Fat is delicious, nutritious and an outrageously important part of our diets. It’s true, I promise! Don’t close me now! While children and adults of all ages must include essential fatty acids in their diets or risk becoming deficient and sick, here’s the low-down on why boys needs more fat in their diet than girls. It’s time to feed the boys more fat!
Essential Fatty Acids
Essential fatty acids are made up of two families: Omega 3’s & Omega 6’s. The latter are common enough in contemporary diets (safflower and sunflower oil, mayonnaise etc.) – but many people walking the streets today are doing so with inadequate amounts of Omega 3’s to keep them company. These fats are called essential because our bodies cannot synthesize them independently – we must get them from our diet. So many, however, lack these good fats because we are told to eat margarine instead of butter, skim instead of whole milk and egg beaters instead of full eggs.
Why Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are Important
- EFAs are an important component of every cell membrane in the body
- The brain is made of 60% fat
- Connections in the brain (synapses) require long-chain fatty acids to be efficient
- EFAs are required for optimal fetal and infant brain development
- The corpus collosum (a sheet-like bundle of nerves that connects the right and left brain hemispheres) is made of fat
- The myelin sheath which covers nerves and speeds up signal transmissions is also made of fat
- Most interestingly to me: The forebrain (the part of the brain used for sustained attention) – has the highest concentration (30% of the total brain fat) of DHA (an Omega 3). Hi-five from every mom of a boy!
Research on Boys Vs. Girls
Boys and girls are different – they play differently, have different ways of thinking (and different attention spans), and different biological makings. As a result, research is finding that they also have different nutritional requirements. Studies done with rhesus monkeys showed that mothers produced milk with 35% more fat and protein for male babies, and milk made for female babies was less fatty but higher in calcium.
Researchers based at Michigan State University studied 72 Kenyan mothers and found that women with sons generally made richer milk (2.8% fat compared with 0.6% for daughters). Another study of (well-nourished) Massachusetts’ moms discovered that they too produced milk that had 25% more energy content for boys than for girls.
Our bodies are total miracles! They know what they need 🙂 And in the case of boys – we need to get the message out. Little boys need 3 times the amount of essential fatty acids than little girls. This may be because estrogen is a fatty carrier and testosterone isn’t (and it explains how frustratingly difficult it can be for us women to lose weight, while men workout once and drop 5lbs).
Studies old and new have found that many hyperactive children were deficient in essential fatty acids. Ever notice how learning and behavioral difficulties are much more prevalent in the tiny dudes? Feed the boys more fat! Recent research out of Purdue University found that boys with lower Omega 3 blood levels were significantly more likely to exhibit hyperactivity, impulsivity, tantrums, sleep problems and anxiety.
How to Feed the Boys More Fat
- Add some flaxseed or chia seeds to their oatmeal or mashed up banana (or sprinkle it into hummus, soup, or stew)
- Add a tablespoon of high quality cod liver oil into their daily routine
- Serve some walnuts with a meal or as a snack
- Increase their intake of eggs (read about the other benefits of egg consumption here)
- Allow for the liberal use of grass-fed butter and whole milk
- Occasional seafood
- Steam some brussel sprouts or kale with a meal
There is so much documented and anecdotal evidence of these foods helping to tame unreasonably rambunctious boys – and I’ve certainly seen a difference at times when we forget to include some of those sources for a few days. So share this message with a friend – and tell a mom at the end of her rope… there is hope 🙂 (look at that, a rhyme!) Down with Ritalin and in with the fat!