January 23, 2014

The Skinny on Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are types of fats that are essential for good health. Since our bodies can’t make these fatty acids, we have to get them through our food. Omega-3s and omega-6s have opposing tasks in the body. What that means is we need a consistent ratio of both in order for our bodies to function normally.

Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids Basics

Screen Shot 2014-01-21 at 3.26.14 PM

Where to Find Omega-3 and Omega-6 in Food

Omega-6 fatty acids are plentiful in the western diet so we typically have no problem getting all we need from food. Omega-3 fatty acids comprise two major types: ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) or EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). ALA is found in plant sources of omega-3 and needs to be converted to EPA or DHA before it can be used.

When the omegas are balanced, inflammation is regulated and necessary — for example, it helps stop a cut from bleeding. However, when the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is skewed towards omega-6, what you can get is chronic and excessive inflammation.

Screen Shot 2014-01-21 at 4.10.29 PM

How Much of Omega-3 vs. Omega-6 Should I Eat?

With omega-3s:

Trout and rosemary on a wooden board

  • The American Heart Association recommends folks eat at least 1 gram of EPA/DHA per day for heart health and a minimum of 7 ounces of fish per week.
  • Meanwhile, 2 to 4 grams of EPA/DHA per day is recommended as a therapeutic level for depression.
  • If you’re vegetarian or vegan, choose omega-3 supplements with EPA and DHA, preferably from a DHA algae source.

With omega-6s:

  • The American diet typically has too much omega-6 fatty acids in it, so eating fewer omega-6 rich foods is advised.
  • Focus on eating less processed foods made with inexpensive oils rich in omega-6. Instead, cook with extra virgin olive oil.
Tag(s): Blog , Nutrition 101

Comments

Other Posts You Might Be Interested In

11 min read | September 9, 2021

How to Feed Your Brain

Even though your brain makes up just two percent of your total body weight, it consumes a whopping 20 percent of the energy you take in from food. And to work well,... Read More
6 min read | September 2, 2021

10 Tasty Weeknight Chicken Dinners

  Let’s face it: sometimes cooking dinner after a long, bus day is an unappetizing thought. We know you’re short on time, which is why we’ve put together 10 of our... Read More
Back to Blog Home

Subscribe to email updates