What your kid’s brain needs for optimum cognitive function
Your brain is the fattest organ in your body. It is made up of mostly fat and water and it needs fat to thrive. Even the nerves that leave your brain and travel to the rest of your body are covered in a lovely lining of lipids (another fancy word for fats). With this understanding, it’s no surprise that eating the right amounts and types of fat would be beneficial for the health of our nervous system.
Although there is a lot of research out there studying the effects of specific nutrients on children with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), essential fatty acids (EFAs) really rise to the top of the list. Children with ADHD are at a higher risk of EFA deficiency. This can be because they are not getting enough, because their bodies process it differently, or because they have an amplified need for it. EFAs are VERY important for normal brain function (among many other things). Major behavioural and emotional improvements have been noted by researchers (and parents) when this deficiency is addressed and healthy fat consumption increases.
A Word of Caution: Not all fats are created equal! It is a balance of healthy fats that improves normal brain function. Excess trans-fats and saturated fats (with some exception) are detrimental to one’s health. This article is meant to help you and your kids make smart decisions about choosing the right fats for the right reasons without falling into the trap of being afraid of all things fat.
So how do you properly improve the amount of EFAs in your kids’ diet? The best source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids (EPA & DHA) is fatty fish like sole, tilapia, trout, and cod. (NRDC.org is a great resource to help you make educated decisions about which fish to buy when trying to avoid heavy metals, PCBs, and overfishing.) Extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, and game meat are all high-fat healthy choices as well. If, like so many kids, yours is a “picky eater”, a quality EFA supplement will go a long way. There are even tasty flavoured and “gummy” supplements available from several reputable companies. Make sure that you choose a supplement company that has a thorough purification process and responsible sourcing. One to two grams of omega-3 fatty acids plus one to two grams of GLA as evening primrose oil is generally a good starting point. Extra vitamin E should be taken when eating lots of fats because it has a protective antioxidant action against fat-breakdown by-products.
This article was originally posted for NaturallyDownToEarth.com in July 2012.
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