What’s the Difference Between Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fats?

You’ve probably heard a lot about omega-3 fats.  But what about omega-6 fats?  What’s the difference?

What are omega-3 fats?

Omega-3 fats are healthy unsaturated fats.  It is important that we get them from the foods we eat. There are three types of omega-3 fats:

  • ALA (alpha linoleic acid)
  • DHA (Docosahexanoic acid)
  • EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid)

Omega-3 fats play a role in brain, nerve and eye development in infants.  They also help keep your immune system healthy and may help lower the risk of heart disease in adults.

What are omega-6 fats?

Omega-6 fats are also healthy unsaturated fats. Just like omega-3 fats, we need to get omega-6 fats from food in our diet. There are four types of omega-6 fats:

  • LA (Linoleic acid)
  • ARA (Arachidonic Acid)
  • GLA (Gamma linoleic)
  • CLA (Conjugated linoleic acid)

Omega-6 fats play an important role in regulating our genes and promoting immune health and blood clotting.  These fats can also help with the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and dermatitis. However, more research is needed to support these health benefits.

What foods contain omega-3 and omega-6 fats?

Omega-3 fats are found in:

  • fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, arctic char and trout
  • eggs (including omega-3 enriched)
  • flaxseeds and flaxseed oil
  • walnuts
  • soybeans
  • tofu
  • canola oil
  • fortified foods like some margarines, juices and yogurts

Omega-6 fats are found in:

  • soybeans
  • corn
  • safflower and sunflower oils
  • nuts and seeds
  • meat, poultry, fish and eggs

Bottom Line

Although Canadians get more omega-6 in their diets than omega-3, it is best to focus on including both fats by eating a variety of healthy foods. Remember to eat two servings (75 grams or 2.5 oz each) of fatty fish per week and have no more than 3 Tbsp of healthy unsaturated fats per day.

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About the Dietitians of Canada

Dietitians of Canada (DC) is the professional association representing over 5,000 members at the local, provincial and national levels with regional offices in British Columbia, Alberta and the Territories, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada.

Our purpose is to advance health through food and nutrition. We:

  • provide evidence-based food and nutrition information
  • support easier access to adequate, safe and healthy food
  • promote professional best practices
  • advocate for better access to dietitians to meet the health needs of Canadians.