Being a parent, your child’s nutrition is always at the top of your mind. And why not? After all, good nutrition is the key to good health and optimum development. If only you had a super-food that could pack all the essential proteins and minerals, which would boost your child’s intelligence and also take care of his heart health – you would feel you are sorted then, right?
Fish is one such food item that is very rich in lean yet quality proteins and essential omega-3 fatty acids, the ‘good fats’ that your child’s brain and body requires. It is also a storehouse of vitamin D and B2, plus minerals like calcium, iodine, phosphorous, iron, zinc, potassium, and magnesium, that are needed for healthy cellular function and strong bones.
What Do The Studies Say?
With so much to gain from one source, it is not surprising that a study has established a definite correlation between regular consumption of fish and improved brain activity and quality of sleep in children (1).
In this study, about 541 school children from China were tested for their quality of sleep during the age of 9 and 11, and their IQ was tested at the age of 12. The children who consumed fish regularly slept better and were leading the intelligence quotient by an average of 5 points. Though the study claims data accuracy regarding fish consumption, other factors like types of fish consumed or economic and educational background of the parents weren’t given much consideration, which leaves the study lacking completeness.
Consumption Of Fish – Facts And Factors
Experts say that it is great to consume about two or three servings of fish every week, but those who aren’t used to having fish, especially children, may take some time to acquire a taste for it.
However, you can follow a few of the following tips and introduce it slowly in their diet:
- Only buy fresh fish. Freshwater fish hardly have any smell and seafood has a slightly briny, sea smell. If you get a peculiar stench, do not buy, as they might be rotten.
- Try different recipes that tempt your child’s palette like fish fingers or fish skewers, along with their favourite dip.
- If possible, take them to lakes and shores where they can observe fishing techniques or try their hands at fishing just to give them a hang of the experience.
Having said that, there is one factor that you must be careful of and it is the mercury contamination in fish. Fish contain an environmental pollutant called methylmercury, and prolonged exposure to the contaminant can be hazardous for children (2).
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But that doesn’t mean that your child cannot eat fish. There are many varieties of fish that are considered safe for your child’s consumption, as they contain negligible amounts of mercury.
Some fish and seafood that contain lowest levels of mercury are:
- Salmon (the Coho, Pink, Atlantic, and Chinook varieties)
- Pollock (Walleye and Atlantic)
- Flounder, etc.
There are several other pieces of information that you may peruse at leisure (3).
In order to enjoy the health benefits of consuming fish, FDA suggests about two to three servings of fish, keeping in mind the portion size.
For children below 6 years of age, the serving portion should be about 3 to 5 ounces.
For children between the ages of 6 and 8, the recommended portion is about 4 to 6 ounces and for those above 9 years of age, the recommended serving size is about 8 to 12 ounces weekly.
Indeed, fish is one of nature’s most important food sources that guarantees considerable nutritional benefits. If you want your child to have a healthy start towards his development, do include adequate portions of fish in his diet.
You can also read: Exact time to put your child to bed, according to their age