The guiding principle: „good”, i.e. mono- and polyunsaturated vegetable fats found in vegetable oils and food products that contain them should enjoy priority over saturated, animal fats in our nutrition, and thus in the diet of children as well.
It’s important to know that the body needs fat – so does the body of a growing child. The reason is that fats play a vital physiological role in the human organism. Among other things, they take part in building the cell membrane and the evolvement of certain hormones, and facilitate the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. They provide energy – multiple times as much as carbohydrates. About one third of our daily energy need should be provided by fats consumed in our food.
Which are some of the „good fats”?
Among the poly-(multiply) unsaturated fats, it is the omega-3 fatty acids that are of prime importance: eicosapentanaeoic acid (EPA) and a docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These are essential fatty acids, meaning that the human body is unable to produce them, therefore they must be acquired from our food. 30% of the human brain is made up of DHA fatty acids, which play a great role in the communication processes between the nerve cells. And it is the healthy functioning of these processes that our mental capacity, our intelligence depends on.
Those of vegetable origin: especially flaxseed and flaxseed oil. Also to be found in: walnut and walnut oil, rapeseed oil, hemp seed oil, camelina oil. The necessary daily intake is one teaspoonful, either in itself or, with some creativity, in salads, soups, sauces or smoothies, enriching and flavoring them. A piece of advice: Never overheat the oil, since the higher temperature may generate carcinogens! The major culprit is acrylamide, which gets formed in overheated and multiply used oil, doing harm to the nervous system and having a potential carcinogenic effect.
Of animal origin:
hen egg: bear in mind that heat damages its many valuable nutrients!
fish found in Hungarian waters: silver carp, sterlet, sea fish: in addition to their omega-3 fatty acid constituents, fish – unlike nutrient supplements – also contain other synergic (co-efficient) nutrients beneficial to the heart (such as vitamin D, selenium, iodine). Omega 3 can be found in abundance in fish with fatty flesh – such as in salmon, sardine, sardella, anchovy, herring, trout or mackerel fish. In fact, river fish contain far more of this fat than do cultured fish , the reason being that they acquire it through natural feeding.
All of these have formed part of man’s diet throughout history but only recently have we discovered how essential their role is in maintaining the appropriate functioning of the human body.
Let’s consider them one by one
Omega-3 is necessary for the healthy development and growth of the embryo and the infant. It’s essential for expecting mothers to be supplied with a satisfactory amount of omega-3 fatty acids, as it affects the development of the placenta and the milk glands, and can thus reduce the risk of premature birth.
- It is especially important for the mother to consume foods rich in omega 3, which has an excellent effect on the development of the baby’s nervous system and can also help avoid or mitigate the symptoms of postnatal depression.
- In the case of infants, omega 3 promotes their mental development and their sharpness of sight. Luckily, it can be found in breast milk as well but its extent depends on the omega-3 intake of the mother. A study carried out a few years ago demonstrated that babies who had been nursed on breast milk containing omega achieved better results in memory and intelligence tests at their age of 3.
- can enhance the healthy development of the brain, the nervous system and the sight
- can improve the memory and concentration of the child. This, in itself, is an important factor in the case of kids with a scattered mind and attention problems
- can assist the development of reading and learning skills
- has been observed to positively influence hyperactive, aggressive and other problematic behaviors. The reason is that calm and balanced behavior is grounded in a healthily developing nervous system
- can contribute to the normal functioning of the immune system
- can promote the healing of inflammatory diseases
- can alleviate asthmatic and/or allergic complaints
- can make our children more resistant to cold, influenza and other respiratory infections
- can have a beneficial effect on the healing of skin diseases that develop at a young age
- can be of use in the prevention and supplementary treatment of psoriasis, eczema and atopic dermatitis