The topic of omegas (omega-3 and omega-6) is a large and quite complex one and it causes much confusion in health circles so today we are here to hopefully make things less confusing and give you clarity on what they are, how to avoid deficiency for your best health and beautiful skin and where to find them in your diet.
First up, we will discuss what an omega fatty acid is and the different fatty acids and then we will get into everything else you need to know about omega-3 and omega-6 including the correct ratio.
We will also touch on omega-9 and its importance.
What's an Omega Fatty Acid?
An omega fatty acid is a type of fat molecule essentially. These fatty acids are grouped according to their location of the first double bond by counting carbon atoms beginning with the last carbon.
They are unsaturated and either a MUFA (monounsaturated) or PUFA (polyunsaturated) fat and they are crucial in our diet for good health and vitality.
(18 carbons long) it can be longer and more unsaturated until we get the DHA & EPA (DHA is 22 carbons long and EPA is 20 carbons long). We discuss DHA & EPA later on in the blog...
(18 carbons long) it can be converted into the longer form of arachidonic acid (we talk about arachidonic acid later on in the blog)
It's a good thing that most foods contain a variety of these but let's get into the nitty gritty of this topic so you walk away with a better understanding of which ones to include and which ones to leave out.
A 9 carbon long molecule that is monounsaturated by nature, meaning that it only has one double bond.
You may not have heard much about omega-9 and that is because it isn't essential to consume it as our body makes it but you can still consume it in small amounts through avocados, avocado oil, olives, olive oil, nuts and seeds.
You'll also find it in vegetable/cooking oils but you'll want to steer clear of these oils as they are toxic, rancid, highly unstable and inflammatory!
- ALA - Alpha Linolenic acid (found in flax, canola, soy beans, sacha inchi, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, avocado)
- EPA - Eicosapentaenoic acid (eeko-sapant-en-knowic) Found in oysters and fish such as mackerel salmon and sardines. Also found in high amounts in cod liver oil, ghee and concentrated butter oil.
- DHA - Docosahexaenoic acid (Doko-sah-hex-in-knowic) found in oysters and fish such as mackerel salmon and sardines. Also found in high amounts in cod liver oil and again, ghee and
Egg yolks also contain omega-3 but the types and levels depends on what the chickens were fed and same goes for butter.
- LA - Linolenic Acid (found in coconut oil, eggs, hemp seeds/oil, nuts, peanuts/oil, poultry, sacha inchi and vegetable oils).
- ARA - Arachidonic acid (found in butter, cod liver oil and animal fats)
- GLA - Gamma Linolenic acid (found in hemp oil/seeds, evening primrose oil, blackcurrant seed oil, borage seed oil, oats, barley and spirulina)
- CLA - Conjugated Linolenic acid (found in dairy, meats, seafood and vegetable oils)
- Oleic Acid is an omega-9 monounsaturated fatty acid that has many health benefits and certainly worth consuming* (found in olives/oil, avocado/oil, coconut/oil, almonds/oil, sesame seeds/oil, cashews, hazelnuts, pistachios, macadamia buts.
*For the purpose of this blog we are predominantly focused on omega-3 and omega-6 as you will no doubt get enough omega-9 if you consume the above foods.
DHA & EPA Deficiency:
• Numbness and tingling
• Psychological disturbances
• Poor cognitive function and difficulty learning
• Poor visual acuity
• Blurred vision
• Poor immunity
• Poor growth
DHA & EPA (omega-3s that are longer and more fragile and they’re found in fish oils and seafood, algae such as Spirulina and chlorella)
Grass-fed animals contain small amounts of EPA.
We need these guys (DHA & EPA) for neurological function, immune function and more!
You can get too much DHA & EPA if you’re taking fish oil supplements
Arachidonic Acid Deficiency:
• Dry, scaly, and itching skin
• Hair loss
• Reproductive difficulties in both males and females
• Gastrointestinal disturbances
• Food intolerances
• Kidney disease
• Inability to maintain weight
• Poor immunity
• Poor growth
Obviously, we won't go through the deficiencies of each acid or this would turn into a book! But you get the point that being deficient is not optimal and can cause health issues.
Vegetable oils are rampant in the modern diet and modern world. They are fast becoming known to be one of the worst things you can consume for your health. By getting rid of the vegetable cooking oils like canola/rapeseed, corn, cottonseed, grape seed, rice bran safflower, soy bean and sunflower oils and by knowing where these oils can be found in foods and their sources, this will get rid of the surplus of it in the diet. Read our recent vegetable oils blog to get the full scoop on all things vegetable oils. It’s certainly worth a read.
To Get more Balance
We need to ensure we are getting enough good omega-3s (seafood, cod liver oil, egg yolks from pasture-raised free-range hens, liver, organ meats, butter etc.) but also the right balance of omega-6. The correct ratio is 2:1 (that is twice the omega-6 to omega-3).
Butter is actually the perfect source of both omega-3 and omega-6 and if you are lactose-intolerant, perhaps try grass-fed ghee as it does not contain lactose.
Butter/ghee also contains vital healthy saturated fats and is ideal to cook in as it has a high smoke point. Because it is a Saturated fat, it’s stable so it doesn’t go rancid like PUFAS from oils do.
