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THE IMPORTANCE OF OMEGA 3 & 6

Beware: Essential fatty acids are not made in the body, so to stay topped up and reap the health benefits it's important to get an adequate intake through your diet. The body requires a balance of both omegas, but if you have too much omega-6, it floods cell membranes, minimising potential health benefits from omega-3. Studies show excessive amounts of omega-6 is also a risk factor for obesity. Yikes! So how do you get the balance right? Here's our guide on each, along with the best food sources and the recommended daily intakes for optimum health.  

WHAT'S OMEGA-3 MADE OF? Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) - now there's a mouthful!

HOW DO I GET IT? EPA and DHA are superior sources of omega-3, as they are absorbed more efficiently. Our bodies can convert ALA to EPA and DHA, but at a slower rate. To meet the recommended intake of omega-3, get it from dietary sources, enriched foods or supplements. The richest sources of EPA and DHA comes from cold-water fish. ALA is found in canola, flaxseed and walnuts.

HOW MUCH DO I NEED? Aim for 500mg of DHA and EPA per day (or two to three 150g serves of oily fish a week), and at least 2g of ALA omega-3 daily (two slices of soy and linseed bread or 30g of walnuts). Our bodies need ALA to regulate functions such as immunity.

HOW TO GET THE BALANCE RIGHT: According to nutrition experts, we get plenty of omega-6, but not enough omega-3 as they're not in as many foods. If fish isn't a favourite, eat enriched foods (eggs, bread, milk), or supplements with high EPA and DHA content.

WHAT'S OMEGA-6 MADE OF? Linoleic acid (LA)

WHERE DOES IT COME FROM? LA is found in vegetable oils, including sunflower, safflower, corn, peanut, soybean and cottonseed. Some seeds and nuts also contain LA, including Brazil nuts and peanuts.

HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH? The heart foundation recommends keeping omega-6 below eight to 10% of your daily energy intake. For example, if you're consuming 50g of fat per day, 4-5g should come from omega-6 sources. Nutritionists are in favour of reducing omega-6 citing that people are having 15:1 in favour of omega-6 (versus omega-3). In reality, this would be better if it were 10:1 or lower. To cut down your consumption of omega-6, actively consume omega-3 to improve the ratio.

HOW TO GET THE BALANCE RIGHT: Eat less take-away food and more home-cooked meals. Reduce polyunsaturated oils and margarine, use flaxseed oil as dressing and canola for cooking, snack on walnuts and pecans and eat whole foods.