Health-conscious mamas should already know the wide array of benefits that come from omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA/DHA from seafood. Hello heart health! Omega-6 fatty acids, along with omega-3s, help support brain function and normal growth. Omega-6s are essential fatty acids, meaning the body cannot make them so we must get them through other sources.
Omega-6s help stimulate skin and hair growth, maintain bone health, regulate metabolism and the reproductive system. We get omega-6s through vegetable oils, such as corn oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, as well as eggs and poultry. These vegetable oils, or linoleic acids, are converted to gamma linoleic acids in the body. This special omega-6, otherwise known as GLA, packs a powerful punch in its disease-fighting powers. It reduces eczema, dermatitis, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, obesity and even combats cancer.
The problem is that the modern American diet tends to contain 14-25 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3s! So there is a large imbalance that could lead to chronic inflammation, cardiovascular diseases and autoimmune diseases… basically any disease in the book! Because the average diet contains more than enough omega-6s, side supplements are usually not necessary unless you are treating a specific condition such as breast tenderness, arthritis, diabetes or psoriasis. The onset of modern inflammatory diseases rose around the industrial revolution, when we saw an increase in the production and consumption of modern vegetable oils. Read here about the importance of omega-3s in maintaining the balance!
The skinny is this: A smaller, more balanced ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s is imperative for our health. While both are important in aiding brain function, bone health and normal growth, too many omega-6s throws the equation out of whack. A diet with a lot of omega-6 and little omega-3 will increase inflammation, and a diet of a lot of omega-3 and less omega-6 will reduce inflammation. Cut back on the processed foods, which are guaranteed to have way, way more the optimal amount of omega-6s than we really need. Cook with coconut oil instead of vegetable oils. Scientific studies set the desired ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s at 5:1, meaning that we need a lot more salmon in our lives!