Are any omega-3 supplements appropriate for young children or should we just put flax powder on everything?
Let’s start with a quick lesson on omega-3 fatty acids. First, there is the type called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is considered an essential nutrient because our bodies do not make it. Vegan sources of ALA include ground flax, hemp, chia, walnuts, and full-fat soy foods—along with the oils of these plants.
The Institute of Medicine recommends the following daily intake for children:
|Age||Male (g/day)||Female (g/day)|
To put this into perspective in terms of foods, here is a list of serving sizes needed to obtain 1.6 grams of ALA:
So, you can see that very small amounts of these foods are needed on a daily basis, and that you don’t need to rely solely on flax seed!
If we are talking about DHA and EPA, other forms of omega 3 fatty acids, then yes—supplements will be needed. Without going into the biochemical explanation, basically ALA converts to DHA and EPA, and, because of this, they are not considered essential nutrients. Yet, vegans tend to have lower blood levels than omnivores who consume fish—and we still are not sure the significance of this related to long-term health. The benefits of DHA and EPA are not written in stone, though we do know they play roles in cognitive development of infants and are believed to have benefits in chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease.
While there is not an established guideline for DHA and EPA intake, typical vegan soft gels or liquid drops will contain around 300mg of DHA and 150mg of EPA, which are amounts I am comfortable with recommending. Many families use Deva’s liquid DHA supplement. The DHA and EPA in these supplements are sourced from algae. The bottom line is that we all need both ALA food sources and likely could benefit from EPA and DHA supplementation, especially pregnant and nursing moms and children.
Have a nutrition question for Anya? Email her.
Disclaimer: Although Anya Todd, R.D. and Kara Rienzo, R.D.N. are registered dietitians, the nutrition content provided on GenerationVeggie.org is for educational and informational purposes only. Any or all changes to your diet and lifestyle should always first be discussed with your professional healthcare providers. GenerationVeggie.org assumes no responsibility or liability for any consequences resulting directly or indirectly from any action or inaction you take based on the information found on or material linked to on this website.