I’m A HUGE fan of finding what works for you and how and what we feed our kids is no different. The one thing we simply can’t escape is that good nutrition is important.
If you have been reading any nutrition articles lately I imagine your head is spinning at the fact that we have been lied to for years about fats and cholesterol. We have been warned off all fatty foods and as a result have made some companies who make low fat products very wealthy. Fats were feared and butter and cheese were demonised.
However no matter what studies come out and what we are told the fact remains that our Western diet is unbalanced. Sugar is now the enemy. I realised this a few years ago during my fight with depression.
As soon as I cut down on sugar and processed foods my mood lifted. Of course, general lifestyle and exercise habits play an important role too, but eating unhealthy foods can cause inflammation, which leads to illness. There are now studies showing links between inflammation and depression.
One is by George Slavich, a clinical psychologist at the University of California in Los Angeles. He told The Guardian newspaper that depression has as much to do with the body as the mind. ‘I don’t even talk about it as a psychiatric condition any more,’ he says. ‘It does involve psychology, but it also involves equal parts of biology and physical health.’
A family of proteins called cytokines sets off inflammation in the body, and switches the brain into sickness mode. Both cytokines and inflammation have been shown to increase when people become depressed and fall when they’re better.
Omega 3 fats worked for me in my recovery from depression. I notice a dramatic difference in my mood when I don’t take them. Omega 3s are known for their anti-inflammatory properties. They are essential fatty acids that the body cannot make for itself. There are two EFAs (essential fatty acids) Omega 3 and Omega 6. Omega 6 fatty
acids have been growing in prevalence in modern diets. Some research suggests that too many Omega 6 fats can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. They are in margarines, cakes, some fast foods, dressings, nuts… the list goes on. Many studies are now showing us that we need more Omega 3s instead.
Foods that provide Omega 3s include flax seeds, walnuts and green vegetables. However, our bodies need to convert Omega 3s into the active form that the body can use called EPA or DHA. The body is not very efficient at doing this. It is estimated only 5 per cent of flax oil is converted to EPA and DHA. Shellfish and oily fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines and anchovies already have EPA and DHA in its required form but how many of us eat oily fish three times a week or feed it to our children?
Scientists are still working to reveal how Omega 3s work during brain development, learning and cognition. Dr Alex Richardson has been researching this area for years. She is the author of They Are What You Feed Them, in which she talks about the effect a lack of Omegas has on children’s behaviourand development.
I give James Eskimo-3 (visit eskimo3.ie for stockists) kids everyday as it combines the unique stable fish oil, Eskimo-3, with Omega 6, Omega 9, vitamin D and vitamin E. I used to add it to yogurts, porridge, smoothies and even spread it on toast to get it into him but now he is used to the taste and takes a tablespoon every morning. A lack of EPA and DHA affects all parts of our body including our bones, blood, organs, skin, hair and mental health. They might be only one piece of the jigsaw but they are a very important piece.