Boost Kids' Brains with Omega 3 Foods

Kids heading back to school? Omega 3-rich foods can help banish the 'summer brain' and get kids ready to focus and pay attention in class.

It's back-to-school time again. Time to ditch the 'summer brain' and get kids ready to focus and pay attention in class. Eating omega 3 rich foods can literally feed our brains, helping kids stay focused and on task at school. Unfortunately, many Americans are deficient in omega 3s, which can lead to problems with focus and attention, mood issues, and increased inflammation.

One of the best sources of omega 3s is fish, especially fatty fish like salmon or tuna. Tuna salad is a great option for the lunchbox because it offers a mid-day brain boost. Roll it up into a wrap, or serve it with crackers. But big fish like tuna can be high in mercury, so the FDA recommends that children and women of childbearing age limit their intake of albacore tuna to 6 oz. per week. But because mercury content of fish can vary depending on where it is caught and the size and type of the fish, choosing a high quality brand is key. California-based Wild Planet brand tuna is an excellent choice, because it has half the amount of mercury and six times the omega 3 content compared to other brands. So Wild Planet can be safely consumed more often than other brands (read more). Wild Planet is also sustainably caught, which is better for the environment and our health.  Additionally, tuna is a good source of vitamin B6 which is needed by the body to make important neurotransmitters in the brain.

Walter Willet of Harvard Health recommends that we have fish or fish oils a couple times a week, and a vegetarian omega 3 source every day. One of the best vegan sources for omega 3s are chia seeds, which offer almost 3 grams of ALA omega 3's per serving. In addition to the omega 3s, these little seeds offer so much more. Chia seeds fill you up, provide lasting energy/endurance, help maintain hydration, lower cholesterol, and form a gel which helps to slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. Chia seeds are an excellent source of fiber, amino acids, antioxidants & minerals. Chia seeds don't really taste like anything and can be easily added to many foods. Stir it into oatmeal, boost your smoothie, or add to your baking. You can also find chia seeds added to many foods. Local company Whales Tails has a blue corn "torchia" chip that is made with non-GMO blue corn, chia seeds, and are shaped like a whale's tail, making them an easy and fun lunchbox upgrade!  Another local brand Nuttzo, has an omega 3 rich multi-seed nut butter that has chia seeds in it. Peanut-free, Nuttzo's multi seed nut butter is a great brain-boosting option if schools don't allow peanut butter.

Another way to boost omega 3s in the brain is to take a supplement. Barleans Omega Swirls fish oils are a great option because they taste like a smoothie and come in several delicious flavors. Omega Swirls are nine times more absorbable than other fish oils, and are now is available in convenient to go packets. Local San Diego company To Go Brands offers a product called Omega to Go, which is a vegetarian form of omega 3s. Fish get their omega 3s from algae, and so does Omega to Go. Convenient packets that can be added to water, Omega to Go is a delcious orange cream flavored drink that offers 100 mg of omega 3s, and only 1 gram of sugar. An upgrade from other powered drink packets, especially the ones that are high in sugar and contain artificial colors.

Read Five Foods for Focus to learn about several other foods And supplements to boost focus and help kids stay on task in school.  Also, watch this segment on Fox 5 San Diego featuring brain boosting foods for kids. You can also come to Whole Foods La Jolla on Thursday, August 30, 2012  from 1 to 3 p.m. to  learn more about brain-boosting foods and supplements for kids.

Sara Vance is a Clinical Nutritionist in the Encinitas, CA area.  Visit rebalancelife.com for more information.  Friend Sara Vance at ReBalance Life on Facebook.

*This content is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons experiencing problems or with questions about their health or medications, should consult their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before taking the above foods, herbs, vitamins or supplements to be sure there are no interactions.©2012, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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Therese Patterson September 11, 2012 at 05:53 PM
No area of diet and school performance is better studied than breakfast. Studies show that it's not just breakfast that counts, but the nutritional adequacy of breakfast. Calories are important, but so are slowly digesting foods rich in protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Sugary, refined cereals or breakfast bars will spike the child's blood sugar leaving him or her restless and hungry within little more than an hour. Also striking was the connection between fruit and vegetable intake and literacy-so be sure to nourish your child with the right foods for academic greatness!


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