I have people at my gym in Oviedo, FL ask about the benefits of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. Both of them are important for good health. The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 should be a four to one ratio, with one part omega-3 for every four parts omega-6. It’s not that way in the present Western diet. Instead, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is anywhere between 10 parts omega-6 to one part omega-3 to a huge 50 parts omega-6 to one part omega-3. Depending on your present diet, you need to either lower the amount of omega-6, increase your amounts of omega-3 or both. Finding out how to do that means learning how to get your daily omega-3s.
What’s the benefit of omega-3?
You’ll keep your heart pumping in regular rhythms and ease inflammation when you have adequate omega-3 fatty acid in your diet. Omega-3 can also slow the formation of blood clots in the blood stream. Triglycerides are fat-carrying particles that are in the blood and omega-3 lowers them. Just because omega-3 fatty acids provide benefits, it doesn’t mean omega-6 fatty acids are villains. Quite the contrary. They lower the risk of heart disease by lowering bad cholesterol levels and increasing good cholesterol. They also aid in lowering the risk for cancer. Both omega-6 and omega-3 are essential fatty acids. The body needs them, but can’t produce them. They have to come from food.
What foods contain omega-6 and which ones contain omega-3?
Seeds and nuts tend to be high in omega-6, such as hemp and sunflower seeds, walnuts, avocado oil and peanut butter. Eggs are high in omega-6, too. To get omega-3 fatty acids, fatty fish, such as mackerel, salmon, herring and sardines provide a great deal of omega-3. Oysters, flaxseed, walnuts and soybeans are also high in omega-3. Whether eaten raw in salads or cooked, Brussels sprouts are also a good source of Omega-3. Each half cup contains 12% of the daily recommended amount.
While having adequate Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids is important, getting a good balance is also.
Don’t get upset that omega-6 is classified as pro-inflammatory and think that Omega-3, which is anti-inflammatory is far more important. You need both types of fat and you do need some inflammation. Inflammation helps protect the body from disease. You just don’t want it to be chronic and excessive. If it is, it can cause other types of damage, including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer’s and several types of cancer.
- Increasing the amount of omega-3 and reducing the amount of omega-6 can be done by switching choices of oil. Switching out flaxseed oil for cottonseed or soybean oil can significantly change the ratio.
- Besides being heart healthy, adequate omega-3 has a positive effect on schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorder, helping to improve mental health.
- Keeping both omega-3 and omega-6 low is healthiest. It’s best to balance out the intake by cutting back on food higher in omega-6 and substituting it with food higher in omega-3. One way is by consuming fatty fish three times a week.
- Eating a healthy diet is the best way to ensure you get adequate nutrients. Green leafy vegetables should be part of every day. Other veggies that boost omega-3 include Brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli, spinach and cauliflower.
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