Supplementing Kids Diet’s with Essential Fatty Acids
Supplementing your child’s diet is especially important, if their current diet is not rich in greens, omega oils, fruits and nuts.
Omega-3 fatty acids are very important for brain health, heart health and development. The best sources of omega 3 fatty acids are cold water fish in the sea. Parents must be careful because big fish like tuna, swordfish, sturgeon, and shark are high in mercury and other environmental toxins (Read more about high versus low mercury fish here).
Smaller fish like wild Alaskan salmon (not farm-raised or Atlantic), herring, sardines, and shrimp tend to have lower levels of mercury. Use the EWG seafood calculator to see how much fish is safe for you or your child to eat each week based on age, gender, and weight. They also give you recommendations for which fish to eat based on high omega-3 content, low mercury, and environmental sustainability.
It’s always best to derive nutrients from whole foods nutrition. However, some kiddos are just too finicky to get these valuable nutrients in their food, and then it is helpful to supplement with high-quality, environmentally pure, fish oil. Fish oil can spoil easily (that’s what makes fish smell rancid when it goes bad), so make sure to get a high-quality fish oil in a dark bottle that doesn’t smell or taste rancid and keep it refrigerated.
My favorite brand of fish oil for kids is Barlean’s Omega Swirl. In the last 7 years, I have almost exclusively recommended this brand of fish oil and have rarely found a kiddo who does not like it, even really finicky eaters. They have lots of really tasty flavors that kids enjoy. It’s a safely manufactured brand and is available over the counter, which comes in a dark bottle. Don’t forget to keep them refrigerated.
For kids who are allergic to fish, or whose families are vegan, some people try flax oil products. However, the form of omega-3 oil in flax (alpha linolenic acid) must be converted by the body into the active form (EPA and DHA), and our body converts this very poorly (at a rate of 3.28%). You’d have to eat a lot of flax oil to get the same amount of EPA and DHA as fish oil.
Therefore, if you prefer a vegan alternative, look for Algae based DHA products. In recent years there have been several companies coming out with Algae based DHA products. Here are a few over the counter vegan omega-3 products that you can check out:
For kids on a completely plant-based diet, I recommend the following dosages for the vegan DHA products:
Kids Less than 3 years old
- ~ 100mg DHA per day
- ~ 60mg EPA per day
Kids 4 years old and Adults
- ~ 175-200mg DHA per day
- ~ 88 – 100mg EPA per day
Disclaimer: I have no financial relationship or conflict of interest with any of the supplements discussed here.