The Importance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 and omega-6 are essential fatty acids from the unsaturated family of dietary fats. The body is not capable of producing them on its own, so we must get them through food.
Each fatty acid plays different roles in preserving your health. They have to be present in the body in a balanced ratio in order to unleash their health benefits. If the amount of one or the other is too high or too low, they may cause inflammation and chronic diseases.
Omega-3 is mainly found in fish like tuna, salmon and sardines, while omega-6 is mostly found in vegetable oils.
Of the two, omega-6 is more readily available, which is why many people reach for omega-3 dietary supplements. This is especially because the modern Western diet consists of foods rich in omega-6, but scarce in omega-3.
Keep reading to learn why these two fatty acids are so important for your health and how you can create a diet to balance them out.
What Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
Omega-3 is a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid. The human body is unable to produce this nutrient and thus has to supply it from food sources.
There are three kinds of Omega-3s: Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), found in plant-based foods, Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), both found in algae oil and krill oil.
This fatty acid is a powerhouse of health benefits, but to get the ideal daily intake, you would have to include more omega-3 rich foods in your diet. This is not always possible, so many people choose quality supplements to get their daily supply of omega-3s.
Health Benefits of Omega-3
Omega-3 fatty acids are powerful nutrients and you should strive to include them as much as possible in your diet. Here are some of the most important health benefits of omega-3:
- Keeps your heart healthy by reducing the risk of heart-related conditions
- Improves cognitive function
- Reduces the symptoms of anxiety and depression
- Promotes brain health in fetuses
- Fights inflammations in the body
- Improves joint and bone health
- Fights asthma
- Fights against premature aging
- Reduces the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease
Omega-3s are especially successful in preventing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. These conditions are a result of damaged cells and this fatty acid does a great job in protecting the cell membranes from oxidative stress.
Fish is the main source of omega-3s and is often referred to as brain food.
Omega-3 fatty acids are present in almost all healthy foods and are easy to source. You can take supplements if you’re not getting enough fatty acids through your diet.
Foods Rich in Omega-3
- Chia seeds
- Hemp seeds
- Egg yolks
- Cod liver oil
- Wild-caught salmon
- Albacore tuna
- Atlantic mackerel
- Fish oil
- Meat and dairy from grass-fed animals
What Are Omega-6 Fatty Acids?
Omega-6 is another type of polyunsaturated fatty acid, but unlike omega-3s, they’re much easier to find in food. However, the body needs a ratio of 1:1 to maintain optimal health and prevent inflammation. This can be a problem because modern diets are often deficient in omega-3s.
On the other hand, an excessive amount of omega-6 can have the opposite effect and cause health problems. It can even block the health benefits of omega-3s
Health Benefits of Omega-6
Like Omega-3, Omega-6 fatty acids have their role in promoting optimal health when consumed regularly. Some of their health benefits include:
- Supporting brain function and development
- Fighting inflammation in the body
- Reducing symptoms of ADHD in children and adults
- Helping alleviate rheumatoid arthritis
- Reducing blood pressure
- Supporting joint and bone health
- Keeping the heart healthy and strong
It’s easy to get your daily Omega-6 intake through food, so there is no need for supplements.
Foods Rich in Omega-6
- Grapeseed oil
- Safflower oil
- Sunflower seeds and oil
- Walnuts and their oil
- Flaxseeds and their oil
- Hemp seeds and their oil
- Açaí berries
Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids are Essential for Optimal Health
The human body cannot produce these essential fatty acids on its own, so it has to supplement them from food.
The best way to get your daily dosage of omega-3 and omega-6 is to eat a clean, balanced diet that contains all the nutrients you need for a healthy body and mind.
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Frosina A. Ivanovic is a content marketing specialist and writer. She’s passionate about quality coffee, travel, wellness, and digital marketing. You can connect with Frosina on LinkedIn or her website, Zhillmatic.