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Omega 3 6 9 Explained - And How To Balance Them Naturally

Updated on May 6, 2012


Today, more and more often we hear or read about essential fatty acids, omega 3 6 9 and about different types of fat found in our food in general. As time goes by, many interesting facts are being revealed about fats in diet and how they affect one's individual health. With more and more illnesses plaguing our society much more attention is now being paid to what we eat and what consequences might it have. This article is going to reveal some simple, yet important facts about fats in one's diet and offer a simple to follow advice about how to master the correct omega 369 ratios in a very easy and painless way.

Essential Fatty Acids

Essential fatty acids are those fatty acids that are required for good health, but cannot be synthesized by human body. They must be obtained from food. In fact, there are only two essential fatty acids: alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) - an omega 3 fatty acid and linoleic acid (LA) - an omega 6 fatty acid. There is no essential omega 9 fatty acid. Our bodies need omega 9 fats, but they can be manufactured from other sources. However, although it is possible for body to synthesize other fatty acids from these two, it is much more efficient to get them directly from food. This is particularly true for eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which are typically obtained from fish and fish oil capsules.


The most important omega fatty acids

Omega 3

alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) - essential
eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
docosahexaenoic acid DHA

Omega 6

linolenic acid (LA) - essential
gamma-linolenic acid (GLA)
dihomogamma linolenic acid (DLA)
arachidonic acid (AA)

Omega 9
oleic acid (OA)

The Problem - Western Diet Imbalance

Anthropological and epidemiological studies as well as studies at the molecular level show that humans evolved on a diet with a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids close to 1:1 while in Western diets the ratio would be around 15-16.7:1.

Considering the very important role this ratio plays in one's body functioning it is quite easy to see, where many of the contemporary health problems come from. Western diets are notoriously deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, and have excessive amounts of omega-6 fatty acids compared with the diet on which humans evolved and on which their genetic patterns were established.

Now, the universal conclusion seems to be that since we have more than enough of omega 6 fatty acids as these are all abundant in our food and getting omega 9 is easy as these are non-essential, what we need to do is to bring much more of omega 3's into our diet and possibly cutting on omega 6 intake. Fortunately, there is a very easy-to-follow controlled way how to do this. Let me show you, how.

How To Properly Balance Omega 3 6 9

Getting a proper balance of omegas is actually very easy. It is just about getting a proper amounts of certain foods. There are three main categories to look in: oils, animal products and nuts / seeds.

Step 1 - Selecting Appropriate Oils For Cooking

There are three oils that I suggest you use exclusively for everything. They are all monosaturated. Although you may want to use other oils occasionally, these three will cover all your needs at any situation while providing the best nutritional qualities at the same time. Also, be aware, that high omega 6 in some oils can stimulate inflammatory response, so it is really best to stick with these.

Olive Oil
Olive Oil | Source

Mediterranean diet is known for using olive oil exclusively in cooking and exhibit a very low incidence of heart diseases.

Olive Oil

Olive oil is the king of oils. It is monosaturated and has a very balanced fatty acids content with omega3 : omega6 ratio approaching 1:1. While containing both ALA and LA it also contains a significant amount of omega 9 oleic acid as well. Other ingredients which include vitamin E, carotenoids, oleuropein, polyphenols, squalenes and flavonoids contribute to lowering total cholesterol and LDL in the blood, lowering blood sugar levels and blood pressure and also act as powerful antioxidants. Some researchers also suggest olive oil builds more healthy omega 3 : omega 6 balance by displacing omega 6 acids. Olive oil is also a very power anti-fatigue remedy.

The best quality olive oil is extra virgin cold pressed and organic. It is best used as it is. Most typically it can be added to salads or used for preparing fish. Although it can be heated to relatively high temperature without problems, it should not be used this way for a long time and should not be used for deep frying at all. Although some refined olive oils are available for frying I would suggest using macadamia oil for this (see later). Olive oil can be stored in refrigerator but it is not necessary. However, if you do store it in colder temperature, it will change it appearance (which will come back to normal, when it warms up again).

Flaxseed (Linseed) Oil

Flaxseed (or linseed) oil has the highest omega 3 : omega 6 ratio of all oils. In fact it contains almost three times more omega 3 than omega 6 and can act as a fantastic counterbalance to all those omega 6 foods. Due to its very high ALA content it is said to be very beneficial against breast cancer. However there is also a potential downside to this. The very same ALA can be a potential problem for men in high risk of prostate cancer. The key is to use it with moderation.

Flaxseed oil is very unstable and must be refrigerated. Again, the best quality would be extra virgin cold pressed organic. It should be used as it is and should not be heated at all. It can be added to meals after they are prepared or can be consumed alone.

In his latest book 4 Hour Body (which I highly recommend to anyone being health and fitness oriented) Tim Ferriss recommends taking one to two tablespoons of flaxseed oil before sleep for tissue repair and as a very slow energy to prevent fasting during night sleep thus reducing possible morning fatigue.

