Omega 3 and Omega 6 are essential fatty acids. They are essential because we need to consume them in our diets, our bodies cannot make them. They are both polyunsaturated fatty acids but differ in structure. Polyunsaturated fats are much healthier than saturated and Trans fats. However, they are the least stable kind of fat and are open to oxidation. In other words, they spoil easily.
Omega 6, also known as linoleic acid, plays a crucial role in brain function, as well as, normal growth and development. This type of fatty acid promotes inflammation, blood clotting, and cell proliferation, while omega 3 fatty acids decrease these effects. They balance each other out, which is why it is important to consume both.
Omega 3 fatty acids are also known as linolenic acid. Omega 3 that comes from animal sources are converted into EPA and DHA. DHA helps the nervous system function properly and helps decrease inflammation. EPA and DHA also help improve mood, increase muscle growth and promote good sleep.
ALA is short chain omega 3 fatty acids that come from plant sources. They convert into DHA.
So how much should we consume?
Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids compete for enzymes that are needed for digestion. Since many people eat fast food, the modern diet contains too much Omega-6. In relation, we are storing large amounts of Omega-6 fatty acids and it is hard to get rid of these fatty acids. So it is important to try to avoid vegetable oils high in Omega-6 and processed food. You should eat plenty of Omega-3 rich foods, like salmon or mackerel, as well as, flaxseeds and nuts.
Omega 6 food sources Omega 3 food sources
Corn oil Canola oil
Safflower oil Linseed
Soybean oil Soybean oil
Margarine Marine oil
Nuts Fatty fish
Many foods have an adequate ratio of omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids to help keep your body healthy:
Omega 6 (g) Omega 3 (g)
Salmon 0.3 1.7
Mackerel 0.2 2.2
Walnuts 10.8 2.6
Flaxseeds 0.4 1.8
Pecans 6.4 0.3
Spinach trace 0.7
collards 0.1 0.1