When it comes to fish oil supplements, it has been proven effective against triglycerides but not much else. Some experts warn it can negatively interact with medications or worsen health problems.
If you’ve ever looked into any nutritional supplement, either to make your hair grow or to quell anxiety, you will know that the medical community is a perennially hung court, where studies are inconclusive.
Talk to your doctor to find out if some common concerns with taking fish oil should concern you.
A supplement is designed to complement your diet. If your diet is already rich in fish and omega-3, you probably don’t need to augment it with daily capsules.
For the majority of Western populations, they exhibit half the bodily supply of EPA+DHA.
Health Benefits Of Fish Oil
EPA and DHA are thought to assist brain function and support normal growth and development. You can take fish oil if you want to treat the following:
- Mood disorders
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Some Cancers
- high triglycerides and cholesterol (the only afflictions that fish oil is clinically proven to relieve)
How To Find The Right Fish Oil
People commend fish oil for soothing their joints and lowering their blood pressure. However, it won’t have a chance to create any positive effects in you if you can’t afford or stomach it. Identify whether its price, flavor, or background practices that most impact your perspective, and shop for that reason.
As with any good thing, you can overdo fish oil. Even if you’re taking a top-of-the-line supplement that has been third-party tested for purity, an excessive dose can mess with your body.
Like aspirin, fish oil is a blood-thinner. This makes it desirable for lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart disease. But too much fish oil increases bleeding time.
If you’re already on anticoagulants to prevent issues like blood clots or strokes, make sure to talk to your doctor. Discuss with him about how much fish oil is safe for you to take.
Which Foods are Good Sources of Omega-3s?
Most experts agree that whenever possible, it’s best to get nutrients from whole foods rather than vitamins. Nutrients are better absorbed as food because that’s what our body was created to process.
Omega-3 from whole fish is better absorbed than from fish oil capsules. Plus, whole fish provide nutrients like protein, vitamin D, and selenium that fish oil supplements can’t. These added nutrients help protect against mercury toxicity.
Experts recommend eating “oily fleshed, wild-caught, cold-water fish” two to three times per week, and favorites are salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, and black cod. This amount, combined with a lower omega-6 intake, would be enough for most people.
Even if you don’t eat animal protein, you can get omega-3s from food. This is where the third omega-3 comes into play — alpha-linoleic acid (ALA).
ALA is found in vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and grass-fed animals, and our bodies convert it into EPA or DHA in order to be used. Some of the best sources include chia seeds and flax seeds, which contain 2,600 mg and 2,300 mg of omega-3s per tablespoon respectively.
Risks Of Eating Fish
Fish are only as healthy as the water body they swim in. These days, there are worrisomely high levels of mercury and plastics in such waters.
Eat lower on the food chain, and when it comes to toxins, not all fish are created equal. Just imagine a little fish with low levels of mercury in its system, and if a medium-sized fish eats these little fish every day, its body will fill up with mercury, and it continues all the way up the food chain, straight back to us.
As a result, experts recommend eating sardines, which offer high levels of omega-3s. Also, Sardines are low on the food chain and have very low levels of toxicity. They’re also a more sustainable source.
Why Take Fish Oil?
There are reasons why getting all of your omega-3s from whole fish might not be the most practical thing. Fish contain contaminants like PCBs and mercury, eating enough for a therapeutic dose of EPA+DHA could be dangerous.
While nutrients may be better absorbed from whole foods, buying all the fish you need could get expensive. Also, some people just don’t like eating fish.
Can Fish Oil Go Bad?
When unsaturated fats, like EPA and DHA, are exposed to heat, light, or oxygen, they can oxidize. This can happen during production or even afterward, once the oil has already been packaged if it’s stored improperly or kept for too long.
Because of its molecular structure, fish oil is especially vulnerable to oxidation. So most supplements come in dark brown or opaque bottles; if they don’t, be careful with them.
Oxidation doesn’t just mean going stale or becoming less effective, it actually turns a healthy, anti-inflammatory substance into a harmful, pro-inflammatory one that might contribute to the diseases you’re trying to avoid.
Contaminated fish oil “increases inflammation, just like bad cooking oils, and that’s why you want to make sure you’re taking fish oil that is sincerely tested for quality, for purity, for cleanliness, and that has an expiration date on it.
Review Of The Best Fish Oil Supplements
As a general rule, the best fish oil supplements should provide at least 1,000 mg EPA+DHA omega-3 fatty acids per serving, certified by third-party labs, and are sustainably sourced.