What Creates Imbalance? 😳
As mentioned, we need a 2:1 ratio of twice as much as omega-6 to omega-3 but these days that ratio is way out! Many people consume around 10:1 and some even higher as 20:1 (that is very bad for health).
The following bullet points are the most common ways we can get too much omega-6 in our diet. Please keep in mind though that omega-6 is very important but it matters where and how it is sourced and the ratio.
- Eating too many vegetable oil foods
- Taking fish oil supplements
- Eating too many products with/cooking with canola oil as it’s very high in omega-3 but as you know these PUFAS are very fragile so they’re unstable and rancid
- Cooking in vegetable oils*
- Eating margarine or other types of spreads
*canola, corn, cottonseed, grape seed, rice bran, safflower, soy, sunflower oils.
What Creates Balance? 😌
- Avoiding cooking with vegetable oils (use grass-fed ghee instead)
- Avoiding products that contain vegetable oils
- Avoiding fish oil supplements but choosing cod liver oil supplements instead (preferably fermented)
- Incorporating grass-fed* animal fats into your diet (beef fat, tallow, butter, grass-fed ghee, duck fat, lard, chicken fat etc.)
- Eating according to the Weston A Price philosophy and Wise Traditions (ancestral diet)
- Having a 2:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 from the right sources as mentioned (that is twice the omega-6 to omega-3)
*Grass-fed and raised outside is important so the animals aren’t fed an unnatural diet of grains that then changes the omega-fatty acids slightly. The grains are not what these animals should be eating and it makes them sick so they then need drugs, therefore if we consume their fats from their meat, we are consuming these drugs.
A Word on Canola Oil
Canola oil is cheap to produce with big marketing dollars behind it. These big companies have many convinced that it’s a “healthy” oil but this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Traditional rapeseed (canola) contains almost 60% of monounsaturated fats (MUFAS) and this sounds great but 22% of these MUFAS contains erucic acid and this has been associated with lesions on the heart (also known as Keshan’s disease).
Modern canola was bred in Canada and was bred to contain less erucic acid and did you know that the word ‘Canola’ actually comes from the words Canada Oil Low Acid?
So less of that harmful acid, sounds pretty good right?
Canola oil is high in omega-3 but it has a major downside that cancels out any potential benefits and they are:
- It contains GE DNA (genetically engineered)
- It is conventionally sprayed with toxic glyphosate herbicide
- It is highly processed (like all other vegetable oils)
- It is very toxic (it’s gone through 5 stages of chemical and heat treatment)
- It contains trans fats
- It is highly unstable and rancid before you even use it (again, like all vegetable oils).
A Word in Fish Oil
Most people believe that fish oil supplementation is healthy, however it may not be as good for you as you think...
Fish oil supplements are byproducts of the fishing industry, HIGHLY processed and potentially toxic. Say what?!?
The way they’re produced is what makes them likely to be toxic.
They’re heated to unnatural temperatures (about 230 degrees) and boiled for many hours thus destroying the goodness and making them very fragile and unstable.
They are a PUFA (polyunsaturated fat) that’s highly unstable and prone to rancidity and they contain omega-3s.
It's easy to be tricked as they do look pretty in their capsule and they don’t smell rancid. Deodorisation occurs in the refining process of fish oils and this is to make it smell fresh. But they are not fresh!
Like vegetable oils, this deodorisation process makes the product marketable and sellable.
The studies are inconclusive that fish oil improves cardiovascular health to prevent heart disease.
Again, you are much better off eating high-quality sources of fatty fish or taking a simple fermented cod liver oil supplement such as the one from Green Pastures.
A Word on Cod Liver Oil
Speaking on Cod liver oil. It is the preferred oil from seafood and it’s not even comparable to fish oil supplements.
Despite the confusion, hey are NOT the same thing!
Cod liver oil is from the liver of the cod (an organ meat that contains omega-3 and vitamin A, vitamin A is crucial for immunity, proper growth of a fetus, eye health and much more).
Choose a brand of cod liver oil that hasn’t been heated such as Green Pasture fermented cod liver oil.
Take the right dose of cod liver oil (2 capsules generally per day) and ensure you’re getting enough omega-6 from animal sources. This is very important!
We wrote an entire article about cod liver oil if you are interested you can find it here.
Converting Omega-6 to Arachidonic Acid
Some people (not many) can convert omega-6 but most cannot.
E.g: they may eat a handful of almonds* and get the omega-6 here but they could then turn this into arachidonic acid.
*Preferably activated for optimal digestion and gut health
Arachidonic acid is a precursor in the synthesis of prostaglandins, thromboxanes and leukotrienes. These oxygen metabolites from a family of lipidic substances with innate biological activities.
Source: butter (the best source), egg yolks from pasture-raised chickens, animal fats and organ meats are the source though people who are good converters can make arachidonic acid from certain foods.
So if you eat more of the arachidonic foods you will never be deficient and it’s virtually impossible to overdose on this acid.
Without arachidonic acid you will experience skin problems such as eczema and dermatitis digestive issues.
