Omega-6 fatty acids are found in high concentrations in many of the foods we eat in the Standard American Diet (SAD). Omega-6 oils, including corn and soybean oil, are used when making many popular foods such as French fries, crackers, potato chips, muffins, cereals, cookies, and breads. Due to the convenience, and sometimes dependency, on these types of fast foods, many of us have a very high intake of omega-6 – and that can create an imbalance to omega-3s.
It’s important to note that omega-6s shouldn’t be demonized. Our body needs them, and they can actually also be found in healthy foods such as nuts and seeds. The problem is, they can be harmful when consumed in excessive amounts from unhealthy sources. When consumed in moderation, omega-6s can be beneficial, as they support bone and muscle health. But these health benefits can only be achieved when omega-6s are consumed in the proper ratio with omega-3s. The optimal ratio is 2:1 omega-6:omega-3, and not higher than 3:1. Those who consume large amounts of convenience foods can have ratios of 20:1 and even as high as 50:1.
When evaluating our diet, we shouldn’t only categorize fast foods as the quick meals we get through the drive through or a walk-up window, we should also include convenient grab-and-go foods, like frozen entrees, coffee shop muffins, snack bars, etc.
We can balance out the omega-6s we consume by eating more omega-3-rich foods such as salmon and flaxseeds, while supplementing with fish oil. Omega-3s support cardiovascular, joint, brain, vision, and immune health, and also promote healthy aging.
Here’s what a balanced omega-6:omega-3 diet looks like:
- Breakfast: plain yogurt with 1 tsp. of ground flaxseed and fresh blueberries.
- Lunch: salad with vegetables, low-mercury tuna packed in water (not omega-6 oil), and avocado. Use a dressing with balsamic vinegar and Carlson Olive Your Heart® omega-3 olive oil, or find your favorite salad dressing here.
- Dinner: grilled chicken breast, baked (not fried) sweet potato fries, and steamed asparagus. Drizzle asparagus with Olive Your Heart® omega-3 olive oil and salt and pepper.
- Snack: hummus with sliced cucumbers, carrots, or jicama.
Understanding the importance of a balanced diet is key to making changes that can have a positive effect on your overall health.