Balancing Fatty AcidsPosted: January 27, 2010 in Healthy Eating by Craig Primack MD FACP
Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids are two types of unsaturated fats (the “good” fats) that can strengthen the circulatory system and improve heart health. Because your body needs these fatty acids but can’t produce them on its own, it’s important to eat foods that contain them. But beware of loading up on all things omega! There’s a balance that must be maintained between omega 3s and omega 6s if you want to improve your health.
More About Omega 3 and Omega 6 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids are both used by the body in the production of hormones. Omega 6 fatty acids help create the hormones involved in your body’s inflammatory response, the response to infection and disease. The omega 3 fatty acids, on the other hand, help create the hormones that are responsible for reducing inflammation.
Your body needs to be able to build and reduce inflammation when necessary.
Balancing Omega 3 and Omega 6 Fatty Acids
While both omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are needed for good health, most people consume far more omega 6s than they need. When this happens, our bodies can produce too many inflammatory hormones and not enough anti-inflammatory ones.
The problem is that omega 6s are found in common cooking vegetable oils and processed foods, which are prevalent in most Western diets. Omega 3s, on the other hand, are found in less commonly used oils, nuts, fish, and beans. To bring your body into proper balance, focus on increasing the amount of omega 3 fatty acids in your daily diet.
The Balance of Omega 3s to Omega 6s
Omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are both essential fatty acids, which means that your body requires them for healthy function but doesn’t make them on its own. However, before you set out to load up your diet with these unsaturated fats, you should be aware that balance is key when it comes to getting more omegas.
The ideal balance of omega 6s to omega 3s in your diet should range between a 1:1 ratio to a 4:1 ratio. However, omega 6s are fairly easy to come by, so most people’s diets reflect a ratio closer to 20:1 in favor of omega 6 fatty acids. This imbalance can lead to increased risk for heart attacks, arthritis, aggravation of skin diseases, insulin resistance, and obesity.
Getting Back in Balance
To get closer to the ideal 1:1 or 4:1 ratio, consider limiting your intake of omega 6 fatty acids and getting more omega 3s into your diet each day.
Sources of Omega 6 Fatty Acids: Foods to Consider Replacing
- corn oil
- safflower oil
- cottonseed oil
- peanut oil
- soybean oil
- sesame oil
Sources of Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Foods to Add to Your Diet
- flax seed oil
- canola oil
- dairy products
- cold-water, fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, and albacore tuna
- black raspberry
Creating a healthier balance between these two essential fatty acids can improve your heart health and help you lose weight, as well as help fight common signs of aging.