In a world where fast food joints and ultra-processed snacks are the norm, it’s no surprise that many Americans are over-fed—but undernourished. Collectively, we’re consuming too many inflammatory fats—i.e. omega-6 fatty acids. On the flip side, we’re not eating enough nourishing fats (hello, omega-3 fatty acids!). Both omega-6s and omega-3s are are essential for good health, but our modern diet has tipped the balance in favor of the former. The result? A nation that is chronically deficient in healthy fats. In turn, putting us at risk for a host of health problems. Without further ado, let’s dig into how to consume fewer of these inflammatory oils. Plus, why we need a balanced ratio of fatty acids—specifically, the power of omega-3 fatty acids for hormone balance and healthy skin.
What are omega-6 fatty acids?
Omega-6 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat. These fats play a crucial role in the body, helping regulate metabolism, support immune function, and maintain healthy skin and hair. While they’re essential for human health, less is more. And unfortunately, the Standard American Diet is packed with omega-6 fatty acids. In other words, although we need omega-6 fatty acids, these shouldn’t be the only (and main) source of fat in your diet. When that’s the case, inflammation comes knocking at the door.
Can omega-6 fatty acids lead to inflammation?
Yes. When consumed in excess, omega-6s can contribute to inflammation and an increased risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes. It’s important to strike a balance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in the diet, in order to support optimal health and wellness. As mentioned, the typical Western diet is sky-high in omega-6 fatty acids. You’ll find them in processed foods, vegetable oils, and grain-fed animal products. Ultimately, we need some inflammation, but chronic inflammation is linked to a range of health problems: heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Therefore, the goal is to reduce the intake of omega-6s and increase the consumption of omega-3s, which have anti-inflammatory properties and are essential for overall health.
Symptoms of eating too many omega-6 fatty acids
Over time, excessive omega-6 intake can contribute to chronic health problems: heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis. Symptoms associated with eating too many omega-6s can include skin irritation or rashes, joint pain and stiffness, difficulty losing weight, hormonal imbalances, and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Ultimately, the goal is to aim for a balanced ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. One of the best ways to minimize omega-6s in your diet: reduce the consumption of ultra-processed foods (granola bars, crackers, etc.) and increase your intake of whole foods—nuts, seeds, and fatty fish.
The power of omega-3 fatty acids
As women, we often hear about the importance of maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine, but did you know that incorporating omega-3 fatty acids can have a profound impact on your hormone health? Omega-3s, commonly found in fatty fish and certain nuts and seeds, play a critical role in the production and regulation of hormones. The three main omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). They’re particularly important for women’s health. These essential fats can help regulate hormone levels, reduce inflammation associated with menstrual pain, and support healthy fetal development during pregnancy. Omega-3s are also linked to a reduced risk of breast cancer, postpartum depression, and cardiovascular disease.
Why women need omega-3 fatty acids
From menstrual cycles to menopause, omega-3s can help balance hormones and reduce inflammation—providing a range of benefits for women (of all ages!). They’re your confidant for PMS symptoms, like bloating, cramps, and mood swings. Furthermore, they’re essential during pregnancy. Last but not least, they can minimize the risk of hot flashes and other unwanted symptoms of menopause. No matter your age, omega-3 fatty acids have a profound impact on your well-being.
are you eating enough omega-3 fatty acids?
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to know if you’re consuming enough omega-3 fatty acids—given that individual needs vary based on factors like age, activity level, and overall health status. However, a general guideline for healthy adults is to consume at least two servings of fatty fish per week, such as salmon, mackerel, or sardines, which are rich in omega-3s. If you don’t consume fish or are concerned about mercury exposure, you may consider taking an omega-3 supplement (more on this, below). Another way to ensure adequate omega-3 intake is to incorporate plant-based sources of omega-3s, such as flaxseeds, chia seeds, or walnuts, into your diet. Let’s work together if you’re interested in increasing your intake of healthy fats.
How many omega-3 fatty acids should you eat?
Mainstream health organizations recommend that healthy adults consume at least 250–500 mg of EPA and DHA per day. How can you reach that amount? Through diet and / or supplements. For example—as mentioned—you can meet that dosage by eating two servings of fatty fish per week. However, omega-3 fats are also present in algae and several high-fat plant foods!
10 Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids
Luckily, omega-3 fatty acids are found in many foods. Aim to add more nuts, seeds, and fatty fish to your diet.
- Wild-caught salmon
- Cod liver oil
- Chia seeds
- Dry roasted soybeans
Should you take an omega-3 supplement?
If you don’t frequently consume foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, consider taking a supplement with EPA and DHA. I love Metagenics (extensively tested for contaminants), Nordic Naturals (wild-caught fish), and Thorne (very high quality). Always work with your healthcare provider before making changes to your supplement routine.
How omega-3 fatty acids support hormone balance
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for female hormone health. They regulate the production and metabolism of hormones, including estrogen and progesterone, which affect mood, menstrual cycles, and fertility. Omega-3s also have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce symptoms associated with hormonal imbalances, such as menstrual cramps or hot flashes. In addition, research suggests that omega-3s may help improve insulin sensitivity, which can be beneficial for women with conditions like PCOS or type 2 diabetes! Moral of the story: consuming adequate amounts of omega-3s can help support hormone balance and promote overall health for women.
master your menstrual cycle
Speaking of omega-3 fatty acids and hormone balance, are you ready to take the next step in your hormone-healing journey? Grab your copy of Master Your Menstrual Cycle—my holistic guide to balancing your hormones with ease. Available for only $10!
This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting Wellness with Edie! This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and we recommend that you always consult with your healthcare provider.
Leave a Reply