Essential Fatty Acids, It's A Balancing Act

Essential fatty acids or EFA’s are essential to good health and it is essential that you get them in your diet because your body cannot make them. 

EFA’s come in the form of omega-3 fatty acids, found mainly in fish, flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, pumpkin and hemp seeds, and omega-6 fatty acids found mainly in vegetable oils.

These two EFA’s are both necessary for good health, but they have opposite effects on the body and must be kept in balance to promote health.  

An ideal ratio would be from 1:1 up to 4:1 omega-6 to omega-3.  However, because processed vegetable oils are in the majority of foods Americans consume, and because we are not big fish eaters, the typical American's ratio hovers around 20:1 omega-6 to omega-3.  Way out of the ideal range. 

This becomes a health concern because the omega-6 EFAs in your diet from vegetable oils promote inflammation, increased blood pressure and immune suppression.  Conditions which could lead to heart disease and cancer.

I recommend getting your Omega-3s from the fat of cold water fish like salmon, sardines and mackerel rather than from nuts and seeds because many people lack the enzymes needed to make the conversion from vegetable sources of omega-3 fatty acids to the more usable form found in fish oils.  Therefore, it is perhaps best to enjoy cold water fish along with your vegetable sources of omega-3's. 

The Omega-3 EFA’s “claim to fame” is that they are anti-inflammatory.  This is HUGE for Americans whose diet and lifestyle is pro-inflammatory.  Especially when you consider most, if not all disease processes start with inflammation. 

Omega-3's also feed bio-chemicals that lower triglyceride levels, lower blood pressure, prevent blood clots, reduce inflammation, enhance immune function, and keep rapid cell growth in check.  

They protect the heart, are needed for proper brain functioning and even help with weight loss by reducing insulin levels and increasing your metabolic rate.

Besides the less desirable Omega-6 fatty acids found in vegetable oils, there are two other omega-6 EFAs that are beneficial to your health.  Gamma linolenic acid, GLA, is found in borage oil, evening primrose oil, and black current seed oil. 

GLA helps reduce inflammation and aids in brain development, skin and hair growth and healthy bones.  It also raises levels of serotonin, the feel good neurotransmitter and, it helps burn body fat. 

Conjugated linoleic acid, CLA is also an omega-6 fatty acid.  It is found in the beef and dairy products of organically raised free-range cows that graze on early spring and fall grasses.  

It is also found in wild game.  CLA packs a double punch; it helps maintain lean muscle while increasing the rate at which you burn body fat.  Not a bad combination.

Less vegetable oil, more fresh wild fish, flax seeds or oil, borage oil and organic free range meats will help lower inflammation and keep your heart, brain, nervous and immune systems young and healthy while keeping you strong and lean.

*  Animal sources of omega-3 fatty acids include: herring, sardines, salmon, mackerel, swordfish, mussels, tilapia, halibut, flounder, and pollock.

*  Plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids include: flax seeds, walnuts, hemp seeds, pecans, and hazelnuts.

*  Sources of omega-6 fatty acids include: safflower oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, and sunflower oil.

For guidance and support in your journey to better nutrition, contact me for a free 15 minute consultation at, or call me at 301-332-5732.