Omega 6 fatty acids are essential to the human body for a variety of reasons, and because our bodies cannot produce them themselves, we need to get a healthy supply from our diet. Luckily, omega 6s are abundant in common American foods, so almost everyone has little issue consuming enough omega 6. The key is making sure you get omega 6 from healthy sources.
The following list of the top 9 foods containing omega 6 includes both healthy options and unhealthy options, which you should look to avoid.
This article will also explain the balance our body needs between the different types of omega fatty acids, and how you can attain this balance through your everyday diet. Keep a lookout for healthy and tasty recipes made with foods high in omegas throughout the article!
What Is Omega 6?
Omega 6 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat, generally considered to be the ‘good’ type of fat (unlike saturated and trans fats). As previously mentioned, the body needs them to survive but cannot produce them by itself, so it must rely on the supply we get from the foods we eat.
There are many benefits to including as many of these fatty acids in your diet as possible. Omega 6s support better circulation and heart health, especially by regulating the body’s cholesterol levels. They prevent bad cholesterol, or LDL, from finding its way to the arteries and building up on the artery walls. In conjunction with that, omega 6s support good cholesterol, or HDL, in ridding the body of any surplus of LDL cholesterol.
Additionally, omega 6s may maintain healthy blood sugar levels and work as a soothing agent.
Omega 6s are primarily found in vegetable oils and foods cooked in vegetable oils, as well as nuts and seeds. While vegetable oils can be healthy on their own, or when cooked with other ingredients, they are also used to make many processed, junk foods.
As such, it is important to avoid unhealthy foods even if they contain high levels of omega 6, since their other ingredients have little nutritional value and may introduce unwanted toxins into the body.
Most Americans have no problem meeting their bodies’ omega 6 requirements, as a large portion of the foods we eat involve vegetable oils, whether we are roasting meat or sauteing vegetables.
However, there is another type of omega, omega 3, that the majority of Americans fail to consume enough of. A healthy body needs a relative balance between its omega 3 and omega 6 intake.
What Is An Omega Balance?
An omega balance refers to the ratio of omega 6s to omega 3s in the body. Americans typically eat too many omega 6s and too few omega 3s, which throws this ratio out of whack. To understand more about this balance, first we must clarify what omega 3s are.
Omega 3 fatty acids are essential, polyunsaturated fats, just like omega 6s, meaning you cannot produce them yourself and need to get enough through diet. The best food sources of omega 3s are fatty/oily fishes, such as anchovies, sardines, salmon, mackerel, tuna, pollock, and herring. Chia seeds, walnuts, flax seeds, and other nuts/seeds also contain omega 3s.
During pre-industrial times, our bodies became adapted to a relatively even ratio of omega 3s to omega 6s, sometimes eating even more omega 3s than omega 6s. The absence of processed foods, as well as the reliance on local animal sources for sustenance, explain why this ratio was the way it was.
Nowadays, the ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 consumption in the average western diet is closer to 1:16. This does not necessarily mean that we are eating too much omega 6s (though we should certainly eat them in moderation and avoid eating junk food that contains omega 6s), but that we are not eating enough omega 3s.
The following section lays out the top ten foods with the highest omega 6 concentrations.
This list contains both healthy and unhealthy options, so it is not necessarily a list of suggestions on what to add to your diet, but more an exposition of the variety of foods that hold omega 6s.
Each section will also include the omega 3 to omega 6 ratio. Farther along, this article will provide a bunch of decidedly healthy foods that you can eat more of to optimize your omega 3:6 ratio.
For your information: the average female adult should limit their daily omega 6 consumption to 12 grams, while the average male adult can get away with 17 grams of omega 6.
Top 9 Foods With Omega 6
Unfortunately, we have to start off this list on an unhealthy note. While the term snacks does not necessarily signify that a food is bad for you, in this case that connotation would be correct. For every 1 mg of omega 3s in a serving of corn chips, for example, there is 28 mg of omega 6s. Yup, you read that right. Chips are usually cooked in vegetable oils with high omega 6 contents, such as safflower oil (see #5), and so you should limit your consumption of them as much as possible.
