What’s so great about DHA?

by Heather Szczepiorkowski
I have been thinking about an omega-3 fatty acid called DHA
When I was pregnant with my first child, like most parents, I read up on everything I could about pregnancy and parenting.  Then, DHA was best known for being in breast milk and was critical in building baby brains.  At the time, infant formulas were not supplemented with DHA, now many of them are.  Well after my son was born, things got busier of course, and I did not give DHA much more thought.

That changed this summer when I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about DHA and lifelong intelligence.  It got me thinking again about the importance of DHA in raising my kids.  Studies are finding that DHA is not only important in the development of children, but also throughout a person’s lifespan.  Here is some of what I have learned.

DHA or (docosahexaenoic acid), is a long strand omega-3 fatty acid. It is one of the good fats involved in building and keeping the brain and the whole nervous system working well.   DHA is the fatty acids in your neurons. DHA is most abundant in the brain and retina.  It is key to intelligence, reversing memory loss, improving eyesight, improving mood, just to name a few of the benefits.

We are only able to make limited amounts of DHA.  Because women’s bodies can nurture a fetus and nurse their young, they have a higher rate of conversion, but still need to get DHA from foods and supplements. Cold water fish and fish oil are one of the most common ways to take in DHA.  While most people believe that fish produce their own DHA, in fact, it’s the algae in their food chain that makes them a rich source of DHA. 

I also learned too that DHA is not just for kids or young, developing minds.  DHA is vital in all stages of life and has been found to improve memory functioning in middle-aged adults.  Since DHA is critical to the health of neurons, scientists are learning that DHA is important in the performance of neurotransmitters in the brain enabling them to communicate faster.
As a parent, I am now looking for more ways to increase our intake of DHA in the foods we eat – if your kids aren’t fond of algae, some other sources are salmon, tuna, pumpkin seeds, flaxseed, flaxseed oil and walnuts. Some brands of milk and eggs contain DHA.  Some chickens have flaxseed in their grain.  So double check!

 Right now my kids and I are taking DHA supplements along with our daily vitamin.  I made that decision since the food choices of my middle-schooler, at least at lunch time, may not be the wisest.  One of our family favorites is maple seasoned salmon http://allrecipes.com/recipe/maple-salmon/  My kids aren’t too fond of salmon alone – but with the seasonings and sweetness of the maple syrup, the plates are clean.
So get that DHA into your system!!  Please email me at [email protected] if you come across any great recipes that your family loves.   So long and thanks for all the fish!!!


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