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Omega-3 Fatty Acids and DHA During Pregnancy

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Are you just “a little” pregnant right now? Is your pregnancy so new that; you haven’t told anybody, you have just scheduled your first doctor’s appointment and you’re still in that dream –like state where you can’t stop thinking “Is this really happening?!”. Well if you’re 6 weeks or 26 weeks pregnant the first thing you should be adding is a prenatal vitamin to you daily diet. The extra vitamins and minerals are so important, during your entire pregnancy. They help the embryo and fetus grow and thrive to its full potential. Prenatal vitamins can be supplemented with DHA or EPA or both and adding an omega-3 fatty acid to your pregnancy diet is highly recommended.

So what is DHA? And EPA? And ALA? If your vitamin doesn’t have those, can you take something else? Is any of this really important?

Well it turns out that adding Omega-3 fatty acids to your pregnancy is absolutely important. It can boost brain growth of the fetus and improve the health of the mommy too.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

  • Is an essential fatty acid, it can’t be made in the body and has to be found in food sources
  • Has 2 types;
    • ALA
    • DHA and EPA
  • Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish and shellfish, some leafy vegetables like kale, spinach or Brussels sprouts and other vegetables like flax seeds and chia seeds and walnuts.
  • An Omega-3 fatty acid contains ALA, DHA and EPA essential fatty acids. If you added an omega-3 fatty acid supplement, like a fish oil supplement, you would receive ALL ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS.

ALA (alpha-linolenic acid)

  • Is found in vegetables oils like soybean oil and rapeseed (canola) oil
  • Is found in vegetables like walnuts, flax seeds and chia seeds
  • ALA partially converts to DHA and EPA

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)

  • Is found in fatty fish like salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel.
  • Cannot be made in the body without ALA
  • Is absolutely necessary to neural development and retinal development (nervous system and eye development) and can improve heart health, memory and more.

EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)

  • Is found in fatty fish like salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel.
  • Cannot be made in the body without ALA
  • Is absolutely necessary to neural development and retinal development (nervous system and the eyes) and can improve heart health, memory and more.

So your prenatal vitamin contains DHA-that’s great! You’re giving your body an essential fatty acid it needs to help grow and protect the baby’s brain and organs. If you’re prenatal vitamin contains DHA and EPA-that’s great too. DHA and EPA cannot be made in the body and need to be taken in so they can be used in the body. If you’re prenatal vitamin contains ALA, DHA and EPA you’re getting all of the essential fatty acids your body and your baby need. If your prenatal vitamin does NOT contain DHA or EPA than consider taking a fish oil supplement. The fish oil supplement (or vegetarian version) will contain DHA and EPA, exactly what your baby needs to grow and develop.

Consider adding 500mg or more every day, of essential fatty acids to your diet. Receiving the adequate amount of omega-3 fatty acids is difficult for some people because of the lack of fish, nuts and seeds in your diet. Do not try to add only ALA (which partially converts to DHA and EPA) from oils like soybean or canola oils. These are found in processed foods like salad dressings or baked goods and you’ll be adding empty calories, not nutrients.

Pregnancy is the perfect time to start healthy habits that can last a lifetime.

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