The American diet, which is notoriously high in refined grains, sugar, and unhealthy fats, is largely to blame for the rising rates of chronic disease and obesity in the nation. One specific factor associated with this diet is an overabundance of Omega-6 fatty acids, which can be detrimental to your health. Here, we discuss how grains and seed oils contribute to an unhealthy imbalance of the Omega-6-to-Omega-3 ratio in the food supply, and explain how certain dietary changes can minimize their impact on health.

Omega-6 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats found in a variety of plant-based foods, which are essential for the body’s functioning. While some fatty acids are necessary and important for good health, an excessive intake of Omega-6 fatty acids has been linked to a number of chronic illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, and obesity. This is due, in part, to the fact that Omega-6s and Omega-3s compete for the same enzymes in the body and produce different types of prostaglandins, molecules that are used by the body to regulate inflammation. Therefore, an excess of Omega-6 fats (relative to Omega-3s) can lead to an imbalanced pro-inflammatory state in the body.

The current American diet is rich in Omega-6 fatty acids, primarily due to the abundance of grain- and seed-based oils such as soybean oil, corn oil, and safflower oil in processed foods and restaurant dishes. Thus, these oils are driving the Omega-6-to-Omega-3 ratio to unhealthy levels. In fact, some experts suggest that a healthy ratio should be closer to 4:1 or even 2:1, whereas the current American diet is resulting in ratios as high as 17:1.

The good news is that there are a number of dietary changes that can help to rebalance the Omega-6-to-Omega-3 ratio in the American diet. First, limiting the amount of processed and refined grains, sugars, and processed oils can help reduce the amount of Omega-6s in the diet. Additionally, incorporating more whole-food sources of Omega-3 fatty acids into the diet can help to restore balance. These include fatty fish such as salmon, herring, and mackerel; grass-fed beef; pasture-raised chicken; and wild-caught seafood. It is also recommended to increase plant-based sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, such as flaxseed, chia, and hempseed, as well as avocados, kale, and Brussels sprouts.

In addition to restricting Omega-6 fatty acid consumption, replacing unhealthy seed and grain-based oils with healthier fats and oils is another way to maintain a healthy pro-inflammatory balance. Foods such as grass-fed butter, extra-virgin olive oil, and coconut oil are rich sources of monounsaturated fats and Omega-3 fatty acids, which can help to reduce inflammation in the body.

Finally, adopting a grain-free, organic diet may be beneficial for health. A grain-free diet eliminates all processed grains, including the refined carbohydrates that are often staples in the American diet. A 100% organic diet includes only foods that are grown and produced without the use of synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, GMOs, and other artificial ingredients. High-quality organic foods may also contain higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids than non-organic foods.

Overall, the American inflammatory diet is largely to blame for the chronic health problems that have become increasingly common in the United States. Keeping the Omega-6-to-Omega-3 ratio in balance with healthier sources of fats and oils is an important part of maintaining health and preventing chronic disease. By limiting refined grains, sugar, and unhealthy fats; increasing sources of Omega-3 fatty acids; and switching to a grain-free, organic diet, individuals can help to reduce their levels of inflammation and improve their overall health.

List of Omega-3 Rich Foods:

  • Salmon
  • Mackerel
  • Herring
  • Sardines
  • Anchovies
  • Walnuts
  • Chia Seeds
  • Flaxseed
  • Hemp Seeds
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Grass-Fed Beef
  • Wild-Caught Seafood
  • Avocados
  • Kale
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Olive Oil
  • Coconut Oil
  • Grass-Fed Butter


Omega-6 fatty acids and the risk of cardiovascular disease: insights from a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials and a Mendelian randomization study.

Higher ratio of plasma omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids is associated with greater risk of all-cause, cancer, and cardiovascular mortality: a population-based cohort study in UK Biobank

Weight management begins and ends in the digestive tract. Eating correctly turns food into sustenance and empowers us to live our fullest lives.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice. Always consult a healthcare professional before making changes to your diet or lifestyle.

Related Blogs