Omega during pregnancy

More and more researches confirm the importance of omegas in the diet of pregnant and breastfeeding women. Did you know?

Dr. Jacques Simard, paediatrician at the Paediatric centre of Laval, strongly recommends a diet rich in omegas during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. It is because the essential fatty acids have a direct influence on the development of the retina and the brain of babies. It also helps their immune system and their resistance to diseases.  “The brain is growing quickly, especially during the last semester of pregnancy and during the first two years of life of a child. The DHA that constitute a part on the brain’s membrane builds up early and quickly. This is why it is so important for the future mothers and the nursing mothers to raise their daily intake of essential fatty acids during that period.”

I was already proven in the past that breastfed babies were “doing better” in a cognitive sense,  (learning development), had a better vision and a better immune system than formula-fed babies. “We were wondering what factors could contribute to this reality. We realized through research that the Omega 3 (DHA) and 6 (ARA) acted like construction blocks for the brain and the immune system of babies, that are both in development at this very young age. In the immune system, we are talking about a resistance to allergens and microbes”, explains doctor Simard.

Yet, a survey conducted by Reid in 2008 shows that less than a third of mothers are aware of the beneficial effects of omegas on their baby. It may explain why Canadian mothers consume so little!

Recent statistics show that the average Canadian consumption is significantly inferior to the needs. It is recommended that during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, women consume 300 mg of DHA every day and the average is 82 mg.

Ideally, you should buy foods that naturally contain omegas like fresh salmon – the best natural source as one 85g portion of fresh salmon contains more than 1000 mg of DHA – sole (85 g = 219 mg DHA) and cod (85 g = 131 mg).  You can also buy foods in which DHA was added like milk and eggs (an enriched egg fulfills 25% to 35% of the recommended daily intake in omega-3). There is a lot of other foods on the market that also contain omegas, keep an eye open for them when you go shopping.

You can find a great list of foods to guide you in your choices here.

Pay attention

As fish can also mean mercury, it is important to choose the right fish. Beware of fishes that eat other fishes such as shark, swordfish, red tuna, marlin, etc. You should not eat more than 150g of these per month. 

On the other hand, some fishes are low in mercury and rich in omegas and these are the fishes you should focus on: farmed Atlantic salmon, pink salmon, red salmon, canned herring, Atlantic mackerel, rainbow trout, canned tuna. You can eat as much as you want.

And supplements?

If your diet doesn’t naturally contain enough omegas, it is possible to use pills but it is important to be informed about the different qualities of omegas contained “we don’t have a specific brand to recommend. I suggest that mothers ask questions to their natural products supplier to find out where the omegas contained in the pills come from. Pharmacists will also give you good advice on the subject.” says Dr. Jacques Simard.

On the opposite, Dr. Jean-Marie Bourre, who wrote a book called The truth about s-3, recommends to focus on foods that contain omegas and beware of the pills. “Because we don’t know for sure if the delicate chemistry of the fatty acids in question tolerate the transformation process and, most importantly, we don’t know if the intestines can absorb correctly the chemical structure that it makes.”

Infant formula

If your child is formula-fed, you should know that three companies add omegas to their formulas: Enfamil (Mead Johnson), Good start (Neslé) and Similac (Abbott).

Image de Sonia Cosentino

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