We’ve talked quite a bit about omega-3 fatty acids lately.
It’s not all in vain; omega-3 fatty acids are very beneficial for not only our bones and joints but also for nearly every cell in our body!
Omega-3 fatty acids vs. Omega-6 fatty acids
Today we want to share why omega-3’s are all the rage and not their counterparts: omega-6 fatty acids.
A recap of omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are the building blocks for many molecules within our immune system and help to determine which paths are taken during an immune response. The problem is, our bodies can't synthesize omega-3 fatty acids; we must eat foods that contain them.
It’s important to note that these omega-3’s are polyunsaturated—not saturated.
Omega-3 fatty acids vs Omega-6 fatty acids...what's the difference?
The simplest way of generally knowing what kind of omega's your getting is by the foods you eat.
Seafood—especially krill and fish—are excellent sources of EPA and DHA, the two omega-3 fatty acids that continually demonstrate improvements in health within multiple systems of the body. Another form of omega-3’s, called ALA, are found in some nuts and seeds, as well as high-quality beef.
You can find omega-6 fatty acids in oils used for cooking such as vegetable oil, soybean oils, safflower oil, etc.
We don’t want to get too far into the chemistry of these two kinds of fatty acids, so we’ll just say that their main difference lies in the location of the strongest chemical bond between two carbon molecules.
The location of a tiny chemical bond may not seem like it would be the determining factor…but researchers state otherwise!
Omega-6 fatty acids tend to lead to inflammatory activity
Researchers have found that omega-3 and -6 fatty acids seem to have opposite effects on the body.
In other words, they compete with (or complement) one another:
More omega-6’s present results in more inflammatory molecules and enzymes, while in contrast, more omega-3’s present results in more anti-inflammatory molecules and enzymes.
It might seem strange that the end-result of these similar molecules can be so opposing, but the reality is, we need both kinds of omega fatty acids to function. Think back to our first blog on inflammation…sometimes we need the inflammatory process to take place in order to heal.
It’s the proportions we need to adjust.
The Omega 6:3 Ratio
Unfortunately, it’s a lot easier to get omega-6 fatty acids into your daily meals than it is omega-3’s—especially if you’re a fan of the typical Western diet that uses oils to cook and fry foods.
Researchers and physicians have established the 6:3 ratio to aim for when it comes to limiting the amount of omega-6-rich foods and getting enough omega-3’s from foods you eat.
Today, the general public’s omega 6-to-omega-3 ratio is 20:1. This ratio is based on the percentage of calories from fat. A 20:1 is high when comparing most things, and omega-6 and omega-3’s are no different.
Researchers hypothesize that humans’ omega ratio was 1:1 up until around the 18th century!
In other words, since the days of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, our consumption of omega-6 fatty acids has multiplied by 20! Is it such a surprise that inflammation is such a prevalent problem these days?
But, there’s good news!
Increasing omega-3 intake while also decreasing omega-6 fatty acid-rich foods can improve your omega 6:3 ratio drastically.
Need further help deciding which foods you can avoid and add to your diet? We created a free downloadable guide to help you distinguish healthy vs unhealthy fats. Click below to get access!