Paleo Plan

Q&A: Proper Ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 Foods

sardinesHey Neely,

Quick question. I know we should be eating a proper ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 foods.

In layman’s terms, should we be eating more omega-3’s to omega-6’s or vice versa? Could you give me an example of how that reflects in one’s daily diet, i.e., more fish and leafy veggies vs. nuts?

Thanks so much!!

With confusion, as usual,

Mark



Hi Mark,

The proper ratio of omega 6’s to omega 3’s is between 1:1 and 4:1. The problem is that most people’s ratio is about 40:1. Not good. As we know, this causes inflammation (as the 3’s keep inflammation at bay and the 6’s increase it).

The first goal is to keep your omega 6 consumption down so as to keep the ratio healthy. Eating fish (especially wild caught salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, anchovies, and others) is your other first goal. I eat sardines every day, and by doing that it means I don’t have to take a disgusting fish oil pill :)

Omega 6’s are found largely in the American diet in corn oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, cottonseed oil, peanut oil, and other “vegetable” oils. They’re also in seeds and nuts in varying degrees, and in meat in small amounts. When you stop eating those oils I mentioned, your ratio really improves a lot. So if you’re not eating corn oil, etc. then you’re doing much better than the average Western eater in terms of heart disease and other diseases of inflammation.

 

Just make sure you’re getting some good cold water fish in your diet at least once a week. Once a day would be even better, especially if it’s a low mercury option. Here’s a guide to fish’s mercury levels in case you’re curious. Eating grass-fed and pasture raised meats and eggs also improves your ratio. For instance, one study found that grain-fed beef has a ratio of about 5:1 omega 6 to omega 3 while grass-fed beef is about 2:1.

If you want to supplement just to be sure you’re getting enough omega 3’s, that’s fine, too. Designs for Health makes good fish oil supplements and you can find them online.

For a much more in-depth discussion of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, please read Chris Kresser’s article, “How Too Much Omega 6 And Not Enough Omega 3 Is Making Us Sick.”

Hope that helps!

Kindly,
Neely

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3 Comments

  1. Hollee

    Sardines EVERY day.. woah. I thought 3x a week was a lot. And I’m with you on the disgusting fish oil…

  2. I’m a little confused by this post. It says, “The proper ratio of omega 3′s to omega 6′s is between 1:1 and 4:1.” So, Omega 3s should be about equal or up to 4x greater than Omega 6s, right? But the next sentence says, “The problem is that most people’s ratio is about 40:1.” Are these numbers reversed? (Ratio of 3s to 6s is actually 1:40?) Because as it’s written it seems (to me, at least) that most people eat _more_ omega 3s than they should to make the ratio that high (which seems unlikely).

    • Neely Quinn

      Anne – Thank you so much for catching that!!! That was a typo and I just fixed it. You were right – it should’ve said the proper ratio of omega 6’s to omega 3’s is… Thanks again and I’m so sorry for the confusion!

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