The body uses two types of EFAs (omega-6 and omega-3) to produce long chain fatty acids which are vital to a body. One such long chain fatty acid is DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). DHA is essential for proper brain and eye development in infants, even before birth. You may have already noticed that infant formulas are fortified with DHA.
Pregnant women should also make sure that their diets contain DHA. EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) is another long chain fatty acid that is essential to a body’s health.
How much omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids should your child get per day?
A child from age 1 to 3 needs 7,000 milligrams (7.0 grammes) of omega-6 and 700 milligrams (0.7 grams) of omega-3 per day.
A child from age 4 to 8 needs 10,000 milligrams (910 grammes) of omega-6 and 900 milligrams (0.9 grams) of omega-3 per day.
The omega-6 fatty acids are easy to get. They come from all foods that contain oils, therefore, most children get plenty. On the other hand, the omega-3 fatty acids are more difficult to get because there are only a handful of foods that contain them.
Here are some foods that contain omega-6 fatty acids:
• flaxseed oil, 1 teaspoon: 5,700 mg 1 tablespoon flax seeds, ground: 15,900 mg
• English walnuts, 1/4 cup: 9,100 mg
• peanut butter, 1 tablespoon, fortified with omega-3: 4,950 mg
• walnut oil, 1 teaspoon: 2,380 mg
• wheat germ oil, 1 teaspoon: 3,110 mg
• soybean oil , 1 teaspoon: 2,270 mg
• canola oil, 1 teaspoon canola oil: 870 mg
• wheat germ, 1 tablespoon: 500 mg
• 1 omega-3 fortified egg: 100 mg
Although the body can create DHA and EPA, the diet often lacks the proper amount of essential fatty acids to do so. A child from age 1 to 3 can have 70 milligrams of DHA and EPA per day and a child from age 4 to 8 can have 90 milligrams of DHA and EPA per day. (These amounts are combined).
To ensure that your child gets the proper amount of DHA and EPA, encourage them to eat fish at least once per week. Fish, such as herring, salmon, trout, mackerel, and Pollock are good sources of DHA.