So I’m sure most of you have heard of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids but what are they really and how can they affect our bodies?

Both fats are essential for our bodies to help build healthy cells and maintain brain function. The reason we call these essential is because although our bodies cannot produce them, they are necessary for normal cellular function. Most Americans get plenty of omega-6 fatty acids in their diet and not enough omega-3s.

So what foods contain these fats? Omega-6 fatty acid, also known as alpha linoleic acid, mostly comes from plant oils such as corn oil, soybean oil, and sunflower oil as well as from nuts and seeds. These are the fats we get the most of in our diet. Omega-3 fatty acid, also known as alpha linolenic acid (ALA), derives primarily from fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna. Other good sources include walnuts, flaxseed and canola oil derived from rapeseed. There is still a controversy of how much of each we need in our diets, however we do know most American’s do not obtain enough omega-3s in their diets.

There is growing evidence and research on omega-3 fatty acids and their anti-inflammatory benefits which can help lower the risk of heart disease. So, adding a handful of walnuts into your morning breakfast routine or a tablespoon of ground flaxseed into your smoothie may not be such a bad idea after-all.

Sarah Gabel, RD, LD

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Vidafit LLC