Understanding Essential Fatty Acids

Essential Fatty Acids

Our bodies need 2 kinds of essential fatty acids, Omega-3 and Omega-6s to build cell walls and maintaining nerve and brain function. According to the Physician Committee for Responsible Medicine, “It is not only important to incorporate good sources of omega-3 and omega-6s in your diet, but also consume these fatty acids in the proper ratio.” (1)

There is still a debate regarding the ideal ration, but the general recommendation is that the Omega 6s to omega 3 should be between a 1:1 and 4:1 ratio.(2)

Unfortunately today, we consume too many omega-6 fatty acids in our diet. The use of refined vegetable oils (corn oil, canola, safflower, soybean, cottonseed, sesame, sunflower oil) and the consumption of processed foods that are cooked with these oils have created an imbalance of omega-6:omega-3 ratio. Most people consume a ratio of between 10:1 and 25:1, which contributes to the development of chronic disease. One can start taking control of these imbalances by eliminating refined oils, avoiding processed foods and incorporating foods rich in naturally occurring omega-3s.

Below is a list of naturally occurring essential fatty acids:

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: (3)

  • Chia seed (2400 mg of omega-3s per tbsp)
  • Flax seed (2400 mg of omega-3s per tbsp)
  • Raw walnuts
  • Sardines
  • Alaskan Wild Salmon
  • Sockeye salmon
  • Soy and soy products

Omega-6 Fatty Acids:

  • Flaxseed
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Soybeans
  • Walnuts
  • Safflower seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Olives
  • Avocado

One of the least commonly known omega-6 fatty acids is gamma-linolenic acid (GLA); it has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects. GLA can be found in oils such as black currant, borage, and hemp oils.


I personally try to cook at home as much as possible and when I go out I will usually eat a plate with lots of vegetables, preferably steamed or slightly grilled, to minimize my consumption of refined oils. At home I use extra virgin olive oil for cooking and salad dressings. I don’t use oils like flaxseed, walnut, sesame since they tend to go rancid very quickly, making them more harmful than healthy. During cooking preparation, I use oils sparingly and I avoid frying completely.

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