Omega-3’s and Omega-6’s: Strike A Balance!

Photo by adactio via Flickr

Photo by adactio via Flickr

In the last few years, you have probably seen countless headlines extolling the virtues of omega-3 fatty acids and their role in a healthy diet.  So, why is everyone raving about omega-3’s?

Why are omega-3 fatty acids important?
Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids that are needed in every cell of our bodies to reduce inflammation and prevent disease.  So, they are tremendously important, but unfortunately they cannot be synthesized by our bodies.  They can only be obtained by eating certain foods.  The same is true for omega-6 fatty acids, which are also essential to our diets.  So, why don’t we constantly hear about needing more omega-6 fatty acids in our diet then?

Well the answer to that question lies in the fact that omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids should be kept in balance for optimal health.  The appropriate ratio is 2:1 or 1:1, depending on the study you read.  Unfortunately, many of us lack sufficient omega-3 fatty acids in our diets to approach these ratios.  The typical American diet is weighted much too heavily towards omega-6’s.  This imbalance can contribute to long-term diseases such as heart disease, cancer, asthma, arthritis, eczema and psoriasis.  It can also lead to mental disorders, such as depression, dementia, schizophrenia and ADHD.

Why don’t we get enough omega-3’s?
The deficiency of omega-3’s and over abundance of omega-6’s is due primarily to the use of sunflower oil, margarine, vegetable cooking oils (other than olive oil) and the over consumption of meats.  All of those items are high in omega-6’s, but have little or no omega-3’s.

How can we get more omega-3’s?
How can you increase your consumption of omega-3 fatty acids to balance the omega-6’s?  You could increase your consumption of oily fish (for example: wild salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines) and other omega-3 fatty acid rich sources, such as flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, purslane and walnuts.  You could also switch to the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet produces the optimal balance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.  It is a wonderful diet, which is rich in whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, olive oil and which is low in meat.  And for those people with nut allergies or a dislike for fish, omega-3 supplements are a viable option, which is available at most supermarkets, drug stores and health food stores.

The Bottom Line
If you are eating a diet too high in omega-6’s, you should modify your diet to have a better balance between omega-3’s and omega-6’s.  So, cut back on food items that are high in omega-6’s and eat more that are high in omega-3’s.  That will allow you to strike a better balance and help you to lead a healthier, happier life!

Comments (4)

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  1. Maria Isabel says:

    It is great to know what kinds of foods to eat to get more Omega 3. Thanks

  2. Guto says:

    Dear Talli:
    A quick question about the kinds of fish… are this ‘the only ones’ who actually serve the purpose of Omega-3’s (wild salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines)? What about other kinds of fish? Tilapia, Perch, Trout… Any suggestions? Your advice is always greatly expected and always very well followed.
    Keep up the good work!!!

  3. Talli van Sunder says:

    @Guto Thank you! As for your question, those I mentioned above in my post are not the only ones that have omega 3 fatty acids. Fatty fish, such as, mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and salmon however do have the most.

    But it is healthier to eat fish that are not so high in omega 3’s rather than eating a hamburger. Because after all, you will be getting some omega 3’s, less omega 6’s and less cholesterol and saturated fat. So, it is okay to eat the fish you like, even though it is not as high in omega 3 fatty acids.

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