Consuming omega-3 fatty acids is good for your health, especially your heart. Did you know that eating foods high in omega 3s, like fish, is great for brain development in your unborn baby as well? Let's look at the latest research and some recommendations.
Researchers from Wayne State University studied the umbilical cords of Inuit babies and found that those with the highest levels of DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid) showed the best results for brain and eye development when tested at 6 and 11 months of age. It is no surprise that Inuit babies had high levels of DHA in their umbilical cords because the Inuit consume a diet very high in fish, which is the best source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Now, many products on the market today are fortified with omega-3s, including the more expensive baby formulas, because of the growing research showing the health benefits of consuming omega-3s. However, don't wait until the birth of your baby to begin thinking about including omega-3s in his or her diet, start now while you are pregnant.
One word of caution. Fish is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, however it can also contain high amounts of mercury and PCBs , which are harmful and poisonous to your unborn babies. Doctors recommend that you consume fish, but that you avoid those containing high amounts of mercury such as tuna, shark, king mackerel, tilefish and swordfish. The light versions of tuna are generally considered safer, but ask your doctor if you are concerned.
To avoid any of the risks posed by consuming fish, you should consider taking fish oil supplements while pregnant (300 mg DHA per day). Once your baby is born, keep consuming fish or fish oil supplements while breastfeeding and beyond. If you do not breastfeed, then purchase the baby formulas with DHA included and add fish to your baby's diet as soon as possible. For vegetarians, take a fish oil supplement daily because the benefits of consuming omega-3s are just too numerous to count!