Omega 3-6-9 benefits: The lowdown on fatty acids
You’ve probably heard that Omega fatty acids are good for you. But what exactly are they? What’s the difference between Omega EPA vs. DHA vs. ALA? What are Omega 3-6-9 benefits and why are these "healthy fats" so vital to our health and wellbeing?
Understanding Omegas can be a bit tricky, so we’ve put together this easy guide to help you make sense of them—and begin to harness their power for good health!
What are Omega fatty acids?
Omega 3, Omega 6, and Omega 9 are polyunsaturated fatty acids (aka dietary fats) that are vital to maintaining overall good health, and they mainly come from the foods you eat.
Every cell in your body needs and contains omega 3 and 6 essential fats. However, about 80% of people don’t get enough Omegas in their diet.
There are several different kinds of omegas (ALA, EPA, DHA and SDA to name a few), and your body utilizes each one differently. Together they help support things like:
- Good cognitive function*
- Your immune system*
- Heart health*
- Healthy joints*
- Healthy hair and skin*
While your body needs Omegas to function and thrive, it’s crucial that you get Omega 3, and 9 in the right proportions. Research suggests that an imbalance can trigger an inflammatory response in the body and contribute to chronic diseases over time.
Below we have some tips for how to add more and healthier Omegas to your diet in the right balance. But first, here’s a breakdown of the differences between Omega 3, 6, and 9 and what they do.
What are Omega 3 fatty acids?
In the health and wellness world, Omega 3s get a good deal of attention—and rightly so. Science suggests there are many health benefits to maintaining an adequate daily intake of these “healthy fats.”
Omega 3s are essential fatty acids—“essential” meaning that your body is unable to produce them on its own. Instead, they must come from your diet. Good food sources of Omega-3s include oily fish like sardines and mackerel, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, algae, and Ahiflower Oil.
After consuming foods with these healthy fats, omega 3 fatty acids are incorporated into cell membranes in all tissues of the body. From there they act as a starting point for other important functions in the body like making hormones that regulate blood clotting and inflammation.*
What’s the difference between Omega 3 ALA vs. EPA vs. DHA?
The three most well-known Omega 3s are Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is the most common plant-derived Omega and what your body uses as a building block to create other Omegas.
What you probably have not heard of before is Omega 3 Stearidonic acid (SDA). Your body converts all ALA to SDA before converting it to EPA and DHA. For this reason, consuming foods or supplements high in SDA, is the most efficient way to boost your overall Omega 3.*
Omega ALA, SDA, EPA and DHA all have different health benefits and functions including:
- ALA (found mostly in plant foods) - Considered a building block for other omega-3s in your body and helps protect your heart and blood vessels*
- SDA - Beneficial because it’s extremely efficient at converting directly to EPA and metabolizing quickly in the body when consumed, improving cardiovascular, cognitive, joint and immune functions*
- EPA - Produces eicosanoids, molecules that help reduce inflammation*
- DHA - Supports your brain, nervous system and prenatal health*
What are Omega 6 fatty acids?
Omega-6 fats are typically considered to be “less healthy” fatty acids, which is unfortunate because they’re essential for good health.
Omega 6s are fatty acids that mostly provide your body with energy, and just like with Omege 3s, these dietary fats must come from your diet.*
Most Omega 6s in the average Western diet come from linoleic acid (LA) found in nuts and seeds and plant and vegetable oils like safflower oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, and soybean oil. Your body converts LA to gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). Studies suggest that GLA can help with inflammation.*
So what’s the problem with Omega 6?
Trouble starts when our Omega 6/Omega 3 ratio is out of balance, which can lead to inflammation and other health concerns.*
For optimum health, it’s believed that Omega 6s should be present at similar or slightly higher levels than Omega 3s in our diets—between 1:1 and 3:1. However, many highly processed snacks (the stuff we tend to eat way too much of) contain oils like corn, soybean, and safflower which are all abundant in Omega 6 LA.
As a result, the typical Western diet has pushed this ratio out of whack to approximately 25:1! One way to avoid this is to cut back on processed foods (looking at you potato chips) and opt for more clean, whole food alternatives.
Opt in for more Omega 6 GLA. This lesser known Omega is found in oils like evening primrose and borage. Unlike LA, GLA gets readily converted to Omega 6s that are thought to have anti-inflammatory properties and other health benefits associated with hair and skin health and hormonal balance.*
What are Omega 9 fatty acids?
Omega-9 fatty acids are also considered “healthy” fatty acids. These monounsaturated fats are found in olive oil, avocado oil and many of the same foods that are rich in Omega 3s.
Our bodies produce Omega-9 fats, so we don’t necessarily need to get them from our diet. However, studies show that consuming foods rich with them can provide us with numerous health benefits—like reducing “bad” LDL cholesterol, increasing “good” HDL cholesterol, and lowering blood pressure.
How to make sure you’re getting all the omegas your body needs—and the right balance?
It can be overwhelming trying to figure out whether or not you’re getting enough omega fatty acids and the proper ratio of each in your diet.
Honestly, most of us would much rather focus on how delicious our lunch tastes versus how many eicosanoids and polyunsaturated fats our body is synthesizing with each bite.
Here are a few simple tips to help you get started, but don't forget to check with your healthcare professional if you want tips specific to your dietary needs:
Eat MORE whole-food sources of Omega 3s and Omega 6s —things like salmon, herring, sardines, oysters, flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, soybeans, eggs, spinach, brussels sprouts, and meat and dairy products from grass-fed animals.
Eat LESS processed sources of Omega 6s. Ditch snacks and meal products that are boxed or packaged and made with refined vegetable cooking oils like corn, soybean, safflower, sunflower, and cottonseed.
- If you’re vegan or vegetarian, don’t like the taste of fish or fish oil supplements and think you’re not getting enough Omegas in your diet, consider taking an Omega supplement like our Multi Omega 3-6-9 supplements made with Ahiflower Oil. Derived from a flowering plant found in the United Kingdom, Ahiflower Oil is the richest plant source of Omegas and provides a complete and balanced blend of Omega 3, 6, and 9 - all in one.*
Explore Vegan Omega 3-6-9 with Ahiflower Oil