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

Looking For A Great First Time Veggie? Try Sweet Potatoes!!

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Are you slowly trying to introduce solids into your little ones diet?  If so, sweet potatoes are great to try since they are easy to digest, have a mild flavor, and are easy to prepare!

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 deg F or 190 deg C.
  2. Simply take one large sweet potato. Scrub it and prick it with a fork.
  3. Bake for about 45 mins or until it feels soft.
  4. Once cooked, all you need to do is split the potato and scrape out the flesh with a spoon. Most sweet potatoes do not even require the additional step of pureeing as they can easily be mashed!
  5. One large potato will give you about 3 or 4 portions at this early stage. Bake a few at a time and you’ve got a fortnight’s supply!

Alternatively… you could peel the potato, then boil or steam it in cubes if you prefer to do so as well!

Looking for some combos?  Why not try mixing sweet potatoes with carrots or squash for a new flavor and even more nutrients!

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.