For a better snack alternative, made with extra-virgin olive oil, try this Healthy Roasted Beet Hummus Recipe. It will go great on carrot and celery sticks, and pita chips.
2. Fast Food
Similar to the previous entry, fast food is clearly unhealthy and offers little nutritional value. Eighteen onion rings, for one, add up to around 80% of your daily recommended intake of omega 6s.
There is not much more to say than what has already been said about fast food: avoid it as much as you can.
Walnuts are high in both omega 3s and 6s. In fact, there are only 4mg of omega 6s for every 1 mg of omega 3s in a serving of walnuts.
As far as the omega ratio goes, that is pretty great! Walnuts are a great source of protein and support better heart function. Eat them alone as a snack or throw them on top of a salad.
4. Safflower Oil
You may look at the ingredients list on a bag of potato chips and see something like ‘potatoes, safflower oil, and salt’. From what you know about nutrition labels, a short list of ingredients is usually a good thing. Plus, there are very few if any unhealthy trans and saturated fats. You start to wonder… what’s the catch?
In every tablespoon of safflower oil, there is 10,149 mg of omega 6, or about 60% of your daily limit. Plus, there are no omega 3s at all! When using vegetable oils, you should opt for ones with higher (or any!) concentrations of omega 3s, such as coconut and olive oil.
5. Cake (With Frosting)
Who does not love cake? If only it was healthier… a yellow cake with chocolate frosting has 1 mg of omega 3s per every 9 mg of omega 6s, which is not too bad on its own. However when you factor in the high percentage of sugar and unhealthy (trans and saturated) fats in just one slice of cake, you realize you are probably better off
This Lemon Pound Cake recipe is a healthier option if you are craving something sweet!
6. Peanut Butter
In unsalted peanut butter, the ratio of omega 3s to omega 6s is 1 to 332 mg. This means that peanut butter is an excellent source of omega 6s, but not so much for omega 3s. Make sure to eat peanut butter in moderation. These Almond Butter And Green Apple Bites are a great, filling, mid-afternoon snack as an alternative!
7. (Roasted) Chicken Thigh
Though chicken is a wonderful source of lean protein, it is only as healthy as the way you prepare it, or rather the oil you prepare it in. Substitute chicken thighs for chicken breasts in this Healthy Chicken Curry Recipe.
8. Cured Meats
We all know cured meats like pepperoni and salami are not good for us, unfortunate though it is.
In more specific terms, for every 1 mg of omega 3 in a serving of pepperoni, there are 21 mg of omega 6–not an ideal ratio. If you insist on a charcuterie board every now and then, maybe include some smoked salmon on the side to balance out those omega 3 levels.
9. Creamy Soups
Finally, creamy soups, such as cream of mushroom soup, are relatively healthy, though you should look out for high sodium content if you are eating soup from a can.
For a soup with a better omega 3 to 6 ratio, try this Vegetable and Bean Soup recipe. It features navy beans, which are excellent sources of omega 3s.
How To Make Sure You Are Getting Enough Omegas
Most likely, you are already getting enough omega 6s in your diet, though it is good to be cognizant of which sources are healthy and which are not.
For higher levels of omega 3, eat more fatty fish, like salmon and tuna. Foods such as walnuts, tofu, flax seeds, navy beans, brussel sprouts, avocadoes, and spinach all contain a high concentration of omega 3s, and often a good balance between omega 3s and 6s.
Some recipes that feature these ingredients include:
- Anti-Inflammatory Breakfast Porridge
- Homemade Guacamole
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- Strawberry Goat Cheese Salad
Finally, if you struggle to incorporate omega 3-rich foods into your diet, you could add a fish oil supplement, such as Livingood Daily Omegas. These supplements cannot fix an otherwise poor diet, but they can help you reach your daily omega 3 goals.
Omega 6 fatty acids play a major role in regulating the body’s cholesterol and supporting healthy heart function. We often get more than enough omega 6s from our diet, including both healthy and unhealthy sources, but need to increase our intake of omega 3s.
By eating foods with balanced omega 3 to 6 ratios and potentially using omega supplements, we can get all the omegas we need for optimal health and function.