6 Dietary Fats that Increase School Performance in Children

Dietary fats that increase school performance are those that can boost brain function. Learn more about them in the following article.
6 Dietary Fats that Increase School Performance in Children

Last update: 01 April, 2023

A nutritious diet in childhood is essential to promote health and good performance in adulthood. This includes dietary fats, which, in addition to providing energy, are a structural part of all cells, such as those of the brain. Therefore, they participate in the neurological, cognitive, and learning development of children.

Do you want to know which dietary fats increase school performance in children? Keep reading.

What do we know about fats that increase school performance in children?

From the time they’re in the womb, and even before birth, babies require certain nutrients for optimal growth and brain development. Once they’re born, they must maintain a diet that guarantees all the nutrients that will have a favorable impact on the rest of their life.

One of them is the fat consumed in the diet. For example, a good concentration of omega-3 fatty acid, such as DHA, improves learning capacity, memory, and concentration, as shown in a review published in The Journal of Nutrition.

What’s the function of DHA in the brain?

DHA is the predominant fat in the central nervous system. It represents 85% of all polyunsaturated fats found in the brain and is part of the structure and function of neurons.

An Asian girl cutting a fish on a cutting board.
Sardines, as well as other oily fish, are important in the diet of children to increase DHA, which promotes memory and concentration.

How is it involved in brain function?

The Chilean Journal of Nutrition states that the brain forms connections between neurons and, in this way, carries signals and information. These cells are covered by myelin, a substance that allows for faster and clearer communication between them. DHA builds myelin by making neurons more flexible and facilitating the brain’s neurological connections.

In general, DHA’s functions for the brain include improving nerve transmission, forming neurons, and protecting against oxidative stress. These functions are essential for maximizing cognitive development during brain maturation.

What’s said about diet to boost DHA intake

A study in the journal Pediatricshas demonstrated the benefit of dietary DHA in breastfed or post-breastfed infants to support children’s mental development. Therefore, the brain concentration of DHA has been correlated with learning ability and intelligence in newborns and infants.

At the same time, some omega-3 fatty acids, such as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), can be converted to DHA. However, a review shared in Progress in Lipid Research explained that 60-85% of ALA can be oxidized. However, the authors insist that the inclusion of foods that are sources of ALA is key to maintaining DHA levels in different tissues.

In 2020, the journal Nutrients pointed out that in order to improve the conversion of ALA to DHA, the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 fats in the diet must be reduced. This can be achieved by increasing olive oil and reducing seed oils, such as sunflower, sesame, or corn oil, among others. However, the best way to consume DHA is directly from some foods that contain it naturally.

Find out which dietary fats increase school performance in children

Omega-3 fatty acids in foods are varied. The most well-known are DHA, EPA, and alpha-linolenic fatty acid (ALA). Here are the dietary fats that increase school performance.

Oily fish

Introducing fish into the diet at an early age, even from pregnancy or earlier, is a wise decision. So-called blue fish are high in fat and are dominated by long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, DHA, and EPA. In this regard, experts from Oxford University recommend the consumption of sardines, anchovies, mackerel, salmon, horse mackerel, herring, and canned tuna to increase DHA in the diet.

In addition, the same study highlights that school children with a low consumption of oily fish presented reduced levels of DHA in the blood. This group even failed reading and memory tests and, according to their parents, also had behavioral imbalances and sleep disorders.


Nuts provide antioxidants such as vitamin E, selenium, zinc, copper, and magnesium, which are beneficial for brain function.

According to the Spanish Nutrition Foundation, nuts provide more than 50% monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. In addition, they have a good balance of omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids, which favors conversion to DHA from alpha-linolenic fatty acid.

Nuts include hazelnuts, walnuts, pistachios, chestnuts, almonds, and cashews. Peanuts are also included in this group, despite being a legume. These can be offered ground from 6 months of age to avoid choking. In addition, possible skin and respiratory allergies that may occur during complementary feeding should be monitored.


The Chilean Journal of Nutrition reports that chia and flaxseed are a rich source of polyunsaturated fatty acids. According to the information, more than 50% of their total fat is omega-3 alpha-linolenic fatty acid (ALA). It’s best to use them freshly ground to add to fruit and milk mixtures or vegetable drinks. Cereal porridge such as oatmeal can also work as good vehicles.

Avocados, on the other hand, carry 12% fat, according to the Spanish Nutrition Foundation. Although their predominant fat is omega-9, there’s a good omega-6/omega-3 ratio. They’re also a source of fiber, vitamin A, folic acid, and vitamin K. This fruit can be given crushed, pureed, or as a whole fruit.

Olive oil

Olive oil has been noted for its high value of omega-9 oleic acid, with a contribution of 70%. This fat is related to health and the prevention of certain chronic diseases. It’s on the list of healthy dietary fats to improve performance, as the balance between omega-6/omega-3 favors the conversion of ALA to DHA. It’s best to use it raw in preparations.

Canola oil

Canola is the second most widely cultivated oilseed in the world. Its oil is highly unsaturated, with a fat content of 91%. The journal Anales Venezolanos de Nutrición found that 9 % of its fat is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). In addition, its omega-6/omega-3 ratio is very balanced. It’s recommended to be served raw in salads, soups, and purees, or as part of protein preparations.

Choose food fats that favor learning

To favor good brain development from before the birth of our children, it’s important to make an assertive selection of fatty foods.

Oily fish, which are considered the main source of DHA, should be present at least twice a week in the diet of children. Also, seeds, avocados, and nuts can be included in sauces, ice cream, fruit smoothies, or yogurts. Canola and olive oils should be used in their raw form to take advantage of the DHA precursor.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.