Salmon fillet with bell peppers Yes. In recent years, we have found that fat, at least the right fat, is critical for health in general, and cognition in particular. Your child’s brain is very greasy, but in a good way. More than 60% of it is fat. Unlike the lazy fat stored on the hips or belly, fat in the brain is a worker bee. It makes up the cell membranes that surround each cell and the insulation sheath around neurons that allows thoughts to travel fast from one cell to another. The more fluid and flexible those membranes, the faster your child reacts, the more he/she remembers, and the more creative and clever that child is. That’s why the brain loves omega-3 fats. These are the most fluid of all fats. Your child’s body can’t make them, so is entirely dependent on choosing the grilled salmon not the cheeseburger for lunch. Nerve connections alone increase by almost a third by adding more omega-3s to the diet! An accumulating body of research, including a recent Oxford University study (called the DOLAB study), shows that the omega-3 fat, DHA, in particular can improve reading performance, behavior, and possibly working memory in children. You get the biggest bang for your buck with the omega-3 DHA. You’ll get the least results from the omega-3 fat, alpha linolenic acid or ALA, in flax, walnuts, soy, and other plants, which is great for the heart and circulation, and will help lower inflammation, but does nothing for boosting memory or lowering dementia risk. Up to 97% of the omega-3s in the brain are DHA. If your child doesn’t eat salmon, mackerel, herring, or sardines on a regular (2 to 3 times a week) basis, then add DHA-fortified foods to the diet or give your child a supplement that contains at least 200 milligrams of the omega-3 fat DHA. The Oxford study supplemented children with 600 milligrams of DHA daily for several months with no adverse side effects.

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