Omega-9, Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids are components of fats that perform important functions in our bodies. The right proportions of different fatty acid groups can have a positive effect on your health.
Omega-3, 6 and 9: The Right Chemistry
Fatty acids are components of the fats in foods. We also know our fats as neutral fats or triglycerides. They usually consist of one molecule of glycerol and three different or identical fatty acids. Depending on the chemical structure, there are three different groups of fatty acids: saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Saturated fatty acids only have single bonds and no double bonds in the molecule. Monounsaturated fatty acids have one and polyunsaturated fatty acids have two or more double bonds. Depending on the position of the double bond in the fat molecule, a distinction is made between Omega-3, Omega-6, and Omega-9 fatty acids. For example, oleic acid, which is abundant in olive oil, is an Omega-9 fatty acid.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids Have Anti-Inflammatory Effects
Polyunsaturated fatty acids are an important component of cell membranes in the human body. They are particularly present in high concentrations in the nerve cells and the brain. As important components of the retina of the eye, they play a major role and are therefore indispensable for the healthy development of the eyes and brain in infants and young children.
Omega-3 fatty acids serve as precursors for so-called eicosanoids. These endogenous hormone-like messengers influence numerous metabolic pathways and functions. Diet can influence this sensitive biochemical balance. So Omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in a healthy diet. We should increase our intake of Omega-3 fatty acids to maintain our health. We find them in fatty sea fish such as mackerel, herring, and salmon as well as in walnuts and flaxseed oil. The recommendation to regularly consume high-fat sea fish or to occasionally eat a salad with oil in the dressing is therefore justified. But just one or two portions of the above-mentioned fish already cover our weekly requirement of good Omega-3 fatty acids. If you don’t eat fish, you should use vegetable Omega-3 sources like avocado several times a week.
Be Sparing With Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Safflower, wheat germ, pumpkin seed and sunflower oils, animal fats, and margarine contain large amounts of Omega-6 fatty acids. We also absorb Omega-6 fatty acids from cereal and dairy products, eggs, meat, and sausages, too. Although we need a higher total quantity of Omega-6 fatty acids than Omega-3 fatty acids, the ratio of the two fatty acid groups in the typical Western diet has shifted considerably. We currently consume too many Omega-6 fatty acids and too few Omega-3 fatty acids in our diet.
Ideally, the ratio should be about 5:1, but in some cases, it is more than 25:1. This means that if we consume too much Omega-6 fatty acids, our body will produce more inflammatory substances, which is particularly unfavorable for inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. In order to absorb less Omega-6 fatty acid, you should use olive oil, canola seed oil or flaxseed oil for cold dishes instead of the above-mentioned Omega-6-rich oils.
Omega-9 Fatty Acid Deposits
Oleic acid is the most important and most famous representative of Omega-9 fatty acids and exists mainly in olive oil. It has a positive influence on the ratio between “good” cholesterol (HDL) and total cholesterol and on blood fats (triglycerides). Omega-9 fatty acids are important for nerve conductivity and for the formation of hormones and cell membranes.
Monounsaturated fatty acids are a component of animal and vegetable products. Like Omega-3 fatty acids, they are part of marine animals and fish oil. They are also found in nuts, seeds, and olives. Above all, the healthy olive and canola oils consist for the most part of Omega-9 fatty acids. Canola oil contains up to 65 percent and olive oil up to 75 percent. Almost only oleic acid promotes healthy cholesterol levels.
Delicious And Healthy: Omega-3 In The Mediterranean Diet
You can find a much better ratio of Omega-3, Omega-6, and Omega-9 fatty acids in the Mediterranean meals than in our typical Western diet. A characteristic feature of the Mediterranean diet is the abundant use of fresh food like fruit, vegetables, seeds, and nuts. It is also popular for those favoring a low consumption of red meat and a high intake of fish and olive oil. The high content of monounsaturated fatty acids is emphasized in this diet. Same goes for the low ratio of Omega-6 fatty acids to Omega-3 fatty acids. This is perhaps one of the reasons why heart attacks and strokes are less common in the Mediterranean countries than in the USA. In any case, it is worth to include a balanced amount of Omega-3, 6 or 9 foods in your diet.