So, about those fish oil supplements everyone’s talking about, should you take them? If you do, what brands are the best? How much should you take? Does it matter when or how you take them?
Listen, I’m not a supplement pusher. In fact, I’m opposed to a lot of supplements unless used for a specific purpose, recommended by your doctor or dietitian, and meets 3rd party regulation standards (because supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA). I don’t care if “Dr. Oz said…” or “They say you should…”. Whatever he says or ‘they’ say, many supplements are bogus (including vitamins). But what about fish oil? Are they bogus?
Some fish have a wonderful fat called omega-3’s fatty acids. These fish include anchovies, sardines, salmon, tuna, and mackrel. If you eat about 2 servings of those each week you may not need an omega-3 fish oil supplement. Given that most of you don’t eat 2 servings, (including myself most weeks) then research shows it can’t hurt to take fish oil supplements.
Why are we even talking about fish oil in the first place? Well, because most of us don’t get enough omega-3 fatty acids in our diet. Omega-3’s are anti-inflammatory unlike omega-6’s. Omega-6’s come from most of the fat we eat (butter, cream, cheese, animal fats, and most plant fats). Don’t get me wrong we actually NEED these omega-6 fats in our diet…we just get too many. Omega-3’s on the other hand come from a small number of foods like these cold water fish, flax seeds, canola oil, walnuts, and chia seeds. So you see, it can be hard to get in even some omega-3’s during the day let alone the right amount.
So why take a fish oil supplement? I’ll give you 5 really good reasons:
- Fish oil gives us DHA and EPA omega-3’s. Our human bodies understand these whereas the plant sources of omega-3’s give us ALA. ALA has to be converted in our bodies to EPA and DHA and to be honest, our bodies don’t do a super good job with that. There are advantages to eating these plant sources outside of omega-3’s so that’s why it’s great to get them in your diet, but to take them as a supplement can be a disadvantage.
- Fish oil is good for your heart. Not only can it help cholesterol and triglyceride levels, it can also improve your blood pressure. Remember it’s an anti-inflammatory fat as well so that helps your heart even further! Plus it’s heart health month and we’re all about that here and Amanda D Nutrition 😉
- Fish oil is good for your mind. Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids can help with MANY disorders of the mind/brain. Your brain is made up of mostly omega-3 fats. If you’re not getting enough in your diet your probably not getting enough for your brain. It is super important for pregnant women and babies to get in enough omega-3’s especially DHA for baby brain development. Kiddos with ADHD have also shown signs of improvement from omega-3 supplements. As we age we forget stuff like where we left our car keys, wallet, cell phone, etc…you know. Omega-3’s help improve cognitive function like remembering all that stuff.
- Fish oil can help reduce inflammation in your body. So what? Well…inflammation causes most chronic diseases. Almost every single chronic disease is tied back to diet. A poor diet increases inflammation. Need I go on? Arthritis, cancer, and heart disease are the 3 most common inflammatory disease that may be improved or risks can be reduced from increasing omega-3 consumption…aka fish oil.
- Fish oil has also been shown beneficial in skin health. Like every organ in your body, the skin needs fat. Omega-3’s have been shown to help with many things like psoriasis (an inflammatory and autoimmune disease) and simple dry skin. Foods with omega-3’s also tend to carry vitamin E which is super important for skin health as well.
Again, I’m not a supplement pusher but I do think that if you’re not eating at least 2 servings of those cold water fish weekly you should probably take a fish oil supplement. I also think you should talk to your doctor about it as well. Most physicians are very open to their patients starting a fish oil supplement but it’s best to be 100% sure.
What to watch for:
- Look for a fish oil supplement that is 3rd party tested. USP, NSF, Consumer Lab, Informed Choice Verification, and BSCG are all 3rd party test companies that have strict regulations on the supplements they put their approval on. Look for one of these labels on your fish oil brand because remember, the FDA doesn’t regulate supplements.
- As soon as you open the bottle REFRIGERATE IT! You’d never leave fresh salmon out of the refrigerator why would you leave it’s oil out? Yuck. You’ll get rid of those fish burps too. If you have a fish oil supplement that has been left out, throw it away and start fresh. It’s probably rancid and that’s why your breath smells like a fish boat.
- It’s important that the company you buy from has the breakdown of how many mg (milligrams) of EPA and DHA are in the product. You want to get as close to 1000 mg of DHA and 500 mg of EPA as possible.
- Choose sustainable companies that have MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) or Environmental Defense Fund certifications OR find fish oils that contain smaller fish like anchovies and sardines which are naturally more sustainable.
If you are vegetarian remember that fish oil responds to your body better than plant sources of omega-3’s. I respect your decision to go animal free though. Find an omega-3 ALA supplement that is 3rd party tested. Still refrigerate it!