What’s so “Essential” about these Fatty Acids?

People everywhere are popping fish oil supplements and digging into the coconut oil jar to up their daily dose of essential fatty acids more than ever. But why are these fats heralded above the rest?

From building healthy cells to maintaining brain and nerve function, a balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are essential for good health – meaning, they are only provided from our diet. However, turns out the keyword here is balance.

Since the body cannot synthesize essential fatty acids on it’s own, it’s up to us to make sure we’re maintaining a balance of omega-6 and -3 in our diet. I included some tips at the bottom on some plant-based ways to do this. It’s important to look into both food sources, as an imbalance in one type of fatty acid can lead to…pretty much all the nasty stuff you’re trying to avoid.


While integral to the body’s healing process, omega-6 can sometimes be too proliferate in the modern diet, partly due to the use of vegetable oils such as soybean in snack foods and fast food. A trigger to immune responses such as inflammation and cell growth, omega-6 also plays a vital role in neurotransmitter development.

Omega-6 Sources:31190714 omega

  • Seeds
  • Nuts and legume
  • Grains
  • Dairy
  • Dark, green leafy vegetables (kale, collards, chard, parsley)
  • Vegetable oils (corn, safflower, cottonseed, sesame, sunflower)

Linoleic Acid

Linoleic acid plays a vital role in biosynthesis – cellular metabolism. Contributing to brain function, metabolic health, skin and hair growth, and bone density, it has also been used as an anti-inflammatory or acne treatment.

This polyunsaturated fatty acid is used throughout the beauty industry, in soaps as an emulsifying agent, or oil-based lotions for its moisturizing properties. Linoleic acid is common in the treatment of eczema, in combination with Vitamin C.

Sources: Vegetable oils (hemp seed, safflower, grape seed, poppy seed, sunflower, castor), almonds, egg yolks, maracuja oil, sesame seed oil, seabuckthorn oil.

Gamma-Linolenic Acid

Sources: Evening primrose oil, hemp oil, black currant, borage.


Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory in nature, slowing the breakdown of cartilage and thereby improving joint health and relieve arthritis pain. It is also believed to improve overall heart health.

Omega-3 Sourcesnutrients1:

  • Flaxseeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Soybean (tofu, tempeh)
  • Walnuts
  • Dark, green leafy vegetables (kale, collards, chard, parsley)
  • Cereal grasses (wheat or barley grass)

Alpha-Linolenic Acid

Sources: Seed oils, salmon, emu, flax, soybeans, walnuts, chia, hemp seeds.

Tips for Adding Omegas to Your Day:

  • Try ground flaxseed in your baking (flaxseed blueberry muffins are a weakness of mine).
  • Add a tablespoon of ground flaxseed to your smoothie.
  • Add a tablespoon of chia seeds to your smoothies, or soak them overnight with hemp or almond milk for chia seed pudding.
  • Sprinkle on some walnuts on that chia pudding for an extra omega-3 hit (or preferred breakfast cereal).
  • Switch out the almond milk for hemp or flaxseed milk instead.
  • Drink a spoonful of hemp seed oil as a daily supplement
  • Go green! Dark, green leafy vegetables such as kale or collards make a wonderful addition to smoothies. Big-leaf veggies are great “tortillas” for spring-roll like taco. Or stir up some quinoa and kale for an omega blast.


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