Fish Oil Supplements

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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 😉
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!


Quick Family Dinners

I do not have children in school yet but as a stay at home mom with 2 babies and a preschooler I need quick dinners. Let’s be honest, all the moms out there, we are surviving! I had a goal when I first became a mom and that was to feed my children the best that I could as often as I could. You see, as a realistic dietitian, I know that sometimes a fast food meal is completely acceptable because we are surviving but I don’t want to give my kiddos fast food as a norm. I also cannot afford to spend hours in the kitchen preparing gourmet meals because I have 3 kids 4 and under. So what do I do? I cook quick and healthy. I thought I would share some tips for making quick and healthy family meals along with a few recipes.

  1. Set it and forget it! Slow cookers are incredible. I swear a working mom had to invent this thing. When I’m doing a slow cooker meal I put the meat and the marinade in the crock the night before and then throw the crock in the refrigerator until the morning. My most recent slow cooker recipe was chicken breast, fresh tomatoes, and a McCormick spice mix (mojito lime) made like the directions on the pack. It was superb! The spice mix was great and except for the corn syrup was all spices and salt. I served it with corn on the cob and creamy cucumbers (sour cream and vinegar…more on the vinegary side).
  2. You go grill! I love using the grill…actually I love making marinades for the meat and veggies that my husband takes and grills. I make a wonderful adobo pork tenderloin that gets grilled. I use the adobo sauce from the canned peppers, lime and orange juice, splash of red wine vinegar, garlic, cumin, turmeric, some fresh herbs (whatever I’ve planted that season) and salt/pepper. I adapted my recipe from Eating Wells chipotle pork and I must say, since playing with the recipe I cannot give the precise measurements that I use but, wow…delicious every time! I would serve that with red skinned potatoes in olive oil and fresh herbs cooked on the grill and a delicious summer salad.
  3. Turn around turkey. Ground turkey is versatile. We add canned sloppy joe mix, taco seasoning (without hydrogenated oils), make turkey burgers and turkey meat loaf . I also add ground turkey to spaghetti sauce for a nice meat sauce and even do turkey meat balls. However you make turkey remember to incorporate whole grains and/or veggies to your meal to round it out.
  4. Fast cooking fish. Most fish cooks very quickly. Baked fish can be done in less than 30 minutes. Shrimp, mere minutes. Select only wild caught and sustainable. We’ll talk about more specifics on why in a later post but wild caught is better for the environment (and your body) and sustainably caught means we’ll have more fish in the future. In my usual meal planning holster I shoot for haddock, cod, tuna, salmon, and shrimp.
  5. Survival night. Yep we have a survival night. That can be anything from left overs to PB&J with cut up veggies or grilled cheese with tomato soup. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be gourmet. Make sure your meal is balanced with proteins, grains/starches, and vegetables…even if that means it is a salad and sandwich night.

Final thoughts: make sure your quick and easy meals have a protein (animal or vegetarian), grain or starchy vegetable, and a non-starchy vegetable. Fill your plate with that non-starchy vegetable and check out my blog on having a balanced diet for more information on what that means!

Challenge: make a meal plan this week using recipes that are quick, easy, and healthy!