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What Omega 3 and 6 Are and How They are Different

salmonAs I mentioned in my last post in this series, essential fatty acids, Omega 3 and 6, are not produced by the body and must be obtained through our diet. Omega 3 and 6 are used for growth and repair in our bodies as well as for making other fatty acids needed such as DHA.

Omega 3 sources developed in the sea. Omega 6 sources are from plant seeds, meat and dairy foods. By eating seed oils, oily fish such as salmon, and meat, eggs and dairy foods, we can support our bodies’ needs for these raw materials.

Omega fatty acids 3 and 6 are two building blocks of our cells’ membranes, as well as components in regulating blood pressure and the anti-inflammatory response.

Omega 3 is especially import in the prevention of fatal heart attacks and heart disease. It may also be important in diabetes and cancer research.

Omega fatty acids are used to make EPA and DHA. They are used by your eyes, brain and heart, as well as by your nervous and immune systems.

The Importance of the Omega 3 vs. Omega 6 Ratio

There is a ratio of one to one of Omega 3 to Omega 6 needed for the body and brain to function properly. That ratio is skewed to 20 times higher Omega 6 to Omega 3 in the US diet and it is one of the reasons for the heart disease rates in this country. Our national diet has too much Omega 6 and we must find Omega 3 foods to eat to obtain a balance. Ratios in Omega 3 and 6 vary around the world by country because of the indigenous foods they eat. This ratio disparity is also a cause for our brains to degrade as we grow older.

Other differences in Omega 3 and 6 are in their chemical makeup. The difference is in how this makes them behave. Omega 3 helps prevent heart disease and is anti-inflammatory, whereas Omega 6 lowers blood cholesterol and supports healthy skin.

A good, healthy diet provides you with sufficient Omega 6. However, you can get too much Omega 6 in your diet if you eat larger quantities of certain foods, like red meat. Then you might need to take Omega 3 as a supplement. Just by adding two meals of oily fish each week to your diet can take care of your Omega 3 needs, and can be supplemented by eating flaxseed, which you can add to foods we make, or by eating nuts and fresh fruits for snacks.

When choosing an Omega 3 supplement look for a quality brand. Traditionally fish oil supplements would produce unpleasant tasting “fish burps,” however newer formulas are reducing this side effect, making the supplement more pleasant to take.

Previous Articles in the Healthy Fats Series

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About the author

Carma Spence has been experimenting in the kitchen since she was four years old and loves trying out new recipe ideas. She is the author of Bonkers for Bundt Cakes and Your Perfect Pie, as well as author and contributor to several more non-food-related books. With Carma's Cookery, she is taking her passion for empowering people and blending it with her passion for cooking, gift-giving and entertaining.

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