So what are omegas? Omegas are fatty acid chains that cannot be produced by the body and must be obtained from one’s diet. While there are a few different types of omegas, the most prominent ones that play a role in a healthy diet are omega-3 and omega-6. While both omega-3 and 6 look similar in structure, they play different functional roles in the body once metabolized. Omega-3 is known for secreting anti-inflammatory signals while omega-6 often secretes pro-inflammatory signals.
So if omega-6 secretes pro-inflammatory signals, why is it important for my diet? The key lies within the ratio of consumption between omega-3 and 6. Dating back to our origins, the human diet was naturally high in plants, nuts, seeds, and other natural whole foods present in the environment. This diet was naturally quite high in omega-3, but low in omega-6. Overall the ratio balance leaned quite heavily toward omega-3, which helped to keep inflammation low and keep us feeling our best. Omega-6 still plays an incredibly important role in the diet and must be obtained from food, however the caveat is keeping it aligned with omega-3 consumption. The ideal ratio of consumption between the two omegas is 1:4 omega-6 to omega-3. A slightly lower and possibly more realistic goal would be a ratio along the lines of 1:1. These ratios, however, are far from the current estimated 16:1 for the average person consuming a traditional Western diet (1). This highly elevated level of omega-6 is linked to chronic long-term inflammation that we may not even feel or realize is happening within our bodies. Given the current estimated ratio of consumption, there is a need for drastic overhaul in dietary intake.
You may be wondering at this point, what types of foods should I be integrating or avoiding in order to help rebalance my omegas? Omega-6 is commonly found in most vegetable oils, peanuts, almonds, cashews, and other sources. The saturation of a typical Western diet with fried foods heavily contributes to the high ratio of omega-6 as most of these foods are fried in some form of vegetable oil. While it can often be difficult, eliminating some fried food and other forms of processed foods can help decrease the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio and allow it to return to a more favorable level. Some good sources of omega-3 to include in the diet include fatty fish, like salmon, walnuts, chia seeds, and flax seeds. Our nutrient-dense flax butter is a great source of omega-3 and can help rebuild that favorable ratio when regularly incorporated into your diet. Make sure to check out our recipe page for ideas on how to bring flax butter and other omega-3 dense ingredients into your diet.
Overall, it is important to have both omega-6 and omega-3 present in the diet to promote healthy bodily functions. However, the average ratio for someone consuming a typical Western diet remains elevated at 16:1 omega-6 to omega-3 respectively while a realistic target range lies closer to 1:1. One of the best things we can do as an individual is to take control of our diet and make modifications to help bring us closer to the 1:1 ratio to improve our health and keep us feeling good.