In contrast to the pedestal on which omega-3 fatty acids were placed, omega-6 fatty acids raise some eyebrows.
Omega-6 fatty acids are a type of unsaturated fat like omega-3 fatty acids. But they’ve gotten a reasonably bad rap because the body can convert linolenic acid – a type of omega-6 – into arachidonic acid, which Harvard Health Publishing claims can contribute to inflammation, clotting, and narrowing of blood vessels. However, the body can also convert arachidonic acid into molecules that fight inflammation and blood clots.
So what to do As with all things about nutrition, balance is key.
Health experts recommend consuming more omega-3s instead of reducing omega-6s. So you don’t have to worry about omega-6 foods that cause inflammation. According to a February 2019 study in the Journal of the American Heart Association, linoleic acid and arachidonic acid (two types of omega-6 fatty acids) were found to have a lower risk of heart disease in terms of omega-6 (two types of omega-6) benefits , Associated Cardiovascular Mortality and Ischemic Stroke, Edition.
How Much Omega-6 Do You Need Per Day?
Adequate Intake (AI) is the recommended average daily nutrient intake according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). People assigned a woman at birth need 12,000 milligrams of omega-6 per day, and people assigned a man at birth need 17,000 milligrams, according to the National Academies Press.
Read on for a list of foods high in omega-6 fatty acids, sorted by their AI percentages.
1. Tofu: 10,934 mg, 64% AI
Roast and bake tofu with your favorite marinades for a boost of vegetable protein and omega-6 fats.
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You can’t go wrong with tofu. Soy-based food is a favorite with vegetarians, vegans, and those looking for more plant-based protein options.
Tofu is an example of a healthy food that contains omega-6 fatty acids – 64 percent of the KI per 1-cup serving. Tofu is also an excellent source of fiber at almost 6 grams per cup. Try these anything but bland tofu recipes.
2. Walnuts: 10,818 mg, 64% AI
Walnuts could be one of the best brain foods because of their high omega-3 fatty acid content. According to a February 2020 study in Nutrients, preparing walnuts as part of your daily diet has been linked to reduced risk and progression of brain disorders, as well as heart disease and type 2 diabetes
A 1-ounce serving contains 64 percent of the CI for omega-6 (and 161 percent of the CI for omega-3).
3. Safflower oil: 10,149 mg, 60% AI
Oils are a common source of omega-6 fatty acids, and safflower oil is no exception: it contains 60 percent of the KI per 1-tablespoon serving. To confuse where your sources of fat are coming from, it is important to use a wide variety of oils in your cooking and dressings.
Olive oil is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, but contains only small amounts of omega-6 fatty acids.
4. Sunflower seeds: 9,310 mg, 55% AI
Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of important nutrients, including omega-6 fatty acids and vitamin E.
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Not only are sunflower seeds a top choice when it comes to vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant, they also provide 55 percent of the AI per 1 ounce serving for omega-6 fatty acids.
The fat and fiber content in sunflower seeds, like all seeds and nuts, will help you feel full longer, making them the perfect snack or yogurt topper.
5. Walnut Oil: 7,194 mg, 42% AI
Walnut oil, like its source walnuts, is a good source of heart-healthy fat, including omega-6 fatty acids, with 42 percent of the CI per 1 tablespoon serving. Walnut oil tastes good too, especially chilled. Drizzle a tablespoon on toast for a tasty snack or light breakfast.
6. Brazil nuts: 6,294 mg, 41% AI
Just a few Brazil nuts provide an incredible amount of nutrition. In a 1-ounce serving (four to six nuts), you get 41 percent of the CI for omega-6 fatty acids, 2 grams of fiber, and 4 grams of vegetable protein.
Brazil nuts are also extremely high in selenium, a nutrient required for reproductive and thyroid health. However, it’s easy to get too much selenium from Brazil nuts, which can lead to disease, according to the NIH. For example, just one nut contains 68 to 91 micrograms of selenium and 1 ounce of 544 micrograms. The upper limit (the highest amount considered safe) for adults is only 400 micrograms.
7. Pumpkin seeds: 5,886 mg, 35% AI
Pumpkin and pumpkin seeds are nutrient powerhouses – just 1 ounce contains omega-6 fatty acids, protein, and fiber.
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By consuming nuts and seeds, you are doing your body a favor. Pumpkin seeds, for example, contain 35 percent of the AI for omega-6 per 1 ounce serving. They’re a low-carb, high-protein snack that goes great with your favorite yogurt, oatmeal, and salad. Pumpkin seeds also provide zinc, magnesium, and iron with no heme (plant-based).
8. Peanut butter: 3,931 mg, 23% AI
Is there anything that peanut butter can’t? The popular spread is rich in vegetable protein and unsaturated fats. A 2-tablespoon serving contains 23 percent of the KI for omega-6.
While oatmeal isn’t high in omega-6, peanut butter is a perfect blend for getting more of that healthy fat. Try the spread in these delicious peanut butter recipes.
9. Chicken thighs: 3,792 mg, 22% AI
Dark meat chicken (like the thigh) is fatter than white meat (the breast), and it’s also higher in omega-6 fatty acids. You get 22 percent of your AI in a skin-on chicken thigh, as well as 22 percent of your daily recommended amount of zinc, an important mineral for supporting the immune system. Try the poultry in these easy, low-calorie chicken recipes.
10. Avocado: 3,395 mg, 20% AI
Avocados give smoothies a strong creaminess thanks to their high amount of healthy fat.
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Yes, avocado is high in omega-6 – a fruit (yes, it’s a fruit!) Gives you 20 percent of your AI. You also get 14 percent of your AI for omega-3s. Try avo in these delicious recipes that aren’t toast or guac.