How to Balance Omega 6 With Omega 3

Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids are essential polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA’s) needed by the human body to aid in biological processes. Common omega 6 fatty acids are linoleic acid (LA) and gamma linoleic acid (GLA) and can be found in many vegetable oils. Common omega 3 fatty acids are alpha linoleic acid (ALA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and can be found in flax and seafood.

These fatty acids must be obtained through diet because the body cannot make them. Both fatty acids are needed for cognitive function, immune response, reproductive health, metabolism and many other functions. However, if these fatty acids are not consumed in the proper ratio and in proper amounts, many of the health benefits are negated. No more than 30 to 35% of calories should come from fats and the ratio of your intake of omega 6 to omega 3 should be 1 to 1.

In the typical western diet, this ratio is on average 15 to 1 omega 6 to omega 3, and can be 25 to 1 omega 6 to omega 3. This is a problem because the overabundance of omega 6 fatty acids causes excess inflammation in the body and, according to the Center of Genetics, a rise in cardiovascular disease, cancer and autoimmune diseases. Increasing omega 3 fatty acids has been shown to decrease risks of heart disease, excessive inflammation and arthritis. Balancing these omega fatty acids can have very positive health effects and is easily done.


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    Switch your cooking oil. Using a cooking oil that is high in oleic acid (an omega 9 fatty acid also needed by the body) helps reduce the amount omega 6 you consume.
    • Olive oil is a good choice for cooking because it is very low in omega 6 fatty acids and saturated fat. Some other oils that are low in omega 6 and saturated fats and are thus good for cooking are high oleic safflower oil, high oleic sunflower oil and canola oil. Be sure to avoid using any partially hydrogenated oils because they tend to be high in trans fat.
    • Avoid peanut oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, regular sunflower oil, regular safflower oil and corn oil. These oils are very high in linoleic acid, which, in excess, promotes inflammation in the body.
    • There are very few cooking oils high in omega 3 fatty acids, and the oils that are high omega 3 fatty acids, such as flax oil, tend to break down too quickly for high-heat cooking.
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    Reduce consumption of fried foods. Many foods, especially fast foods, are fried in vegetable oils that are very high in omega 6 fatty acids because they are more stable at high temperatures (they don’t burn as quickly) and they impart more flavor into food.
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    Reduce solid fats. Eating too many solid fats results in an increased intake of saturated fat and trans fat. These are fat calories that should be coming from unsaturated fats, such as omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids. By reducing and replacing solid fats, you will see an increase in omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids and a lowering of your total cholesterol.
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    Eat fish twice a week. The Institute of Medicine recommends 8 oz. of seafood that is high in EPA and DHA each week. This will provide an average of 250 mg DHA and EPA per day, which is optimal for heart health.
    • Seafood that is high in omega 3 fatty acids and low in mercury are salmon, herring, sardines, oysters, mackerel (not king Mackerel), trout and shellfish.
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    Go green when choosing meat. Grass fed beef has a lower omega 6 to omega 3 ratio by approximately 75%.
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    Follow a Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet is very similar to the USDA’s Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH). This diet focuses on consuming more fish, whole grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables and decreasing red and processed meat, solid fats and alcohol intake. Studies have shown the Mediterranean diet to have more balanced omega 6 to omega 3 ratio, lower risk of cardiovascular disease and lower total mortality rate.
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    Take an EPA and DHA supplement. If you have reduced omega 6 consumption and cannot seem to increase omega 3 intake, it is advisable to take an EPA and DHA supplement. It is best not exceed the recommended amount of 250 mg a day. Many fish oil supplements contain both EPA and DHA.


  • You can work with a doctor on complimentary medicine and supplementation with omega 3 for certain illness, such as inflammatory bowel disorders and arthritis.


  • Always work with a doctor before supplementing with an omega 6 or omega 3 fatty acid if you have disorders or illnesses.
  • Omega 3 and omega 6 supplementation should be monitored closely with bleeding disorders
  • When eating fish, be sure to limit high mercury fish like King Mackerel, Tuna, Swordfish and Shark.

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Categories: Nutrition and Lifestyle Eating