Omega-6 fatty acids are a key component of a healthy diet.
They’re found in many nutritious foods like nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils.
Getting various fats in a proper balance supports overall health, and this article explains how to accomplish that.
How much omega-6 do you need?
Omega-6 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats found in a variety of foods.
Linoleic acid — often notated as 18:2 (n-6) — is one of the most common forms. Other types include arachidonic acid — 20:4 (n-6) — and gamma-linolenic acid — 18:3 (n-6).
They are essential fatty acids because your body needs them to function properly but cannot produce them independently. That means you must obtain them from food.
On the other hand, consuming a high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is thought to contribute to inflammation and chronic disease.
Some research suggests that the diets of human ancestors contained equal amounts of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. But today, Western diets are significantly higher in omega-6 fatty acids, with a ratio of around 17:1.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, women and men aged 19–50 need approximately 12 and 17 grams of omega-6 fatty acids daily, respectively.
To ensure a proper ratio, eat omega-6-rich foods in moderation and pair them with a good amount of omega-3 fatty acids from foods like fatty fish, nuts, and seeds.
Here are ten nutritious foods high in omega-6 fatty acids, including their linoleic acid contents per serving.
Walnuts are a popular type of tree nut jam-packed with important nutrients like fiber and minerals, including manganese, copper, phosphorus, and magnesium.
Walnuts can be enjoyed on their own as a nutritious snack or sprinkled over salads, yogurt, or oatmeal to boost the nutritional content of these meals.
Linoleic acid content: 10,800 mg per ounce (28 grams), or 38,100 mg per 3.5 ounces (100 grams).
2. Safflower oil
Safflower oil is a common cooking oil extracted from the seeds of the safflower plant.
Like other vegetable oils, safflower oil is high in monounsaturated fat, a fatty acid that may help improve heart health.
Safflower oil has a neutral flavor, making it great for stir-fries, baked goods, salad dressings, and sauces.
Linoleic acid content: 1,730 mg per tablespoon (14 grams), or 12,700 mg per 3.5 ounces (100 grams).
Tofu is made by coagulating soy milk and pressing the soy curds to form soft blocks.
Each serving provides a hearty dose of key nutrients, including protein, iron, calcium, and manganese.
Try adding tofu to your weekly meal rotation by whipping up a tofu scramble, sprinkling it over salads, or swapping it in for meat in your main courses.
Linoleic acid content: 6,060 mg per 1/4 block (122 grams), or 4,970 mg per 3.5 ounces (100 grams).
4. Hemp seeds
Hemp seeds are the seeds of the hemp plant, also known as Cannabis sativa.
In addition to being loaded with heart-healthy fats, hemp seeds are a great source of protein, vitamin E, phosphorus, and potassium.
Hemp seeds can be sprinkled over smoothies, cereal, salads, and yogurt for extra nutrients.
Linoleic acid content: 8,240 mg per 3 tablespoons (30 grams), or 27,500 mg per 3.5 ounces (100 grams).
5. Sunflower seeds
Sunflower seeds are nutritious seeds harvested from the head of the sunflower plant.
They’re especially high in important vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E and selenium, which act as antioxidants that protect against cell damage, inflammation, and chronic disease.
With their nutty flavor and tender yet crunchy texture, sunflower seeds make a great addition to trail mix, granola bars, baked goods, and casseroles.
Linoleic acid content: 10,600 mg per ounce (28 grams), or 37,400 mg per 3.5 ounces (100 grams).
6. Peanut butter
Peanut butter is a creamy spread made from roasted peanuts.
It’s rich in healthy fats and protein and loaded with key nutrients like niacin, manganese, vitamin E, and magnesium.
Plus, it’s versatile and easy to enjoy. Try using it as a dip for fruits and veggies, blending it into smoothies, or adding a scoop to your favorite desserts.
Linoleic acid content: 1,960 mg per tablespoon (16 grams), or 12,300 mg per 3.5 ounces (100 grams).
7. Avocado oil
Avocado oil is a cooking oil produced from the avocado pulp.
In addition to being high in antioxidants, animal studies have found that avocado oil may improve heart health by reducing cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Avocado oil also has a high smoke point, which means it withstands high temperatures without breaking down or oxidizing. This makes it ideal for high-heat cooking methods, such as baking, roasting, sautéing, and frying.
Linoleic acid content: 1,750 mg per tablespoon (14 grams), or 12,530 mg per 3.5 ounces (100 grams).
Eggs can be a delicious, nutritious, and versatile addition to your diet, as they’re packed with important nutrients like protein, selenium, and riboflavin.
Although they’re often enjoyed scrambled, fried, or boiled, they can also be added to breakfast burritos, sandwiches, casseroles, and salads to mix up your meals.
Linoleic acid content: 594 mg per large egg (50 grams), or 1,188 mg per 3.5 ounces (100 grams).
Almonds are a common type of tree nut native to the Middle East but are now cultivated around the globe.
They’re a great source of protein, fiber, vitamin E, manganese, and magnesium.
Although almonds make a satisfying snack, you can try roasting them and adding them to a food processor to make smooth and creamy almond butter.
Linoleic acid content: 3,490 mg per ounce (28 grams), or 12,320 mg per 3.5 ounces (100 grams).
Suggested read: 9 evidence-based health benefits of almonds
Cashews are a type of nut notable for their buttery flavor and unique shape.
Each serving contains micronutrients, including copper, magnesium, and phosphorus.
One popular way to use cashews is to make them into cashew cream by soaking them overnight and puréeing them in a food processor. Cashew cream is perfect for boosting the flavor, texture, and nutrient profile of salad dressings, sauces, and soups.
Linoleic acid content: 2,210 mg per ounce (28 grams), or 7,780 mg per 3.5 ounces (100 grams).
Omega-6 fatty acids are a type of essential fat that plays an important role in your overall health.
Foods like nuts, seeds, eggs, and vegetable oils are all excellent sources of omega-6 fatty acids.
However, it’s important also to consume plenty of omega-3 fatty acids to maintain a beneficial ratio of healthy fats in your diet.