Teen Nutrition — Do Teens Need More Omega-3s?

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Yes! According to recent reports, kids and adults still aren’t hitting the omega-3 mark, and brand-new research in rats shows that this nutritional deficiency might get passed down genetically—affecting the mental health of generations of teens to come. That’s pretty powerful stuff, right? So let’s talk about why these fatty acids are so essential for good teen nutrition, and how you can get teens to work them into their diets.

Omega-3s (found mostly in certain varieties of fatty fish, oil, seeds, and nuts) don’t just have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body—that’s why they’re supposedly so good for your heart—but they also function as a crucial building material for the body’s cells. And because teens’ brains are still developing, omega-3s are literally brain food—research shows that getting enough of them as the brain grows could have a positive effect on teens’ moods, mental health, and ability to learn. What’s more, your body can’t make omega-3s, so this is one case where you can teach teens that they are (for real!) what they eat.

That said, we know it still might not be easy to get teens to eat the very best sources of omega-3s. Fish can have a major stink factor, and seafood in general can be expensive. But summer is always a great time to experiment with new foods and encourage some simple dietary tweaks. So here are five easy changes to suggest to the teens in your life, just to get them started:

1. Swap walnuts for croutons in salad—they add just as much crunch, but a ton more nutrition.

2. Sprinkle flax seeds into cereals or smoothies. The taste is vaguely nutty, but not overpowering.

3. Cook with canola oil—or use it as a base to mix up fun salad-dressing recipes.

4. Make a salmon-salad sandwich by shredding up grilled salmon (use leftovers!) and mixing it with a little mayo or some super-ripe avocado. It’ll temper the fishy taste—we swear.

5. Switch to omega-3 enriched eggs. They aren’t just a solid source of omega-3s, but eggs are also such an easy food for teens to prepare on their own.

Have any other ideas—or favorite omega-3-rich recipes? Share them below.