Food for Thought: A Breakdown of Omega-3 & Omega-6 Fatty Acids

October 13, 2021

Omega-3 and omega-6 are important dietary fats that are talked about all over the internet, but do you know what makes them so special? When balanced correctly, these polyunsaturated fats can have big health benefits! 

What are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats are a type of fat your body cannot create, and the inclusion of them in your diet is very important. These types of fats are defined by their chemical structure, as “poly” means many and “unsaturated” refers to double bonds. Together they mean that omega-3 fatty acids have many double bonds. A double bond is a covalent bond between two atoms involving four bonding electrons. A popular analogy to understand double bonds are dogs and a bone. In covalent bonding, two evenly matched dogs have in their mouths one end of each of two bones, which they are effectively sharing. “Omega-3” refers to the position of the final double bond in the chemical structure, which is three carbon atoms from the “omega,” or tail end of the molecular chain. How’s that for a fun fact!

Benefits of Omega-3s

Omega-3 fats are a crucial part of human cell membranes because They provide the starting point for the creation of hormones that regulate blood clotting, contraction and relaxation of artery walls, and inflammation. They also have other important functions, including:

  • Improving heart health: Omega-3 fatty acids may help manage cholesterol, triglyceride, and blood pressure levels 
  • Reducing weight: Omega-3 fats have been shown to help people manage their weight and waist circumference but more studies are needed.
  • Decreasing liver fat
  • Supporting infant brain development
  • Fighting inflammation

Incorporating Omega-3’s Into Your Diet

There are no official dietary standards for daily omega-3 intake, but a few organizations offer guidelines. Nutrition professionals at the National Institute of Health recommend 250-300 milligrams of omega-3’s per day. An adequate intake of ALA omega-3s per day is 1.6 grams for adult males and 1.1 grams for adult females aged 19 years and over.

Some omega-3 rich foods include:

  • chia seeds
  • walnuts
  • flaxseeds
  • salmon
  • mackerel
  • anchovies

What are Omega-6 Fatty Acids?

Just like omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6s are polyunsaturated fatty acids as well. However, what makes the two different is the last double bond of the structure. Omega-6 Fatty Acids last double bond is six carbons from the omega end of the fatty acid molecule.

Omega-6 fatty acids are essential, thus you need to get them from your diet. Omega-6 deficiency can cause rashes on the skin as well as fatigue and trouble sleeping.

It is important to note that these fatty acids mainly provide energy. The most common omega-6 fat is linoleic acid, which the body can convert to longer omega-6 fats such as arachidonic acid.

Benefits of Omega-6s

Research suggests that Omega-6 fatty acids may have some health benefits. For example, they may help reduce symptoms of inflammatory conditions. One study found that taking supplements of another form of omega-6 — conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) — may help reduce fat mass in humans. Omega-6s have also been linked with lower blood pressure and reducing symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.  

Incorporating Omega-6s Into Your Diet

You can find high levels of omega-6 fats in refined vegetable oils and foods cooked in vegetable oils. Nuts and seeds also contain significant amounts of omega-6 fatty acids.

According to the Food and Nutrition Board of the U.S. Institute of Medicine, the adequate intake of omega-6s per day is 17 grams for males and 12 grams for females ages 19–50 years.

Here are some ways to get Omega-6’s into your daily diet:

  • sunflower seeds
  • almonds
  • cashews
  • soybean oil
  • corn oil
  • mayonnaise
  • walnuts

Don’t have time to cook for yourself? No worries. Eat Purely has a variety of meals that are loaded with Omega Fatty Acids:

AM Chia Seed Pudding, $6.99

Start your day with a nutritional punch. Formulated by our In-House Nutrition Consultant, this chia seed pudding feels like a treat. Paired with fresh raspberries, blueberries, and topped with granola, what better way is there to enjoy your breakfast?

Veracruz Salmon with Pineapple Salsa, $13.99

With flavors from the southern coast of Mexico, this dish combines spinach, chickpeas, and salmon with a roasted tomato and dried chili sauce (that has just the right amount of bite). To finish the meal, a pineapple salsa brings the tropical flavor of Veracruz, Mexico.

Ready to Sea You, $12.99

Filled with lean protein, this bowl combines fresh cilantro-citrus salmon with creamy housemade hummus, crunchy za'atar chickpeas, feta cheese, and cherry tomatoes. Baby spinach and housemade tabbouleh round out the dish.