Just what are the best sources of DHA? MH finds out.
WORDS NURULHUDA SUHAIMI
Itching to get cracking on DHA-rich meals for your child now that you know the benefits of this essential fatty acid? Let’s see what the best sources of DHA are to include in your child’s diet.
Until your child is six months old, she is most likely receiving her nutrients – including DHA – exclusively from your breast milk. Some mums continue to breastfeed their children beyond this age, supplementing their children’s food intake with solids.
If you are unable to breastfeed, don’t worry because formula milk will be able to provide your child with DHA too. Just check that it has been fortified with DHA.
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Fish, more specifically fatty fish, contain high amounts of DHA. Examples of fatty fish are salmon, herring, tuna, and halibut. According to Professor Quak Seng Hock of the Division of Paediatric Gastroenterology, Nutrition and Hepatology at National University Hospital, children from the ages of two to 18 years should consume one to two fatty fish meals a week.
But wait! Don’t start including any kinds of fatty fish in your child’s meals.
For young children, it is best to avoid fish with high levels of mercury as this can have
harmful health effects. High-mercury fatty fish include swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish.
The amount of DHA found in eggs depends on the kinds of food the hens are fed. You might have seen some eggs in the supermarket labelled with “omega-3” or ”DHA”. This means the hens were fed with a diet rich in omega-3. Of course, you don’t have to buy eggs that have been specially enriched with omega-3. Regular eggs contain DHA too, just in smaller amounts.
And the best thing about eggs? You can cook them in many different ways. Your child can have them scrambled or hard-boiled, or make a breakfast omelette for her.
Among solid foods, fish sources have the largest amount of DHA; other types of food have very low DHA levels. However, you can supplement your child’s diet with foods rich in ALA, or alpha-linolenic acid, another type of omega-3 fatty acid. Wong Hui Mei, senior dietitian at Singapore General Hospital explains that ALA is “the plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids from which DHA is derived from”. In other words, the human body will convert ALA to DHA, which makes foods rich in ALA good sources of DHA for your child too.
Berries like blackberries, strawberries, and blueberries are great sources of ALA. Blackberries, in particular, contain one of the highest amounts of ALA among all fruits.
Berries are easy to incorporate into your child’s diet. They can be eaten raw
by adding them in oatmeal or muesli, or cook them in baked goods.
They make sweet and tasty snacks by themselves too!
Peanut butter naturally doesn’t contain any types of omega-3. However, some brands do add omega-3 into their peanut butter to provide more health benefits. This is an easy one to include in your child’s diet too since peanut butter is a classic favourite among the little ones. Simply spread it on toast or make healthy peanut butter muffins.
Beans contain small amounts of omega-3, so don’t count on them to provide your child with sufficient levels of the fatty acid. However, beans are rich in other nutrients such as fibre, vitamin B, and protein, so they certainly make a healthy ingredient to include in your child’s meals.