Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are the two types of essential fats you need in your diet to stay healthy, as your body can't make them on its own. Most Americans get more omega-6 fats and fewer omega-3 fats in their diet than they should, and this may increase the risk for certain health problems, including heart disease, cancer and arthritis.
Omega-3 Recommended Intake
The recommended total omega-3 fat consumption per day is 0.5 percent to 2 percent of your calories. There are three main types of omega-3 fats -- eicosapentaenoic acid, docosahexaenoic acid and alpha-linolenic acid. EPA and DHA are the type your body uses most efficiently, but most people can convert some of the ALA they consume into EPA and DHA.
At least 0.5 percent of your calories should come from ALA, or between 1.3 and 2.7 grams per day if you follow a 2,000-calorie diet.
You should consume between 0.25 and 2 grams of a combination of EPA and DHA each day.
Omega-6 Recommended Intake
The recommended intake for omega-6 fats is between 2.5 percent and 9 percent of your daily calories, or between 50 and 180 grams per day if you follow a 2,000-calorie diet. The adequate intake level is between 2 percent and 3 percent of your daily calories, or between 40 and 60 grams for those who eat 2,000 calories per day.
Ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3
Because omega-3 fats may limit inflammation and omega-6 fats may increase inflammation, you want your ratio of omega-6 fats to omega-3 fats to be relatively low. A ratio between 2-to-1 and 4-to-1 may help lower your risk for autoimmune diseases, inflammatory disease, cancer and heart disease, according to an article published in "Experimental Biology and Medicine" in June 2008. The typical American diet has a ratio between 14-to-1 and 25-to-1, however. A high omega-6-to-omega-3 ratio may also increase your risk of Alzheimer's disease, according to a review article published in the "Journal of Nutrition in Gerontology and Geriatrics" in 2013.
Beneficial Dietary Changes
Two servings of fish per week will give you the equivalent of about 500 milligrams per day of EPA and DHA, especially if you choose fatty fish, such as salmon, herring, tuna, mackerel or sardines. You can increase your ALA intake by eating flaxseed, walnuts and pecans or by using canola, flaxseed or walnut oil. Using these oils instead of oils high in omega-6 fats -- such as corn, grapeseed, soybean and wheat germ oils -- can help you improve your ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats.
- World Health Organization: Interim Summary of Conclusions and Dietary Recommendations on Total Fat & Fatty Acids
- Colorado State University Extension: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Experimental Biology and Medicine: The Importance of the Omega-6/Omega-3 Fatty Acid Ratio in Cardiovascular Disease and Other Chronic Diseases
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-6 Fatty Acids
- Cleveland Clinic: Heart-Healthy Cooking: Oils 101
- Journal of Nutrition in Gerontology and Geriatrics: The Omega-6/Omega-3 Ratio and Dementia or Cognitive Decline: A Systematic Review on Human Studies and Biological Evidence
- Photo Credit olgna/iStock/Getty Images
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