There are two major classes of polyunsaturated fatty acids: omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These are both a type of fat your body can’t make. Since our body cannot make these, they are referred to as “essential fatty acids” meaning they must come from our diet.
Omega-3 contains both DHA and EPA, fatty acids that are plentiful in fish and shellfish. DHA makes up about 8% of the weight of the brain and is very important for brain development and function. EPA produces chemicals called eicosanoids, which help reduce inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids are known to help lower blood pressure, reduce triglycerides, reduce abnormal heart rhythms, slow plaque development in arteries, lessen risk of heart attack and stroke, preventing dementia, promoting bone health, decreasing liver fat, and fighting inflammation.
Omega-6 fatty acids are primarily used for energy. The most common omega-6 fatty acid is linoleic acid. These are important chemicals in the immune system. Gamma-linolenic acid, found in omega-6s, is shown to significantly reduce symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis. When too many are produced, however, they can increase inflammation. The Western diet contains far more omega-6 fatty acids than necessary.
The recommended ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids is 4:1. The average Western diet contains a ratio between 10:1 and 50:1.
Foods high in Omega-3s are oily fish, specifically salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, as well as chia seeds, walnuts, and flaxseeds.
Foods high in Omega-6s are largely found in refined vegetable oils, as well as nuts and seeds, such as soybean oil, corn oil, mayonnaise, walnuts, almonds, and sunflower seeds.