Macadamia Oil

Macadamia oil is what we are gonna use for higher temperature stove work. Macadamia oil is a monosaturated oil with highest monosaturated content of all three oils. It is very stable and can handle higher cooking temperatures without losing its qualities.

If macadamia oil is not available, walnut oil would be a decent substitute.

Oil Alternatives

As possible oil alternatives I would suggest either butter from grass-fed cows or ghee (clarified-butter). These may be eaten alone or used in cooking instead of macadamia oil. They both contain butyric acid, which is beneficial for intestinal health, so it is actually good to include these two sometimes. But as they are quite high in saturated fat, they should be consumed with moderation.

Oils Storage And Handling

All oils should be stored in an airtight, light proof container, or at least hidden from light. It is always good idea to store them in cold - this is a must for flaxseed oil. They should be ideally consumed within 2 months, because they will go rancid (a bad thing) over time. This is not true for macadamia oil, which can last much longer.

It is a good idea to check the date of manufacture when purchasing oils as they may have been sitting in the shelf for quite a long time already while also being exposed to the light.

Used oils should be disposed into special containers and should not be put into common waste.

Step 2 - Balancing Animal Foods

When we are talking animal foods, we mainly think of red meat, poultry and eggs. To successfully balance the omega 3 6 ratio to at least 2:1 one should eat one portion of richly oiled cold water fish per one portion of red meat or poultry. For balancing eggs it is much easier to use flaxseeds as shown below. The best choice of fish would be salmon, tuna, herring or mackerel. Be sure to check that your fish (typically salmon) is wild caught and not farm raised, as the later will contain a lot of toxins. Also, make sure to watch for the latest news on mercury levels (particularly for tuna). Quality matters a lot, so be sure to buy from the best sources available.

Grass Fed vs. Grain Fed

What is the difference between grass fed and grain fed and which one is better? Biologically, animals evolved on being grass fed and this would be a much more natural condition for them, than being grain fed. While simultaneously containing less toxins, grass fed is always superior, because it has much better omega 3 6 ratio in favor of omega 3. This is not only true for meat, but also for eggs and all other animal products.

Step 3 - Balancing Nuts And Seeds

Many nuts and seeds have beneficial properties for your health. However, most of them are actually quite high in omega 6 and saturated fat. It is possible to balance for correct ratio with flaxseeds and walnuts.

Brown Flax Seeds
Brown Flax Seeds | Source

Flaxseeds And Walnuts

Raw flaxseeds are a very good source of omega 3, while being low on omega 6 at the same time. They can be used to balance your meals for correct omega content. They may be added to salads, scrambled eggs or virtually any food. Unlike the flaxseed oil, they are not so high on ALA and as such do not pose any cancer risks. They also support a strong immune system and are definitely a must have in one's food list. They can be used whole, ground or as sprouted powder. Ideally, one would use the combination of all three, as each of these have some other different benefits.

Walnuts are excellent detoxifiers and also inhibit the actions of polyamines (cancer growth factor). They have an omega 3:6 ratio of approximately 1:4 and are also one of the best plants sources of omega 3.

Step 4 - Adding Supplements When Needed

Omega 3 supplements are the final piece of the puzzle. These are typically fish oil capsules containing EPA and DHA fatty acids. While supplements are definitely a good way to get additional boost, they should be looked at the way they really are - supplements. That being said, one should always try to get maximum from diet and only look at supplements as an additional help, not the core of the whole thing. Too many times people assume, they just pop some pill and everything will be fine, but unfortunately, things do not work this way. Be sure to get the above steps right and take supplements as a little helper in achieving better results.

The typical daily dose would be at around 1000-3000mg assuming the EPA and DHA content is 180mg and 120mg respectively. If there is higher content of the two acids, one capsule daily may be fine.

Choosing Omega 3 Capsule Suppliers

When it comes to omega 3 supplements, there are dozens of brands and products available. But it is always good idea to check the quality of the brand and product first and not going cheap. Lower quality products might be contaminated with heavy metals such as lead and may do actually more harm then good in the long run. The best brands get their oils from clean sources and have a track of good reputation left behind.

The best way to store the capsules is the same as for other oils - in the fridge and hidden from light. Otherwise they may go rancid fast.

Making it all work

It is always nice to read about something new, that might be potentially good for you or that may even solve some bad problems. But more often than not, people eventually fail, because the change which is required is just to much. I suggest to proceed this way. Start with the right oils first and check out You cay setup a free an account there, where you may browse almost any food for nutritional content, analyze your recipes, search foods according to nutrients and many more. By using this tool for about one week you will get an idea where you are and what you need to improve. Then try two slowly match animal products and nuts until you get to about 2:1 for omega 3 : 6. Use the supplements two balance for missing omega 3 content. And that's it. It is really not complicated, it just takes some little effort and consistency in the beginning. After some time you will just automate things and will no longer thing about it. Good luck.


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