Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Why Fish?

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A study last week showed that pre-term infants may need more omega-3 essential fatty acids than was previously thought. Infants fed higher levels had better visual acuity and visual development. Another study from June suggests that 400 mg of DHA can improve mental acuity in preschool children. Fish has been in the news for the past several years because it contains the omega-3 EPA and DHA. These essential fatty acids are important building blocks in visual and central nervous system development. Research has shown that pregnant moms supplementing with fish oils and/or babies and kids given DHA or fish oil may support:
  • Higher IQ’s
  • Better night vision and visual development
  • Lower incidence of respiratory problems
  • Increased ability to pay attention
  • Lower levels of aggression

Omega-3 fatty acids are found naturally in fish, flaxseed, soybeans, walnuts and wheat germ. Fish is really the best source (or products fortified with DHA), because our bodies don’t convert the omega-3 fatty acids found in plant sources to the longer chain DHA very efficiently.

With all of these great benefits, I try to incorporate fish and other sources of DHA whenever possible. Estimates suggest U.S. children get less than 30 milligrams of DHA per day through diet. Luckily, food manufacturers have heard our plea. It seems that every time I go to the grocery store I see new foods fortified with DHA. Look around and see what you can find. Our kids need all the essential fatty acids they can get!

What can you do?
  1. Cook fish (particularly salmon (fresh or canned) which is low in mercury and rich in omega-3s, canned light tuna is also good, but limit albacore which can contain more mercury. Sardines are good too, but I have no idea how you get a kid to eat them)
  2. Use DHA-enriched eggs (from flaxseed fed chickens)
  3. Buy other foods enriched with DHA, such as pasta, breakfast cereal, yogurt, etc.
  4. Use flaxseed in baking, I almost always replace ¼ to ½ cup flour with flaxseed
  5. Snack on walnuts and edamame

Salmon burgers
1 stalk celery
½ cup parsley
1 green onions
7 ounces canned salmon
1 egg, omega-3 enriched
¼ cup whole wheat bread crumbs
pinch of salt and pepper
1 tsp old bay seasoning

  1. Chop celery, green onion and parsley in the food processor.
  2. Saute chopped vegetables in 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat until soft.
  3. Mix together salmon, cooked vegetables, egg, bread crumbs, and seasoning.
  4. Shape into pattied and saute in 1 Tbsp olive oil.
  5. Serve with tarter sauce on whole wheat hamburger rolls.
Makes 5 medium cakes, each with 100 Calories, 10 gram protein, 5 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 4 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 100 milligrams omega-3 fatty acids.

  1. Smithers LG, Gibson RA, McPhee A, Makrides M. Higher dose of docosahexaenoic acid in the neonatal period improves visual acuity of preterm infants: results of a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Oct;88(4):1049-56.
  2. Ryan AS, Nelson EB. Assessing the effect of docosahexaenoic acid on cognitive functions in healthy, preschool children: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study . Clin Pediatr (Phila). 2008 May;47(4):355-62.
  3. Hamazaki T, Sawazaki S, Itomura M, et al. The effect of docosahexaenoic acid on aggression in young adults. A placebo-controlled double-blind study. J Clin Invest. 1996 Feb 15;97(4):1129-33.
  4. Stevens LJ, Zentall SS, Abate ML, Kuczek T, Burgess JR. Omega-3 fatty acids in boys with behavior, learning, and health problems. Physiol Behav. 1996 Apr-May;59(4-5):915-20.
  5. Nagakura T, Matsuda S, Shichijyo K, Sugimoto H, Hata K. Dietary supplementation with fish oil rich in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in children with bronchial asthma. Eur Respir J. 2000 Nov;16(5):861-5.
  6. Colombo J, Kannass KN, Shaddy DJ, et al. Maternal DHA and the development of attention in infancy and toddlerhood. Child Dev. 2004 Jul-Aug;75(4):1254-67.
  7. Helland IB, Smith L, Saarem K, Saugstad OD, Drevon CA. Maternal supplementation with very-long-chain n-3 fatty acids during pregnancy and lactation augments children's IQ at 4 years of age. Pediatrics. 2003 Jan;111(1):e39-44.
  8. Uauy R, Hoffman DR, Peirano P, Birch DG, Birch EE. Essential fatty acids in visual and brain development. Lipids. 2001 Sep;36(9):885-95.

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