What are Omega 3’s and 6’s?

By: Rachel Nannola

An omega 3 is a polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA). There are three types of omega 3’s: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Omegas 3’s are found in fatty fish, walnuts, flaxseed oil, canola oil, and some other seeds and nuts. There is also another type of polyunsaturated fatty acid named omega 6. There are two types of omega 6s: linoleic acid (LA) and arachidonic acid (AA). Omegas 6s are found in meat and vegetable oils. Both ALA and LA are essential fatty acids, which mean they can only be obtained from the diet.

There are multiple benefits of eating omega 3 fatty acids, including:

  • Lowers risk for fatal heart disease
  • Help with brain development and function
  • Help lower inflammation
  • Reduce cancer risk
  • Lower bad cholesterol

Omega 6 fatty acids function to:

  • Stimulate skin and hair growth
  • Maintain bone health
  • Regulate metabolism
  • Maintain the reproductive system

Unfortunately, the typical American diet is much higher (at least 10 times higher) in omega 6’s than omega 3’s, which means the average American isn’t getting their required amount of omega 3’s in. Though a good balance of omega 3 and 6 fats are important, too much omega 6 can be harmful. Some omega 6 can promote inflammation, while omega 3s work to reduce inflammation.

Omega 3’s and omega 6’s can be confusing, but it’s important to know what they are and to include them in your diet. Both have forms that can’t be made in the body so they must be obtained from food. Also, try to get in more omega 3’s than omega 6’s by eating food rich in fish, nuts, and seeds.

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