When you're pregnant or breastfeeding, there are a million recommendations for what you should be taking as far as supplements go! If you're lucky, you can find a prenatal vitamin that has everything you need in it. But what are some of the things you should be paying attention to? One of them is Omega 3's. The questions is, do Omega 3 supplements work as well as the food in this case?
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There are three major types of Omega 3's found in our food. They are EPA, DHA, and ALA. ALA is the version found in plant foods, like walnuts, flax seeds, and canola oil. EPA and DHA are both found in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines. Most people don't have a problem getting enough ALA, so we tend to focus on EPA and DHA.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding you want to try to eat a serving of fatty fish 2 times a week. Omega 3's during pregnancy and breastfeeding have been shown to help with baby brain development, eye development, and even communication skills. If you consume the fish with low mercury concentrations, like those listed above, their Omega 3 benefits far outweigh any concern for mercury at this point in time.
Omega 3's are important to consume throughout life. While they are not as heavily researched in children as they are in pregnant women, Omega 3's have been shown to provide many benefits to health all around. Try to have your kids eat fish two times a week with you. Starting early in life will provide all the health benefits possible. Hopefully it will teach your kids to like fish, as well!
What happens if you don't like fish? Or don't have access to good fish where you are? Unfortunately, the research showing benefits for Omega 3 supplements is nowhere near as strong as that for eating actual fish. Eating fish is hands down the best way to go! Canned versions of salmon and sardines are readily available most places, and are a great alternative to fresh fish if you can't get it.
For people like me, who just can't find fish that you like, Omega 3 supplements like fish oil are better than nothing. While there's no research out there showing they are as effective as eating fish, there's also no research showing that Omega 3 supplements don't help. So if you can't get the fish in, taking fish oil supplements is better than nothing.
Omega 3 fatty acids are incredibly beneficial to babies both in the womb and outside. They have been shown to help with brain development, eye development, and even communication development. Try to get in at least two servings of fish a week during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Encourage your children to have fish with you once they start eating. While not shown to be as effective, if you are unable to eat fish for any reason, taking a fish oil supplement is better than nothing.