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Flaxseed for Kids?
I have been putting flaxseed into my toddler's peanut butter sandwiches. But now I've heard that flaxseed doesn't really give the body an effective dose of omega 3s? Any advice?
Answer (Published 3/1/2004)

Updated 7/12/2005

First of all, don't use whole flaxseeds. They'll pass through the body undigested and won't do any good at all. Buy fresh flaxseeds (preferably organic) at a health food store; they are inexpensive. Keep them in the refrigerator. Before use, grind the seeds (about a quarter-cup at a time) in a blender or coffee grinder that you reserve exclusively for this purpose. Store the ground seeds in the refrigerator in an airtight container, and use them up within a few days. (If they start to smell like oil paint, they've gone bad and should be thrown out.) Sprinkle a tablespoon or two of the ground seeds on cereal or add them to salads, or mix them with your child's peanut butter. A teaspoon of ground flaxseed should be enough for a toddler.

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Ground flaxseed provides alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which the body converts to the same heart-protective omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, sardines and other oily fish. They also provide fiber and are one of the richest dietary sources of lignans, a class of phytoestrogens thought to help protect against breast, prostate and colon cancers. However, flaxseed isn't as good a source of omega-3s as fish oil, which contains the pre-formed omega-3 s that the body needs. You should be able to find a pleasant tasting fish oil formulated especially for children. You can start giving children supplements after they begin eating solid food.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

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