9 essential amino acids that are required by the body as building blocks for muscles. Each serving of quinoa has 9g of protein!

▪ Magnesium helps relax your muscles and blood vessels and effects blood pressure.

▪ Fiber. Quinoa is an excellent way to ensure that you consume the suggested amount fiber to help with digestion.

▪ Manganese and copper. Quinoa is a good source of these minerals, which act as detoxifying agents in the body.

▪ Quinoa is gluten free so it is an excellent alternative for those who suffer from gluten intolerance or Celiac Disease!

How To Cook With Quinoa

• It is suggested to rinse and soak quinoa prior to cooking in order to ensure maximum nutrient absorption, however some do not require this, so just look on the package!

• Quinoa is a great addition to salads and soups.

• Replace the rice in your stir fry with quinoa

• Add quinoa to baked goods such as muffins for a higher protein intake.

All About Avocadoes

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We all know that avocadoes make a great compliment to many meals for out little ones but do you know why they are such an amazing nutritional fruit?

Health Benefits

 –       Half of an avocado contains 35% of the RDA for Vitamin C and over 50% of the RDA for Vitamin K!

–       Avocadoes are an excellent source of fiber and healthy monounsaturated fats.

–       They are full of antioxidants lycopene and beta-carotene

–       Avocadoes contain 30% more potassium than a banana!

 

Selection and Storage

–       -Refrigeration can slow the ripening process.

–       -To quicken the ripening process, store the avocadoes in a paper bag with an apple for 1-2 days.

–       -Sprinkle cut avocado with a dash of lemon juice to prevent browning.

–       -If making a dip like guacamole, put the seed in the dip while refrigerated to prevent browning.

–       You know an avocado is ripe when it is slightly soft to the touch when you press it.

Simple Ways To Add Avocadoes To Meals

–       Substitute avocadoes for butter and oil in recipes such as brownies and cakes.  In general, the ratio is a 1:1.

–       Add to your little ones favorite smoothies!

–       Slice them up along with other veggies for an afternoon snack.

–       Blend them in your favorite dip or make guacamole.

 

Importance of Vitamin C

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Vitamin C is something we have all heard of and know that it is vital to make sure out little ones consumes adequate amounts but have you ever wondered why?

Vitamin C helps form and repair red blood cells, bones, and tissues. It also helps to keep your child’s gums stay healthy and strengthens their child’s blood vessels, minimizing bruising from falls and scrapes. In addition, vitamin C helps cuts and wounds heal, while also boosting the immune system to help keep infections away. 

How much Vitamin C is required each day?

Ages 1 to 3 years: 15 mg per day

Ages 4 to 8: 25 mg per day

What are all-natural sources of Vitamin C?

In general, brightly colored fruits and veggies are full of Vitamin C; so incorporating these into your children’s daily diet will insure they receive adequate amounts.  Below are some of the best sources of Vitamin C!

  • 1/4 cup guava: 82.5 mg
  • 1/2 cup orange juice: 50 mg
  • 1/4 cup red bell peppers: 47.5 mg
  • 1/4 cup papaya: 47.5 mg
  • 1/4 cup kiwi: 41 mg
  • 1/2 medium orange: 30 mg

 

Source: Babycenter.com