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Food Sources: Essential Fatty Acids

Thrive Carolinas / Dietitian Services  / Food Sources: Essential Fatty Acids

Food Sources: Essential Fatty Acids

Food Sources: Essential Fatty Acids

Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) cannot be created by the body; they are called “essential” because they must be obtained through the diet.  There are two primary families of essential fatty acids: Omega-6 and Omega-3.

 
Linoleic acid (LA) and Arachidonic acid (AA) are two common omega-6 fatty acids.  LA is found in most plant oils, and AA is present in meat, poultry, and eggs.  Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are the most common omega-3 fatty acids.  ALA is found in some plant foods and EPA/DHA in fatty fish.
 

The Adequate Intake (AI) for omega-6 fatty acids are as follows:

  • Females, ages 19-50: 12 grams per day
  • Females, ages 51+: 11 grams per day
  • Females (pregnant, lactating): 13 grams per day
  • Males, ages 19-50: 17 grams per day
  • Males, ages 51+: 14 grams per day

 
Food, Standard Serving Size                                      Amount of LA Omega-6s (g)
Safflower oil, 1 Tbsp                                                                          10.1
Sunflower seeds (oil roasted), 1 oz/~1/4 cup                                     9.7
Pine nuts, 1 oz/~1/4 cup                                                                     9.4
Sunflower oil, 1 Tbsp                                                                         8.9
Corn oil, 1 Tbsp                                                                                  7.3
Soybean oil, 1 Tbsp                                                                            6.9
Pecans (oil roasted), 1 oz/~19 halves                                                 6.4
Brazil nuts, 1 oz/~6 nuts                                                                     5.8
 
 

The Adequate Intake (AI) for omega-3 fatty acids are as follows:

  • Females, ages 19+: 1.1 grams per day
  • Females (pregnant), ages 19-50: 1.4 grams per day
  • Males, ages 19-50: 1.3 grams per day
  • Males, ages 51+: 1.6 grams per day

 
Food, Standard Serving Size                                      Amount of LA Omega-3s (g)
Flaxseed oil, 1 Tbsp                                                                            7.3 (ALA)
Chia seeds, 1 oz/~2 Tbsp                                                                    5.1 (ALA)
Walnuts, 1 oz/~14 halves                                                                    2.6 (ALA)
Flaxseed (whole), 1 Tbsp                                                                   2.4 (ALA)
Atlantic salmon (cooked), 3 oz                                                           1.8 (EPA/DHA)
Atlantic herring (cooked), 3 oz                                                          1.7 (EPA/DHA)
Sardines (canned), 3 oz                                                                       1.2 (EPA/DHA)
Atlantic mackerel (cooked), 3 oz                                                       1.0 (EPA/DHA)
 

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Stephen Fogg

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