What is the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio?

A healthy omega-6 to omega-3 ratio may help reduce your risk of disease. So, what is an ideal result and how can you improve it?

A small amount of fat is an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet. It provides energy and supports cell function, as well as helping your body absorb certain vitamins and make hormones.

Fat is also a source of the essential fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6, which your body can’t make from scratch. These are vital for good health, but it’s important to get the right balance of these two nutrients in your diet.

In this article, we’ll cover:

What are omega-3 and omega-6?

Omega-3 and omega-6 are types of essential fatty acids. They play several vital roles in your body including:

  • Regulating your blood pressure
  • Strengthening your immune system
  • Keeping your brain healthy

Omega-3 and -6 are polyunsaturated fats — healthy fats that may reduce your risk of heart disease, especially when substituted for unhealthy saturated fats in your diet.

Your body makes most of the fats it needs from the foods you eat. But your body cannot make essential fatty acids, so you must get them directly from our diet.

Omega-6 is found in a variety of the foods we eat.

Good sources of omega-6 include:

  • Vegetable oils, including grapeseed, flaxseed, and sunflower oil
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Eggs

Omega-3 is found in much fewer foods than omega-6. This means many people don’t get as much omega-3 as they should, so it can be helpful to check your level.


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Good sources of omega-3 include:

  • Oily fish, like salmon and mackerel
  • Walnuts
  • Algae, such as seaweed

What is the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio?

The omega-6 to omega-3 ratio measures the balance of these two essential fatty acids in your blood. It’s an important health marker, as this balance is thought to be linked to chronic inflammation in your body, which is associated with several serious diseases.

Omega-6 fatty acids have a pro-inflammatory role, while omega-3s have an anti-inflammatory role. A high ratio (with more omega-6 than omega-3) is thought to contribute to inflammation in the body, while a low or balanced ratio, where your levels of omega-3 and -6 are roughly equal, is thought to reduce inflammation.

Although inflammation helps the immune system fight infection, chronic (long-term) and excessive inflammation potentially raises the risk of diseases including:

What is a good omega-6 to omega-3 ratio?

There's no agreement on an ideal omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. However, it's thought that a lower ratio is better for your health. 

Research suggests that the diets of our human ancestors contained equal amounts of each fatty acid. But today, many of us are eating far more omega-6 than omega-3, and the ratio is currently around 16:1 [1].

This is mostly due to the large amounts of processed vegetable oils consumed in Western diets. Many of these oils, such as soybean oil, are loaded with omega-6 and used in all sorts of processed foods.


A diet high in processed vegetable oils can increase the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio

Can your diet affect your omega-3 and omega-6 levels?

Because we get omega fatty acids directly from the foods we eat, different diets can impact the amount of essential fatty acids we consume.

Following a Mediterranean diet is a good way to improve your ratio. It includes good sources of omega-3 fatty acids like oily fish, plus healthy fats such as extra virgin olive oil.

Can I get enough omega-3 on a plant-based diet?

You can get enough omega-3 from a plant-based diet, as there are several good plant-based sources. However, it can be a bit trickier to get a healthy balance, as most plant-based sources only contain one type of omega-3.

The three main omega-3 fatty acids are:

  • Alpha linolenic acid (ALA)
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

Plant-based sources of omega-3 come in the form of ALA, while EPA and DHA are mainly found in animal-based foods such as oily fish.

DHA is an important fatty acid for brain development, whilst EPA helps to reduce cellular inflammation in the body.

Our bodies can convert ALA into EPA and DHA, but usually only in small amounts. So, if you follow a plant-based diet, you may need to be more aware of getting enough beneficial EPA and DHA into your diet.

Good plant-based sources of omega-3:

  • Walnuts
  • Seeds, such as flaxseeds and chia seeds
  • Algae, such as seaweed, spirulina, and chlorella


Plant-based sources of omega-3 include nuts and seeds like walnuts and chia seeds


Algae oil is a popular supplement containing DHA and EPA that’s suitable for vegetarians and vegans. In fact, DHA and EPA are naturally produced by algae, and the reason that oily fish is such a great source of omega-3 is because algae is part of their diet.

How can you improve your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio?

You can improve your omega-6 to -3 ratio with some simple changes to your diet.

Ways to improve your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio:

  • Reduce your intake of omega-6-rich foods — avoiding vegetable and seed oils that are high in omega-6 is a good place to start. Also look out for processed foods containing omega-6-rich oils. Switch to oils with a healthier balance of essential fatty acids like flaxseed and canola oil.
  • Boost your intake of omega-3 — if fish is part of your diet, eat oily fish a couple of times a week. If you follow a plant-based diet, packing more omega-3-rich nuts and seeds, and algae into your diet should improve your level.
  • Take an omega-3 supplement — you may be recommended a supplement if you’re low on omega-3. Omega-3-rich fish oil or algae oil supplements are effective ways to increase your level. Follow your doctor’s advice on supplements carefully.

Remember, omega-6 is an essential fatty acid, so you shouldn’t cut it entirely from your diet. Some sources are better than others, such as sesame and avocado oils, which contain lower levels of omega-6 compared to sunflower oil.

How can I test my omega-6 to omega-3 ratio?

You can check your ratio of essential fatty acids with our Omega-3 and -6 Blood Test You’ll find out whether you would benefit from making changes to your diet to improve your ratio and optimise your health.

Our essential fatty acids blood test also includes your Omega-3 Index. This measures the proportion of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, in your blood. Your Omega-3 Index gives you an indication of your omega-3 status and tells you more about your heart disease risk.


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  1. Simopoulos, A.P. (2006) Evolutionary aspects of diet, the omega-6/omega-3 ratio and genetic variation: Nutritional implications for chronic diseases, Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy, 60(9), pp. 502–507. doi:10.1016/j.biopha.2006.07.080.

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