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The Difference Between Omega-3s and Omega-6s

What's the Diff: Omega-3s vs. Omega-6s

Omegas are all the buzz right now, and it seems like everywhere you turn, new foods are being enhanced with this essential fatty acid, or labeled as an excellent source. What people don't know is that there are different types of omegas, and eating too much of one kind can actually be harmful to your body.

Omega-3s are found in flax seeds, walnuts, cod liver oil, and fatty fish like mackerel, lake trout, albacore tuna, and salmon. Fish are the best sources because they are high in two particular fatty acids that are crucial to good health, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).

Then there are omega-6s. These fats are found in eggs, nuts, chicken, and vegetable oils such as corn, soy, safflower, and sunflower oil. Omega-6s are high in LA (linoleic acid), which is converted by the body into GLA (gamma-linolenic acid), and then further broken down to AA (arachidonic acid).

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Do you know which type of omega fatty acid we should be eating more of? To find out, keep reading.

Both types of omegas are considered polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), and both play a role in heart and brain function and are essential for normal growth and development. Since our bodies don't produce either, we must get omegas from our diet, but they must be consumed in the proper amounts.

The recommended daily intake (RDI) for omega-3s is 1.1 grams per day, and for omega-6s the RDI is about 12 grams. You can consume your RDI of omega-3s if you eat a three-ounce serving of salmon. If you're not into fish, an eighth of a cup of walnuts will do the trick. Most people get enough omega-6s from their diet if they consume foods made with vegetable oil, nuts, and eggs, so supplements aren't necessary.

Another way to look at it is to consume a ratio of one omega-3 fatty acid to four omega-6 fatty acids. Just be careful not to consume way more omega-6s than omega-3s, since a huge imbalance can lead to heart disease, cancer, asthma, arthritis, and other inflammatory diseases.

Image Source: Getty
Join The Conversation
Spectra Spectra 7 years
I don't eat a lot of fish, so I do take a fish-oil supplement to make sure I get enough omega-3's. Once I started supplementing my diet with fish oil, my cholesterol numbers got a a lot better.
carmela83 carmela83 7 years
Biochemistry flashbacks!!
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