With all different types of protein, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins and fatty acids, it is difficult to keep up with what should be a part of your child’s diet. To every mother who wishes to see her child become smarter and stronger- DHA is the way to go!
Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) is an example of an essential fatty acid, which acts as a building block for the brain and retina in the eyes.
Here are all the things you need to know about this essential fatty acid:
During pregnancy, DHA from the mother is deposited in the baby’s brain and retina. After birth, babies get DHA from breastmilk. This is sufficient for the first few months after which they can produce DHA independently. The amount of DHA present in breastmilk depends on the mother’s diet. On an average, the DHA content of human breastmilk is 30 times that of milk from other mammals.
The human body can produce DHA by synthesizing a polyunsaturated fatty acid known as linoleic acid but this process is not very efficient.
One of the reasons expectant mothers need to consume DHA rich foods is because of the role of DHA in brain development. DHA plays an important role in cognitive development in the first year of a baby’s life. It also helps develop problem-solving skills.
Development of vision is one of the most important DHA benefits. During the last trimester of pregnancy, DHA deposits in the retina and brain help in improving vision. This is the time when photoreceptor developments take place. Hence, it is very important for women in their third trimester of pregnancy to get adequate DHA.
Apart from vision and mental development, DHA also influences the immune system. It strengthens a baby’s immunity and helps remove toxins from the body.
There are a number of DHA benefits for adults. Adequate DHA consumption can have a positive effect on pregnancy and lactation.
According to the WHO/FAO, babies between the age of 6 months and 24 months need 10-12mg/kg body weight of DHA every day.
Seafood is the best source of DHA. Other common dietary sources of DHA include:
DHA is also present in small amounts in green leafy vegetables. Since the body can create a certain amount of DHA by synthesizing linoleic acid, consuming foods rich in this fatty acid may also be beneficial. Common sources of linoleic acid include flax seeds, olive oil, mustard oil, walnuts, fenugreek seeds, soya beans, canola oil and kidney beans.
Nursing mothers have higher DHA requirements since their breast milk is the only source of DHA for babies. Thus, they may take DHA supplements in addition to their diet. DHA supplement benefits are especially important for vegetarians as no specific vegetarian sources of DHA have been identified.