Do pregnant women need Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s)?

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It is especially important for a pregnant and breastfeeding woman to consume DHA (one of the omega-3s in fish oil) because the developing baby is dependent on mom! DHA is an essential fat—we must get it from diet or supplements, because our bodies don’t make it—and consuming enough DHA is critical for normal and healthy development of infant brain, eyes, and nervous system. Inadequate consumption of DHA during pregnancy has been linked to shortened gestational periods and premature delivery.

Experts recommend that women consume 300–600 mg of DHA daily while pregnant and breastfeeding. As with any supplement, it is best to consult your healthcare professional.

Can we get enough EFAs from the food we eat?

Fish is one of the most abundant sources of EFAs, but Americans simply don’t eat enough fish on a regular basis. Even those who eat fish several times a week aren’t getting enough EFAs because much of the fish consumed today are farm raised (fed a diet of grains instead of fish meal) and lack significant amounts of EPA and DHA. In addition, there are several factors that can lead to a reduced absorption of EFAs: age, poor diet, alcohol consumption, low levels of certain vitamins and minerals, some prescription drugs, compromised immune status, and a diet high in trans-fatty acids (fast food, baked goods).

What should I look for when purchasing fish oil?

1. Investigate the manufacturing process. How is the fish oil manufactured, and what are the manufacturing standards?
2. Smell. Does the fish oil smell fishy? If it smells fishy, the fish oil has most likely been exposed to oxygen and is becoming rancid.
3. Taste. Does the fish oil taste fishy? The freshest fish oils should not taste fishy. Avoid fish oils that have really strong fruit flavor added to them because they are most likely trying to hide the fishy flavor of rancid oil.

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