Children need some fats and oils to be healthy and to grow properly. Healthy fat also is considered good for brain health. The key: the type of fat. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends children get their oils from fish, nuts, avocados, and liquid oils like olive oil.
“Trying to cut way back on fats and oils may seem like a good idea,” the USDA adds. “But your child needs some fats and oils to be healthy.” Why?
- For energy to play, learn, and grow
- To grow properly
- To utilize vitamins from food
- To provide flavor to foods (something a good extra virgin olive oil certainly adds to cooked veggies and other foods)
Olive oil also can play a role in the development of children’s brains. Some 60 percent of the brain’s weight is composed of fat.
“Omega-3 fatty acids are highly concentrated in the brain and appear to be important for cognitive (brain memory and performance) and behavioral function,” the University of Maryland Medical Center reports on its website.
However, the body can’t make them. Rather, it must get them from food. Certain foods are a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids, including olive oil, salmon, avocado, and nuts.
“Study after study has shown that they are good for the developing brain,” Roberta Anding, a registered dietitian and director of sports nutrition at Texas Children’s Hospital, tells the Houston Chronicle.
Katherine Tallmadge, a nutritionist and former spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, agrees the type of fat is key for good brain health.
“The type of fat you eat ends up in every cell membrane,” she tells Rodale News, and that can either boost or lower the functioning of cells. She adds that heart-healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats, like the type found in olive oil, help cells because they help blood vessels carry more oxygen to the brain.
The bottom line: Let your kids enjoy healthy fat. It’s good for their bodies … and brains.