What is it?
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are compounds that cannot be made by the body, but are required for many crucial biochemical processes. There are two groups of EFAs: omega-6 and omega-3. The relative levels of these two groups of EFAs are critical to the health and development of the brain and the body. If the level of omega-6 is much higher than the level of omega-3 in the diet, there can be negative effects on cognition, mood, and behavior (1-4).
The ideal ratio between these EFAs has been estimated at 2.3:1 omega-6 to 1 omega-3 (5). Most American diets provide too many omega-6 EFAs and not enough omega-3 EFAs, giving a ratio estimated at between 10:1 and 20:1 omega-6 to 1 omega-3 (2-5).
Grains, processed foods, meat, milk, eggs, and corn oil all contain omega-6 EFAs (3, 4); olive oil and walnuts contain high levels of omega-3 EFAs (3). Eggs contain omega-6 and omega-3 EFAs, and eggs labeled omega-3 eggs are from chickens fed a special diet to increase omega-3 concentrations in the eggs. However, the best sources of omega-3 EFAs come from fatty fish such as cod, halibut, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines, and salmon (2-5).