Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids are both essential dietary fats. They offer several benefits to the human body, which make them very popular as health supplements. However, many of these benefits are realised only when taken in the correct balance. This may seem not very clear, so we created an easy-to-understand guide that will explain it in simple terms.
With the right know-how, you will be able to determine the best Omega 3 Omega 6 ratio for your body.
What Is Omega 3
Omega 3 fatty acids fight inflammation in the body and are vital for eye health. They are also essential for brain growth and development.
The human body needs three Omega 3 fatty acids to stay healthy. These are:
- Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA), which is found in nuts and seeds
- Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA), which is found in fish, krill, and algae
- Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) which is also found in fish, krill, and algae
Your body can synthesise EPA and DHA to a limited degree. However, it cannot produce ALA, which is why it is known as an “essential” fatty acid.
Therefore, your diet must provide much of your EPA, DHA, and ALA. As this can be difficult to achieve with the average modern diet, supplements are usually the best source of Omega 3 fatty acids.
Many people don’t know the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids and how it can improve their lives. In our separate article, we explore the many benefits of this essential polyunsaturated fatty acid. You’ll learn how omega 3 can help improve heart health, cognitive function, and joint pain. You’ll also find out how to get more omega-3 in your diet.
What Is Omega 6
Omega 6 fatty acids help with the functioning of all your body’s cells. None of your cells would be able to operate properly without Omega 6. These fatty acids are also essential for hormone production (GLA – one of the Omega 6’s, helps to balance progesterone levels naturally).
Let’s look at the four Omega 6 fatty acids that your body needs for optimum health:
- Linoleic Acid (LA) is found in soybeans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, tofu, flaxseed, canola oil, and walnuts.
- Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA) is found in Evening Primrose oil and hemp seed.
- Dihomo-Gamma-Linolenic Acid (DGLA) is a strong anti-inflammatory that can be found in vegetable oils, grains, most meat products and dairy.
- Arachidonic Acid (AA) can be obtained from meat products such as beef, chicken, fish and pork.
Your body can produce GLA, DGLA and AA, but it does not produce LA on its own. Therefore, you must obtain most of your GLA, DGLA and AA from your diet, as well as all of your LA.
However, Omega 6 fatty acids offer protection against a whole list of medical conditions. In addition, other studies have shown that higher levels of Omega 6 can sometimes decrease the risk of heart disease.
To maximise the benefits, you need to ensure that your ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 is correct.
Omega 3 Omega 6 Ratio
The omega-6/omega-3 ratio is crucial. Taking too little Omega 3 in relation to Omega 6, or an excess intake of Omega- 6 in general, can prohibit the metabolising of Omega-3. This can also cause inflammation that compels certain chronic conditions, as an excess of Omega 6 is linked to inflammation.
Therefore, to get the balance of omega-6 and omega-3 right, it is helpful to eat foods that naturally have the right ratio of Omega 3 and Omega 6. Omega 3 supplements such as Omega 3 DHA will provide you with all the benefits of Omega 3 that you may not be getting from your diet. This can also counteract the effects of a diet too high in Omega 6.
How Is The Omega Ratio Calculated?
To determine the Omega ratio in a lab, the sum of all the Omega 6 fatty acids is divided by the sum of all the Omega 3 fatty acids.
It is also possible to take a home test ( developed in a lab to scientific standards) to determine your Omega6/3 balance.
You can also find online charts that will indicate the Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio in most foods and oils. While there are often slight discrepancies between them due to testing conditions or the quality of samples, they give a good basic indication of the ratio found in common food.
The Optimal Omega 3 To Omega 6 Balance
The optimum ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 can vary but is no higher than 1:4. This means that for every 1 gram of Omega 3, you should eat no more than 4 grams of Omega 6. Unfortunately, most people do not follow this advice and eat far more Omega 6 foods, which throws out the balance.
An easy way to address this issue is to either cut down on Omega 6 foods (meats), increase Omega 3 foods in your diet (fish, nuts and eggs), or supplement with Omega 3.
Foods With A High Omega 3 To Omega 6 Ratio
Crab, fish (tuna, cod, herring, mackerel, salmon), fish roe, oysters, mussels, spinach, flax seeds, lettuce, kidney beans and mangoes naturally have high Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratios.
Foods With A High Omega 6 To Omega 3 Ratio
Meats generally have a high Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio. This does not mean you cannot eat meat, but it should be offset by generous sources of Omega 3-rich foods or supplement with Omega 3.
Are There Any Vegetable Oils High In Omega-6?
- Sunflower oil is high in Linoleic Acid. However, this does not mean sunflower oil is bad for you, as it can be helpful in a balanced diet. The only concern is when you consume Omega 6 in a ratio of more than 4:1.
- The average ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 in olive oil is 10:1. Therefore, olive oil, while it contains both linoleic and linolenic acid, can be said to be a high Omega-6 oil.
- Safflower oil is used for both cooking and salad oil. It is high in Omega-6 yet contains no Omega-3. It contains over 70% Linoleic Acid.
Why Is The Omega Content Of Oils Important?
Because oils are used in frying, baking, drizzled over salads, and can even be found in processed foods, we consume more than we think. And if you use oils high in Omega 6 in combination with foods high in Omega 3, you may very likely exceed the healthy Omega 6/Omega 3 ratio.
This is why the fatty acid composition of oils is also important. However, it is not necessary to completely avoid these oils as they do have a role to play when ingested in moderation.
For example, macadamia nut oil is fairly low in Omega 6 fatty acids. It is, however, rich in Oleic acid (Omega 9), which has extremely beneficial health properties. Olive oil is high in Omega 6, but is beneficial to our diet, as it also contains vitamins and antioxidants.
All the Omegas play a vital role in our health, and therefore Omega-3 cannot be said to be more beneficial than Omega-6. They perform different bodily functions, and as part of a balanced diet, they will protect you from illness and help your body function properly.
The most important rule to follow when it comes to ingesting Omega-3 and Omega-6 is to consume them in the correct proportions. According to science, it has been determined that is a maximum Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio of 4:1.
Get the balance right, and you will reap the numerous health benefits of these fatty acids.