You often hear people talk about the importance of omega-3 in a healthy diet, but just what is omega-3? In short, it refers to polyunsaturated fatty acids that are essential for optimal health. Omega-3s (and its family member omega-6) are found in neural tissues and form an integral part of the membranes of the body’s cells. Omegas are important for cognitive and visual function.
Our bodies cannot manufacture it, so we have to make sure we boost it through diet because omega-3 is often lacking in our diets. One easy way to up your child’s omega-3 intake is to make sure they get enough nuts and seeds.
Walnuts really are winners. They resemble the human brain in terms of looks, but that’s not the only reason it’s known as “brain food”: walnuts contain an incredibly high content of omega-3 fatty acids, as does chia seeds, flaxseed, canola and walnut oils. Montagu Dried Fruit and Nuts stores offer a wide variety of nuts and dried fruits. An added bonus for moms is the fact that nuts (and dried fruit) are easy to pack in a lunch box and you know it stays fresh throughout the day.
Omega-3 fatty acids are also found in oily fish such as mackerel, herring, salmon, tuna, sardines, anchovies and trout. There are also omega-3 enriched foods such as eggs, bread and milk available.
Recent research studies indicate that omega-3 can have a variety of potential benefits for children’s conditions ranging from ADHD and diabetes, to asthma and depression. Children with ADHD may have lower than normal levels of omega-3s in their body and a study at Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg has showed that omega-3 supplements can improve behaviour, as well as reduce hyperactivity and boost attention levels in children under 12. Another study, the Oxford-Durham Trial, assessed primary school children with conditions such as dyslexia and ADHD before and after taking omega-3 supplements over six months. The results showed improvements in a range of areas, including that the children studied were found to be more perceptive, more confident with better self-esteem, calmer and less disruptive, and that they showed improved memory, as well as improved reading and writing skills.
Some of the healthiest foods rich in omega-3 fats to include in your child’s diet are: pumpkin seeds, walnuts, flaxseeds, sardines, salmon, beef, soybeans, tofu, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.
Good & easy tips for adding omega-3 to your child’s diet:
- A handful of walnuts makes a great anytime snack – add it to the lunch box for extra nutritionary oomph;
- Add nuts and seeds to a meal with fresh or dried fruit;
- Nuts and seeds added to salads, yogurt, breakfast cereals, or oatmeal make for a deliciously crunchy meal and it’s really good for them, and
- You can also add walnuts and seeds to side dishes such as rice, quinoa and pastas.
Did you know?
Omega-3 fatty acids can help protect you against the following:
- Heart disease (it lowers the risk of developing heart disease);
- Hypertension (it lowers blood pressure);
- High blood fat levels (it lowers ‘bad’ cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood);
- Blood clots (making blood less sticky and preventing blood clots), and
- Rheumatoid arthritis (research has showed that omega-3 may help to prevent RA).
For the biggest variety of dried fruit, nuts, seeds, biltong and other healthy, innovative snacks and lunchbox treats visit your nearest Montagu Snacks store. Find your nearest store at www.montagusnacks.co.za. Follow them on Instagram and Facebook for more healthy tips, recipe and fun kid friendly snack ideas.