Food Fight! Omega-3 vs. Omega-6

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Chances are, you've probably heard of omega-3 and omega-6 — essential fatty acids that your body can't produce on its own, so you have to get them through food and/or supplements. What you probably don't know is that the key to these super-nutrients is to consume them in the proper proportion, which is between 1:2 and 1:4 omega-3 to omega-6.

Why is this so important? The average American actually consumes a ratio of 1:19 omega-3s to 6s. And while small amounts of omega-6 can help to lower LDL (otherwise known as "bad" cholesterol) and reduce inflammation in the body, overloading on this polyunsaturated fat can contribute to heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and fatigue.

How can you strike a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 in your diet?

Many nutritionists recommend an intake of seven to 11 grams of omega-3 fatty acids each week, which comes to about 1.5 grams of this healthy fat per day. You can easily get your omega-3s with:

  • Salmon, sardines or canned mackerel (1.7 to 2.2g in 4oz)
  • Pecans (0.3g in 1oz)
  • Tofu (0.3g in 4oz)
  • Soybeans (0.5g in half-a-cup)
  • Flaxseeds (3.5g in 2tbsp)

Egg yolks and red meat are some of the worst offenders when it comes to omega-6-laden foods, packing in as much as 20-times the recommended amount in a single serving. Here's a breakdown of omega-6 in other common ingredients you may cook with:

  • Corn oil (7.3g in 1tbsp)
  • Canola oil (2.8g in 1tbsp)
  • Olive oil (1.3g in 1tbsp)

If you're already planning your next meal, make sure to be mindful of these figures, and limit your omega-6 intake to four times the amount of omega-3 on your plate. Doing so might just reduce your risk of developing serious health concerns down the road. And the immediate results? Perfecting this ratio has aesthetic benefits too, adding shine to your hair, strength to your nails and moisture to your skin.