Omega-6 fatty acids are essential fatty acids that must be obtained through diet. They serve as an energy source for the body, play a role in growth and brain functions, are components of cell membranes and epidermis, and are building blocks of eicosanoids, which are involved in immune reactions, among other things.
With a vegan diet, it is very easy to meet the omega-6 fatty acid requirement. That's because these fatty acids are found in numerous plants. As a result, vegans often consume high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids. However, there is often a lack of omega-3 fatty acids in their diet (foods with omega-3). In this context, vegans should be aware that consuming excessive omega-6 fatty acids can be associated with negative health effects such as cardiovascular diseases (1 2 3).
To access the list of omega-6-rich foods, click here.
The omega-6 fatty acid primarily found in plants is linoleic acid. The linoleic acid content is provided for the foods mentioned below. Additionally, a few plant oils containing gamma-linolenic acid are listed under the Oils section.
Nuts and Seeds
Omega-6 is abundant in nuts and seeds. Especially walnuts (43.3 g per 100 g), pine nuts (39.8 g), pecans (24.3 g), Brazil nuts (23.9 g), sunflower seeds (23.1 g), sesame seeds (21.5 g), pumpkin seeds (20.7 g), pistachios (14.1 g), and cashews (7.5 g) are excellent sources of linoleic acid.
Chia seeds (5.8 g) and hemp seeds (27.4 g) are also recommended as they contain higher amounts of both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.
Larger amounts of linoleic acid can be found in peanuts (15 g). Soybeans (11 g) are also extremely rich in omega-6 fatty acid. Additionally, red lentils contain smaller amounts of linoleic acid at 0.8 g. In this table, you can see the Omega-6 levels of legumes.
In this group, fruits with a higher fat content naturally contain some linoleic acid. These include avocados (2.7 g) and olives (2 g). The flesh of the coconut also contains a small amount of omega-6 at 0.6 g.
Oils with Omega-6
Linoleic acid is present in high quantities in edible oils such as sunflower oil (59.5 g), corn oil (53.2 g), walnut oil, soybean oil (50.4 g), sesame oil (40.7 g), peanut oil (33.3 g), almond oil (24.3 g), safflower oil (12.7 g), and olive oil (8.3 g).
However, vegans should limit their consumption of the mentioned oils instead 4. According to scientists, processed foods, ready meals, and snacks contribute significantly to omega-6 intake. They should be consumed in moderate amounts.
Instead, using flaxseed oil (14.3 g) is recommended, as it is rich in both linoleic acid (Omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (Omega-3) (ratio 1:4). Another oil that works well for the vegan cold kitchen is hemp oil (56 g). For frying, rapeseed oil (18.6 g) is suitable, as it also contains linoleic acid but has a good ratio like flaxseed oil.
In addition, some plant oils contain the healthy gamma-linolenic acid. These include hemp oil (4 g), as well as blackcurrant seed oil (17 g), evening primrose oil (9 g), wheat germ oil (5 g), and borage oil (24 g) 5.