Omegas do a lot for the human body. They help our brains function, help our hair and skin grow, support our metabolism and immune system, keep our bones strong, and lubricate our joints. Our bodies can’t actually produce omega-3s and omega-6s on our own; we need to get them from our diet. The good news is that both omegas can be found in lots of delicious foods.
Does your diet lack omega 3 and omega 6?
Omega-3 and omega-6 are essential fatty acids. There are several different omega-3s, the three major ones being ALA, DHA, and EPA. Same goes for omega-6s, the two major ones being LA and AA. Different sources of omegas contain different types of each fatty acid. And these fatty acids assist with many important bodily functions, including with building cells and nervous system functioning. There’s also evidence that they might help prevent Alzheimer’s, and heart disease, among other serious conditions.
How can you know if you’re getting enough omegas?
Unfortunately, it’s not always immediately obvious when someone isn’t getting enough omega fatty acids. Some of the more obvious signs – like brittle hair, dry skin, thinning fingernails – take a while to show up, and these symptoms often signal that someone hasn’t gotten enough omegas for quite some time.
The best way to know that you’re getting enough omegas is to look at your diet and calculate how much you get from your typical food intake. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends about 250-500 mg combined of EPA and DHA, or omega-3s, daily, and about 12-17 grams of omega-6s per day.
The ratio of omegas that you get matters because of how they affect each other in your body. Both omega-3s and omega-6s compete for the same enzymes, so eating too much of one affects how well your body uses the other. Many experts agree that a 2:1 ratio of omega-6s:omega-3s is healthiest.
Why you might not be getting your omegas
There are quite a few reasons why someone might not be getting the desired amount of omegas from their regular diet. It’s especially important to keep track of these essential fats if any of the following conditions apply to you:
You eat a vegetarian or vegan diet
You don’t eat fish or you rarely eat fish
You don’t eat enough healthy fats in general, like nuts and seeds
It’s harder to know if this applies to you, but for some people who do eat animal products, the animals themselves didn’t get enough omega fatty acids, meaning that less gets passed to you.
Foods high in omega-3 fatty acid
Try incorporating some of these foods into your diet for a boost of omega-3s!
- Walnuts (2.7 grams per ¼ cup)
- Extra virgin olive oil (0.1 grams per ounce)
- Flax seeds (1.8 grams per tablespoon)
- Wild salmon (1.32 grams per 4 oz)
Foods high in omega-6 fatty acid
It’s likely that you’re getting enough omega-6 fatty acids from your diet already, but it’s still important to keep an eye on omega-6s to balance out your omega-3 intake. These foods are particularly high in omega-6s:
- Palm oil (9.1 grams per 3.5 oz)
- Hempseed (2500 mg per tablespoon)
- Sunflower seeds (8 grams per ¼ cup)
If you’re concerned about your omega-3 or omega-6 levels, you can always take a supplement. Most omega-3 supplements are based in animal byproducts like fish oil, but there are also vegan supplements available for those who follow a plant-based diet. But, remember, you should always talk to your healthcare provider before adding a supplement to your diet.