Is it true that eating fish makes kids smarter?
Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, an essential type of fat naturally found in the brain, eyes, and central nervous system. Omega-3s are not one single nutrient. They are a collection of several, including eicosapentaenic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA).
Several studies have shown that eating foods rich in these nutrients may reduce the risk of developing certain conditions, like heart disease. Many studies have also directly linked the eating of fish by breastfeeding mothers to increased cognitive development (brain memory and performance) in kids up to the age of 3. Although the studies are not conclusive, since there are other factors that may impact childhood development, they seem to be very promising.
Expecting mothers, and those with newborns, who consume fish in order to benefit from omega-3s should know the number of servings to take in, and the species of fish that are considered safe. To help ensure optimum health for mommy, and to encourage positive development in her baby, here are a few guidelines that will help pump beneficial omega-3s into any diet.
Recommended Servings of Fish Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Up to 12 ounces per week during your pregnancy.
Species of Fish High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Salmon, sardines, herring, cod, roe, shad, herring, and whitefish are all rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Risks of Eating the Wrong Species of Fish
There is speculation that there are risks in eating fish that are high in mercury contamination, like swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel, and shark. The Food and Drug Administration has issued warnings over the past few years about this. It is claimed that eating these species of fish can lead to neurotoxin poisoning, which can be harmful to anyone, especially infants.
Fish is not the only option, though. There are many other foods that contain omega-3s.
Alternative Omega-3-Rich Foods
- Baby formula and baby food manufacturers have been pretty good at saturating healthy amounts of omega-3 fats into their products. This trend is unlikely to change.
- Walnuts, butternuts, beechnuts, pecans, dried pine nuts, granola, and flaxseed (available as whole seeds, ground seeds, or oil) are great snacks and readily available year-round.
- Dairy products, like mozzarella cheese and whole milk (or 3.25% milk fat), are also good.
- Raw fruits, like strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, guava, cherries, cantaloupe, and raw lemons (with peel).
- Vegetables like cauliflower, lettuce, kidney or pinto beans, squash, brussels sprouts, broccoli, pickles (low sodium preferred), radish seeds (sprouted or raw), and spinach.
- Moms can also cook with a variety of spices rich in omega-3s, including fresh basil, dried oregano, ground cloves, canned grape leaves, and canola oil.