As discussed in the Omega Fatty Acids chapter of this book, most western diets have an unbalanced ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids. More specifically, a much higher ratio of omega 6s to omega 3s then that which is considered optimal.
Excessive amounts of omega 6s (in relation to omega 3s) have been documented to promote the progression of many diseases and inflammatory health conditions . Restoring this ratio to more optimal levels (increasing omega 3s) can help reverse these issues and assist the bodies healing process [2, 3, 4].
Finding a sustainable approach is key
Though achieving a ratio of 1:1 can be quite difficult and may not be crucial for maintenance of health, moving closer to that ratio appears to be beneficial for correcting health issues. As the health condition resolves, it may be both financially and emotionally easier to ease our efforts and a maintain a more sustainable ratio such as 5:1.
The first step to getting our omega ratios back on track is realizing the importance of a healthy ratio. The second step is to understand which products and dietary choices have the most impact on the ratio and how much we should consume.
Increase Omega 3 Intake
Omega 3 fatty acids have a critical role in overall immune function, inflammation, depression  and in the production of hormones related to carbohydrate and lipid metabolism . Each of these factors relate to the stability of your skin and the level of general inflammation throughout your body.
Foods Highest in Omega 3s
This list is mainly focused on EPA and DHA, a list of the top sources of ALA can be found earlier in this chapter (Different Types of Omega-3s). The following figures are based on a 3oz (85g) serving:
- Pacific Herring, Cooked – 1.06g EPA 0.75g DHA
- Chinook Salmon, Cooked – 0.86g EPA 0.62g DHA
- Atlantic Salmon, Cooked – 0.28g EPA 0.95g DHA
- Pacific Oysters, Cooked – 0.75g EPA 0.43g DHA
- Sockeye Salmon, Cooked – 0.45g EPA 0.60g DHA
- Rainbow Trout, Cooked – 0.40g EPA 0.44g DHA
- White Tuna, Canned – 0.20g EPA 0.54g DHA
Aim to Obtain Your Omega 3s from Whole Foods
Whole foods appear to provide a better overall effect on immune functioning then supplements alone. The foods that contain omega 3s tend to also be high in vitamin E and selenium. These nutrients have been shown to have a strong impact on stabilizing and improving immune system function [7, 8, 9].
Eating seafood appears to be the most optimal way of obtaining Omega 3s. The fatty acids are fresh and it is also an excellent source of selenium, vitamin E, vitamin D, and protein. Plus, incorporating seafood into your diet is likely to reduce the amount of lower quality protein you consume.
Lower Omega 6 Intake
To get the maximum benefit from Omega 3s, we also need to minimize our intake of Omega 6s as they can compete with each other for usage throughout the body . Accordingly, some of the biggest items towards a healthier ratio actually include the reduction of foods high in omega 6 fatty acids, such as:
- Packaged foods containing oils (chips, granola bars, ready meals, and most packaged food in general)
- Vegetable oils for the flavoring of our food (salads, marinades, dips)
Additional items to consider:
- Nuts and seeds contain high amounts of omega-6s, but generally also provide some omega 3 fatty acids as well
- Many candies use oil to stimulate a more pleasant mouth feel and are high in omega 6s
- Much of the food at restaurants depends on cheap oils, high in omega 6s, for preparation
Products Highest in Omega 6s
This list covers the products highest in total omega-6 fatty acid content. The figures are provided based on a 15g serving (about 1 tablespoon). However,many dressings and condiments depend on the use of many of these oils, and ingredients list should be examined.
- Safflower Oil (Linoleic) – 11.2g
- Grapeseed Oil – 10.4g
- Sunflower Oil (Linoleic) – 9.9g
- Poppyseed Oil – 9.4g
- Vegetable Oil (USDA Low Fat) – 8.7g
- Wheat Germ Oil – 8.2g
- Corn Oil – 8g
- Walnut Oil – 7.9g
- Mayonnaise (soybean and safflower oil) – 7.8g
Complete avoidance of items high in omega-6 fatty acids is typically not sustainable. The biggest changes should be made through focus on correcting consumption patterns rather than limiting them.
This section provided some ideas and suggestions to help restore a more balance ratio of omega 3s to omega 6s. Key action items include:
- Increase the amount of fresh fatty fish in your diet
- Decrease intake of processed/packaged foods
- Avoid added vegetable oils when possible
- Make smart choices when eating out to avoid added oils