What You Need To Know About Omega Fatty Acids [Updated 2021]

Daniel Maman September 13, 2011

Fat is no longer the evil, weight-gain-causing macronutrient it was once believed to be.

In fact, certain types of fats are incredibly healthy and can actually help lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease.

In this article, we will go over the healthiest fats that need to be part of your diet: omega 3 fatty acids and omega 6 fatty acids.

In this article, we will discuss:

  • The difference between the two fatty acids
  • The best foods to eat to make sure you get your healthy fats
  • The benefits of having a diet rich in omega 3s and omega 6s

Omega 3 Fatty Acids Benefits and Omega 6 Fatty Acids Benefits

When you hear somebody talking about “healthy” fats, they are most likely referring to omega 3 fatty acids.

So, what exactly are omega 3 fatty acids benefits and where do they come from?

Omega 3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids, meaning that they are necessary for our health, but they are not produced by our bodies. The reason that essential fatty acids, such as omega 3 fatty acids, are so highly regarded is because of the of their benefits. primarily their role in reducing inflammation in the body.

And since inflammation is a leading contributor to most disease states, essentially fatty acid benefits are vital for optimum health.

If we reduce inflammation, we are preventing many common causes of mortality and morbidity, including heart disease, a variety of cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, kidney failure, stroke, arthritis, skin disorders, and the list goes on.

Because our bodies do not produce Omega 3 fatty acids naturally, we need to consume them through the foods we eat.

What foods are high in omega 3 fatty acids?

Foods high in Omega 3 fatty acids include:

  • Flax seeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Halibut
  • Shrimp
  • Herring
  • Sardines
  • Trout
  • Soybeans
  • Navy beans
  • Kidney beans

What is the difference between omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids?

I have overheard people talking about this subject, and there seems to be some confusion over the difference between omega 3 fatty acids and omega 6 fatty acids—they are not one and the same.

Omega 6 fatty acids are also essential fatty acids, like the omega 3s. However, omega 6 fatty acids tend to promote inflammation.

This does not mean that omega 6 fatty acids should be completely avoided, because they do have important functions in the body.

Additionally, inflammation is not necessarily a bad thing as long as that inflammation is not chronic.

The importance of having a healthy omega 3 to omega 6 ratio

Here is where the importance of the ratio between omega 6 fatty acids and omega 3 fatty acids comes into play.

The closer the ratio between the two essential fatty acids is to one (meaning the amount of omega 6 fatty acids and omega 3 fatty acids consumed is the same), the better.

The average American diet consists of an omega 6 fatty acid to omega 3 fatty acid ratio of 20:1!

This is thought to be one of the main reasons that heart disease is on the rise.

How we can improve our ratio of omega 3s to omega 6s?

So, how can you stop this inflammatory process?

The first step is awareness.

You now know all the sources of omega 3 fatty acids (remember, omega 3 fatty acid= anti-inflammatory=good), and you can slowly start adding these items to your meals and snacks.

Limiting some of the foods that are high in omega 6 fatty acids is a good idea as well.

Foods that contain high levels of omega 6 fatty acids include the following:

  • Corn oil
  • Sesame oil
  • Soy oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Sunflower oil 

Additionally, almost any “snack” type item you buy contains these oils, from chips to cookies to salad dressings, to mixed nuts.

As a side note, olive oil, avocado oil and flaxseed oil are the best choices when it comes to choosing an oil.

Summing It Up

If you are going to take anything away from this article it is this: a diet consisting of an abundance of whole foods and a small amount (preferably no amount) of processed foods is best.

So get your whole foods in. Limited your processed foods. And increase your intake of healthy fats to get all the benefits of a diet rich in omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids!

Daniel Maman

Daniel Maman's two biggest passions in life are health and fitness. He is a certified personal trainer, has a degree in exercise science, and spends his free time keeping up to date with the latest research. In his free time, you can find him playing basketball, bouldering, and spoiling his dog, Luna.

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