Other folks (who are good converters) may eat flax seed oil and convert this into EPA & DHA, this is extremely rare though and it’s not done very well.
Best Omega-3 Sources
- Butter or ghee
- Organ meats like liver
- Animal fats
- Cod liver oil (preferably fermented) try this one by green pastures)
- Fresh seafood (preferably wild caught and not farmed)
- Organic Wheat (if not intolerant)
- Walnuts (keep in fridge to avoid rancidity)
Omega-6 and its sources
Omega-6 is not the enemy in the right proportions and from the right source it actually your friend.
We are essentially getting 20 x more omega 6 to omega-3 these days (20:1) when we should be only getting twice as much omega 6 (2:1), some other resources say 4:1 but personally, I believe that is too much omega-6!
That would mean consuming a lot more plant matter and from what I am learning through the Wise Traditions and Weston A Price, we need more saturated animal fats in our diet and we need not be so afraid of them!
You might enjoy our blog about the Benefits of Cholesterol is you are afraid of saturated fat, it turns this topic on its ear and is intended to help people to truly understand the importance of these fats and the importance of cholesterol itself!
Watch ‘The Oiling of American’ on Youtube to learn more about industrial cooking oils. Regardless of what country this Info is coming from, the information applies to all vegetable oils. The information in this video is factual and shows how the data can be manipulated. I found it quite disturbing actually but I'm so glad I watched it as it gave me an incredible understanding of this topic.
Too much omega-6 will manifest in things like:
- More inflammation
- Skin problems
- Joint pain
- Ground flaxseeds
- Flaxseed oil
- Chia seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Hemp seeds
- Sacha Inchi seeds
Did you know that Perfect Organic Plant Protein powder contains organic pumpkin, hemp and sacha inchi seeds? It really is the 'Perfect' blend and gives you both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Worst Sources of Omegas:
- Fish oil supplements (least preferable)
- Canola oil (stay right away from it!)
- Vegetable oils
What to Expect When the Balance is Right
- Nice healthy skin free
- Better and easier digestion
- Clear mind and less brain fog
Sally Fallon Morell’s Perfect Omega combinations that contain both omega-3 and omega-6
- Smoked salmon & sour cream
- Egg salad (pasture-raised boiled eggs with home made olive oil mayonnaise)
- Livers with bacon and cream
- Caviar & sour cream
- Liver cooked in lard
- Spinach cooked in butter or ghee
My Smoothie Suggestions for Perfect omega balance
Ensure ice goes in after all is blended or it goes a funny texture
- 1 cup Raw milk smoothie with 1 tsp of grass fed ghee, 1 scoop of Perfect liver powder, 1 tsp of raw honey or monk fruit extract, a handful of frozen organic raspberries, 1 scoop of Perfect Hydrolyzed collagen and 1 tbsp of raw organic cacao powder. Add ice
- Activated organic almond milk (Nutty Bruce) with 1-2 scoops of Perfect organic plant protein, 1/2 avocados, 1 tsp of grass-fed Ghee, handful of frozen organic blueberries, 1/2 banana (optional), 1 tsp raw honey or monk fruit extract, 1 scoop of Perfect organic Spirulina powder and ice
- Chosen milk (not soy) 1 cup, 1 organic pasture-raised egg (yolk and all), 1/4 tsp of cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg and ginger spices, 1 tsp of grass-fed ghee, 1 scoop of Perfect Hydrolyzed Collagen, 1 tsp of raw honey or monk fruit extract, ice (add 1/4 cup of cooked pumpkin and a pinch of cardamom for a pumpkin spiced chai smoothie)!
- Chosen milk (not soy), 1-2 scoops of Perfect Açai powder, a handful of blueberries, 1 tsp of ghee, 1 scoop of Perfect Hydrolyzed Collagen, 1 tsp of raw honey or monk fruit extract, ice
Looking for More Great Smoothies to Help Boost Your Wellness?
You might like my smoothie eBook 'So Many Perfect Smoothies'. Click here to view more or grab a copy.
Add any of the following nutritional boosters:
Organic Acerola (vitamin C), Magnesium powder, D3 drops (vitamin D), Organic baobab powder (super food multi vitamin), Grass-fed liver powder, Organic MCT oil (healthy saturated fats), Açai powder (antioxidants and omegas)
Aquatic Greens powder (50/50 blend of Spirulina and Chlorella for omegas and more).
Excessive anything can cause problems and too much omega-3 will manifest in things like:
- Digestive disorders
- Skin problems also especially very dry skin
If you follow the Wise Traditions diet philosophy you should be able to gain more balance. They say to:
- Avoid taking fish oils (high in omega-3 but can be contaminated and rancid)
- Take a fermented cod liver oil instead
- Avoid using or consuming vegetable oils and margarines
- Avoid all processed junk foods as they often contain vegetable oils (usually sunflower)
- Keep take away and restaurants to a bare minimum as they often cook things in canola oil because it is the cheapest cooking oil)
Wise traditions podcast, episode 90:
*Disclaimer: the information in this article is intended purely as information and not health advice. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, prevent or cure and one should always seek expert advice from their trusted health practitioner.