Linoleic acid, or LA, is a polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid and an essential nutrient that you need to get from your diet to stay healthy, according to Linus Pauling Institute. Adults should get 12 to 17 grams of LA per day, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Many foods with LA are rich in other essential nutrients and are easy to include in a balanced diet.
Pine nuts provide 9.4 grams of linoleic acid per ounce, and roasted pecans and Brazil nuts have 5.8 grams per ounce. Unsaturated fats, including linoleic acid, may contribute to the heart-healthy properties of tree nuts and peanuts, according to Linus Pauling Institute. Dietary fiber, which lowers your total and LDL cholesterol levels, is another heart-healthy nutrient in nuts.
Seeds are sources of linoleic acid, and an ounce of sunflower seeds supplies 9.7 grams of LA. Sunflower seeds also provide potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure, magnesium, zinc and phosphorus. A higher intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as LA, increases your requirement for vitamin E, and seeds provide vitamin E. Sunflower seeds can be healthy selections at baseball games and they are nutritious ingredients in salads and breads.
Vegetable oils, such as safflower oil with 10.1 grams, sunflower oil with 8.9 grams, corn oil with 7.3 grams and sesame oil with 5.6 grams, are top sources of linoleic acid. Compared to other oils, palm oil and coconut oil are lower in healthy unsaturated fats, and their saturated fats can raise your unhealthy LDL cholesterol levels. You can use oils in stir-fries or when grilling, or use them as healthy ingredients in salad dressings.
Some linoleic acid in your diet is necessary, but too much can lead to health concerns. LA is an omega-6 fat, and for the average American, increasing consumption of omega-3 fats compared to the consumption of omega-6 fats could reduce the risk of heart disease, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. All fats contain 9 calories per gram and should be eaten in moderation to prevent weight gain.
Natalie Stein specializes in weight loss and sports nutrition. She is based in Los Angeles and is an assistant professor with the Program for Public Health at Michigan State University. Stein holds a master of science degree in nutrition and a master of public health degree from Michigan State University.