Do Nuts Contain High Levels of Omega-6 Fatty Acids?


Nuts are nutritious and linked to many health benefits. However, some sources claim that nuts are high in omega-6 fatty acids. This raises concerns about potential negative effects on inflammation and health.

But are nuts actually high in omega-6s compared to omega-3s? Let's analyze the omega-6 content of different nuts to find out.

Do Nuts Contain High Levels of Omega-6 Fatty Acids?

Overview of Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Omega-6 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat found in many plant foods.

The primary omega-6 fat is linoleic acid (LA). Arachidonic acid (AA) is also obtained from food sources.

Omega-6s are considered essential fats that must be obtained through your diet. They provide both benefits and potential drawbacks:

Potential Benefits:

  • Support growth and development.
  • Help regulate metabolism and reproduction.
  • Maintain bone health.
  • Provide anti-inflammatory effects at moderate intake.

Potential Drawbacks:

  • Promote inflammation at very high intakes.
  • May reduce anti-inflammatory omega-3 benefits.

Ideally, omega-6 intake should be balanced with omega-3 intake at a ratio around 2:1 to 4:1 omega-6 to omega-3.

The typical Western diet tends to provide excessive omega-6 compared to omega-3, which may cause problems.

But do nuts contribute to this potentially unhealthy imbalance? Let's find out.

Omega-6 Fatty Acids in Nuts

Here is the typical omega-6 content in one ounce (28 grams) of different raw nuts:

  • Walnuts: 10 grams omega-6
  • Pecans: 12 grams
  • Hazelnuts: 5 grams
  • Almonds: 12 grams
  • Pistachios: 13 grams
  • Cashews: 8 grams
  • Peanuts: 18 grams

Nuts do contain significant amounts of omega-6. But they also provide omega-3 ALA fat, fiber, minerals, antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients.

And the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in nuts may not be as concerning as some claims suggest.

Omega-6 to Omega-3 Ratio of Nuts

Here is the typical ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in common nuts:

  • Walnuts: 4:1 ratio
  • Pecans: 20:1
  • Hazelnuts: 46:1
  • Almonds: 12:1
  • Pistachios: 27:1
  • Cashews: 6:1
  • Peanuts: 32:1

While omega-6 is higher than ideal compared to omega-3, most nuts are still around or under the 10:1 ratio some experts recommend (1).

Walnuts and cashews, in particular, have more favorable ratios.

Also, the form of omega-6 in nuts may be less inflammatory than refined vegetable oils high in omega-6.

So despite decent omega-6 quantities, nuts may not promote inflammation or imbalance as much as claimed when eaten in moderation.

Potential Benefits of Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Although high intake from modern diets is likely unhealthy, omega-6 fatty acids still provide benefits at moderate levels.

Potential advantages of the omega-6s found in nuts include:

  • Supporting growth and development.
  • Aiding metabolism and reproduction.
  • Maintaining bone health.
  • Providing anti-inflammatory effects.
  • Supporting skin and hair health.

As part of a nutritious diet with adequate omega-3s, the omega-6s in nuts likely contribute more benefits than drawbacks for most people.

Strategies to Balance Omega-6 in Nuts

Here are some tips to get the benefits of omega-6 while minimizing potential downsides from nuts:

Eat a Variety of Nuts

Eating a mix of different nuts helps balance intake.

Favor nuts lower in omega-6 like walnuts, cashews and hazelnuts more often.

Watch Portion Sizes

Limit portions to around 1 ounce of nuts per serving to keep omega-6 amounts moderate.

Increase Omega-3s

Pair nuts with other foods rich in omega-3s:

  • Fatty fish like salmon
  • Seeds such as flax, chia and hemp
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Omega-3-rich oils
  • Fortified eggs or dairy

Use Nuts in Recipes

Add small amounts of chopped nuts to dishes along with ingredients providing omega-3 ALA:

  • Salads with fatty dressings, leafy greens or seeds
  • Yogurt with flax or chia seeds
  • Stir fries with oils and veggies
  • Oatmeal with walnuts and flaxseeds
  • Chicken dishes with herbs and oils

Limit Refined Vegetable Oils

Avoid overconsuming refined oils high in omega-6 like soybean, corn and cottonseed oils.

Prioritize oils higher in monounsaturated and omega-3 fats instead, such as:

  • Olive oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Canola oil
  • Walnut oil
  • Flaxseed oil

The omega-6 content of nuts is unlikely to cause problems within a balanced diet rich in plant and marine sources of anti-inflammatory omega-3s.

Healthiest Nuts for Omega-3s

These nuts provide higher amounts of ALA omega-3s to balance omega-6 intake:

  • Walnuts: 2,500 mg omega-3 ALA per ounce.
  • Pecans: 100 mg omega-3 ALA.
  • Hazelnuts: None significant.
  • Almonds: None significant.
  • Pistachios: 80 mg omega-3 ALA.
  • Cashews: 20 mg omega-3 ALA.
  • Peanuts: None significant.

Walnuts clearly stand out, with pecans and pistachios providing much smaller but helpful omega-3 amounts.

Prioritize eating walnuts regularly along with other omega-3-rich foods.

Top Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

To balance intake of omega-6 fats, make sure to get ample omega-3s from:

EPA/DHA Sources:

  • Fatty fish: Salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, trout
  • Other seafood: Oysters, mussels, crab
  • Fish oil and algal supplements
  • Grass-fed meat and dairy

ALA Sources:

  • Oils: Flaxseed oil, canola oil, soybean oil
  • Nuts: Walnuts, pecans, pistachios
  • Seeds: Flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds
  • Green leafy vegetables

Aim for at least two servings of fatty fish weekly and include omega-3-rich plant foods daily.

Omega-6 in Nuts: Key Takeaways

In summary:

  • Nuts do contain significant amounts of the omega-6 fat linoleic acid.
  • But most have an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio around 10:1 or less, which may be healthy in moderation.
  • Walnuts and cashews have more favorable ratios than other nuts.
  • Omega-6 from nuts may be less inflammatory than refined vegetable oils high in omega-6.
  • Balance omega-6 in nuts by eating walnuts, watching portions, and increasing omega-3s.


Nuts supply beneficial omega-6 fatty acids, as long as intake is balanced with anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats from seafood, oils, seeds and other sources.

Eating a variety of nuts in moderation as part of a diet adequate in omega-3s can allow you to gain their many nutritional benefits without problematic excess omega-6 intake.

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