Omega-3, -6 and -9 are three essential fatty acids that perform a variety of health-promoting bodily functions. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids assist in the prevention of cardiovascular disease and may alleviate the symptoms of depression, digestive disorders, high cholesterol, arthritis, diabetes and a host of other diseases. Omega-9 fatty acids lower cholesterol levels, which may help to prevent heart disease, says Edward F. Group III, a naturopathic doctor on GlobalHealingCenter.com. Choose whole food sources of omega-3, -6 and -9 fatty acids to combat disease and promote longevity by improving immune system function.
There are two major types of omega-3 fatty acids: docosahexaenoic acid and alpha-linolenic acid, according Dr. Frank Sacks, professor of cardiovascular disease prevention at the Harvard School of Public Health. ALA omega-3 fatty acids are found in plant foods such as flax seeds, walnuts, soybeans, tofu, winter squash, broccoli, spinach, basil, spearmint, grape leaves, kale, brussels sprouts and cauliflower. DHA omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish such as snapper, salmon, halibut, tuna and herring and seafood such as shrimp and scallops.
Two major types of omega-6 fatty acids are gamma-linolenic acid and linoleic acid. However, GLA omega-6 fatty acids are found only in a few sources, such as black currant oil, evening primrose oil and borage oil. LA omega 6-fatty acids are more prevalent and are found in a wide variety of foods, including vegetable oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, grapeseed oil, soybean oil, wheat germ oil and safflower oil, according to registered dietitian Evelyn Tribole on OmegaOptimize.com. Other sources of omega-6 fatty acids are margarine, mayonnaise and processed foods such as granola bars and fast food items such as chicken sandwiches, vegetable burgers and fish sandwiches.
The Global Healing Center explains that omega-9 fatty acids are made by the body from omega-3 and omega-6. However, if you do not have enough of omega-3 and omega-6, you will have to get omega-9 from the diet. Sources of omega-9 fatty acids include avocados, peanuts, pecans, pistachios and macadamia nuts. Other sources of omega-9 fatty acids are extra virgin or virgin olive oil, olives, almonds, sesame oil, cashews and hazelnuts.
The best way to get your omega fatty acids is to consume fatty acid rich foods. If you have a hard time getting what you need from your diet, try a supplement. There are numerous omega-3, -6 and -9 supplements on the market. Look for one that is organic and packaged in dark green or brown glass jars, as they filter out light and keep the supplements fresher. Additionally, fatty acid supplements should contain vitamin E, which is mixed with the oils to preserve freshness and prevent oxidation, according to the Linus Pauling Institute.
- Harvard School of Public Health: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- MedlinePlus.com: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- University of Nebraska Extension: Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids
- Linus Pauling Institute: Essential Fatty Acids
- University of Maryland: Omega-6 Fatty Acids
- Global Healing Center: The Health Benefits of Omega 3, 6, 9 Fatty Acids and EPA & DHA