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Omega 3 vs Omega 6: A Smarter Way to Balance the Ratio

Originally posted February 19, 2014.

Everybody knows that omega 3 fatty acids are good for health, especially good for promoting cardiovascular health and cognitive aging.

So how do we get more of these fatty acids into our diets and what’s all this talk about the omega 6-omega-3 balance?

Most experts say that Americans get too much omega-6 in their diets.

How much is too much? About 10 to 25 times too much.

The ideal omega-6 to omega 3 ratio may range from 1:1 to 1:4. This means that if you’re getting 10 ounces of omega 6 you should be eating at least 40 ounces of omega 3. But it’s not that simple, you see. I’ve been doing some research while writing this article and came across a study on the Synopsis of Omega-3 and Omega-6. Don’t worry – it’s a brief synopsis of the actual study so you won’t need to break your head over it.

Foods that contain omega-6 are usually associated with higher calories so too much of omega 6 and you’re steadily on your on your way to being one of the nation’s 78 million obese. One thing you have to remember is that there’s no super miraculous cure that will melt fat right off your body (don’t we wish?) overnight or even over time. That’s just not going to happen. Everyone has to work hard at it. Here’s what you can do.

Cut down on foods that are rich in omega-6 fatty acids. Cooking oils are rich in omega-6. These include palm, soybeans, rapeseed, and sunflower. So your first step would be to cut down on oily or fried foods. Other foods include salad dressings, mayonnaise, margarine, and shortening.

Right about now you might be thinking that’s really not too hard. I could do that. Well, there’s more.

Stop snacking on processed foods! Ouch, right? Processed foods are rich in omega-6. Some statistics show that on average, Americans get 20 percent of their calories from soybean oil alone. Along with high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated soybean oil is an ingredient found in almost all processed foods. Be warned! Some of the nutrition bars that are supposed to contain fiber and other nutrients may be high in omega-6 and other unhealthy additives. So my advice to you is to snack on carrots, instead!

Start cooking from fresh foods at home. You’ll be able to control the calories, oil intake and enjoy healthy, nutritious meals.

Increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Foods rich in omega-3s are fatty fish like tuna, sardines, krill and salmon.

Are there any vegetable sources of omega-3? Flax seeds, chia seeds and certain algae contain high amounts of alpha linolenic acid (ALA). Most people don’t know the body needs to convert ALA to docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) or eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Incidentally, marine sources of omega-3s contain EPA and DHA in their natural state and these two fatty acids are responsible for the health benefits we receive. Studies show that only about 8 to 20 percent of ALA is can be converted by the body to DHA; and the conversion of ALA to EPA is far lower—only 0.5 to 9 percent. Studies also show that women are better at conversion than men—2.5 times better to be precise!

Increase your intake of omega-3 through supplementation. Ideally, you should get your intake of omega-3 from natural food sources. But if you find you’re not able to get enough omega-3s through diet alone, there’s simply no reason to go without. Start taking a reliable, high-quality fish or krill oil supplement. Make sure the company that manufactures it has a good reputation for producing quality nutritional supplements.

Make sure you keep a good distance between you and foods rich in omega 6!

Getting your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio balanced is not rocket science. No one’s asking you to cut out omega-6 fatty acids from your diet altogether. After all, it’s essential for health. What we all need to work at is avoiding processed foods and restricting oily, rich foods from your diets. And … remember to include plenty of foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. Splash olive oil on your salad, include fatty fish at least twice a week and something we haven’t touched upon – lead an active lifestyle.

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