Seeds are one of the best vegan sources of fats, and also a great vegan source of calcium.
After making a page about the ratio of omega 3 to 6 fats in nuts, it only made sense to do the same for seeds.
I collected basic nutritional data for all the common seeds I could think of, and the results are just below.
If there are any seeds that I forgot, just let me know and I’ll add them.
Table of Contents
Omega 3:6 Ratio of Seeds Table
The table below shows the fat breakdown in 100 grams of each common seed. The most important column of this table is the one on the far right.
In general, you want this ratio to be as high as possible.
|Seed||Fat in 100g||Omega 3 (g)||Omega 6 (g)||Omega 3:6 ratio|
Both flax and chia are amazing sources of plant-based omega 3 fats.
But there’s a big difference between certain types of seeds. Sunflower and pumpkin seeds barely have any omega 3 fats. Their ratio is closer to the typical nut rather than flax or chia seeds.
Flax, chia, and hemp seeds all have a “good” omega 3 to 6 fat ratio, and also have a high raw quantity of omega 3 fats.
What’s the Ideal Omega 3 To 6 Ratio?
Studies show that humans historically ate a diet with a omega 3:6 ratio of approximately 1 (source).
On the other hand, the omega 3:6 ratio of modern Western diets is more like 1:15, which is responsible for chronic inflammation and many resulting health consequences.
You can start to see where the ratio went haywire in the graph below:
Back to our seed data, we can conclude a few things:
- Chia and flax both have great ratios of omega 3 to 6 fats. Many vegan recipes high in omega 3 fats contain them.
- Hemp has a decent ratio of omega fats; most research seems to suggest you want at least a 1:4 ratio (0.25 in our table above), so hemp just beats this cutoff. Hemp also has a pretty good amino acid profile.
- Other seeds aren’t so great – When it comes to the other seeds, they’re clearly not good sources of omega 3 fats. You should limit your intake of sesame, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds.
Seeds have a much better ratio than nuts for omega 3s and 6s, but certain ones are clearly better than others.
How Much Omega 3 Fat Do You Need?
It can be tempting to think “I’m going to eat so much flax to get a ton of omega 3 fats and be super healthy”.
But the benefits of omega 3 fats taper off pretty quickly if you already have a good balance of omega 3 to 6 fats.
The current RDA from the NIH says that adult males need the most omega 3 fats and should aim for 1.6 grams of omega 3 fats per day.
This table is already in terms of ALA, which is the plant-based form of omega 3s that you will find in seeds.
Getting a few tablespoons of seeds high in omega 3 fats like chia or flaxseed is more than enough omega 3 fats in most cases.
Can You Get Too Much Omega 3 Fat?
While there’s an upper limit of how much of omega 3-rich foods like fish that people should eat (due to mercury in the case of fish), there aren’t any known issues with eating excess omega 3 fats from healthy plant sources.
So while there may be an upper limit to how much flaxseed you should eat in a day before starting to feel sick, most people don’t need to be worried about getting too much omega 3 fats.
Other Ways to Get Omega 3 Fats
If you eat a lot of those “bad” seeds, you can attempt to balance out your polyunsaturated fat intake by getting more omega 3s from other sources.
If you eat fish, that’s the best source.
If you don’t for whatever reason, an algae-based vegan omega 3 supplement is a good alternative that is the easiest way to get omega 3s from plants. It’s really the only other realistic option on a plant-based diet.
Limit, But Don’t Eliminate Seeds
While you don’t want to go overboard on certain seeds, they are all packed with nutrients.
For example, sunflower seeds are the best plant-based source of vitamin E, while pumpkin seeds have a lot of zinc and magnesium.
Eat a variety of seeds if possible, just don’t overdo it.