How To chose or Determine the Best Fish Oil Supplement
There is a mega-list of fish oils (nearly 200 in all), but because supplements don’t undergo the strident, top-down policing of prescription drugs, it becomes important to vet this list by way of independent testing. The picks need to be approved by at least one third-party organization.
Several kinds of omega-3 fatty acids are present in fish oil, including two of the three essential for humans. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are essential ones, and the third — ALA, or alpha-linolenic acid — crops up in non-fish foods.
The World Health Organization and Consumer Lab both recommend 500 mg combined EPA and DHA for a minimum daily dose, and it is required that all of our top picks provide at least that in two or fewer soft gels.
No Added Colors Or Flavors
Color and flavor additives can disguise rancid fish oil in supplements that might otherwise look and smell like something you shouldn’t eat, but the easiest fish oil supplements to take typically contain a puny amount of nutrients. We love to say it; fish oil should smell and taste like fish.
Five-Star Rating From The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
You can’t responsibly talk about consuming fish oil without talking about sustainability, because real, wild fish go into the fish oil supplements we consume, and they’re an important part of the ocean ecosystem.
If any population is over-harvested, it causes a ripple effect all the way up and down the food chain, and in order to keep overfishing in check, the Marine Stewardship Council evaluates fisheries to make sure they use sustainable practices.
To earn the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) “blue label,” a fishery must take only a sustainable amount of fish out of the water, ensure its operations have a low environmental impact and comply with all relevant laws.
The 3 Best Fish Oil Supplements
- Nutrigold Triple Strength Omega-3 Gold – (Best Overall)
- Life & Food Omega-3 Supreme
- Wiley’s Finest Wild Alaskan Fish Oil
1. Nutrigold Triple Strength Fish Oil Omega-3 Gold
- 2,000 Mg Of EPA+DHA Per Serving: With a serving size of two soft gels, that breaks down to a substantial 1,000 mg of EPA+DHA in every one of Nutrigold’s thumbnail-sized pills.
- The price tag sits on the mid-high end of fish oils, but at this potency, you’re getting a big quantity of the best quality.
- Loads of third-party certifications: Nutrigold’s otherwise unassuming brown bottle is covered in so many accolades. In fact, this supplement has more certifications from 3rd-parties for label accuracy and purity than any of the other supplements, including nods from the International Fish Oil Standards Program (IFOS), and Consumer Lab. It also got a 77% ratings from Labdoor.
- Just 5 ingredients: Nutrigold is made with less than half a dozen ingredients, one of which is water, and the purity of this supplement extends to its lack of toxins: Its PCB and mercury levels (less than 0.01 PPM) are both ways below the upper limit for supplements, which is less than 0.09 PPM.
Points to consider: If you love seafood, it isn’t a smell that will necessarily put you off, because the scent of a capsule, once broken open, is akin to “freshly cooked salmon.”
Life & Food Omega-3 Supreme
Why it’s chosen
- Thick coating means no fishiness: Unlike the other top picks, Life & Food’s Omega-3 Supreme’s soft gels don’t smell like fish, thanks to their enteric coating that was meant to hold together until they reach your lower digestive tract, where they eventually (and harmlessly) dissolve. This extra-thick coating completely eliminates the fishy smells that come along with most other fish oil supplements.
- Small and easy to swallow: The soft gels are about half the size of a typical fish oil soft gel (tiny nubs, smaller than a jelly bean), and this manageable size makes them easy to take, especially if you gag easily when swallowing the medicine.
Points to consider: Need to take twice as many pills, because, that compact size comes with a compact omega-3 count. You will have to swallow twice as many soft gels to get similar EPA and DHA levels as Nutrigold. They’re no more expensive than Nutrigold if you do the maths.
Wiley’s Finest Wild Alaskan Fish Oil
Why it’s chosen
- Pescetarian-friendly capsule: Wiley’s pescatarian-friendly ingredients include omega-3s from Alaska pollock, fish gelatin (as opposed to Nutrigold’s bovine gelatin), glycerin, purified water, and vitamin E. With all that fish, these soft gels emit an unmistakable sea-faring smell.
- Use-the-whole-fish ethic: Wiley’s is a family brand, and reflects ethical choices. The website proudly notes that its oil is made from the eyes, heads, and livers of fish caught for human consumption, and they repurpose the saturated fats refined out of its fish oils as biofuel.
- To top it all off, its packaging is post-consumer recycled paperboard, which shows a deep consideration for how the lifecycle of their product fits into the larger environmental picture.
Points to consider: Nearly twice as expensive, but the transparency and purity of Wiley’s come at a markup. However, Wiley’s ethical practices rationalize the cost.