One supplement that has been all the buzz for a little while now is fish oil – and for good reason, too. In fact, this is a supplement that I, as a certified health coach, recommend to most of my clients. I also take it daily and have gotten my family on the bandwagon, too. Fish oil, also known as Omega-3 fatty acids, is an interesting and multi-talented fat but most people don’t know all of its benefits. So, here is everything you need to know about fish oil.
What is Fish Oil?
Fish oil is the common name for Omega-3 fatty acid supplements because fish are the richest source of these essential oils (here, I mean literally essential, not “essence of”). Fish oil contains two forms of Omega-3s that our bodies can use, EPA and DHA. You don’t need to take a supplement to get your Omega-3s, though. Cold water fish, such as tuna and salmon, contain the greatest amounts of Omega-3s. However, unless you are eating fish regularly (and most of us are not), I strongly recommend you supplement to make sure you are consuming enough to reap the benefits.
Non-Fish Sources of Omega-3s
Flaxseeds, greens, and various other seeds also contain Omega-3s; however, they are in the form of ALA which the human body cannot use. Because of this, when we consume a plant source of Omega-3s, our bodies must convert the ALA into EPA and DHA, forms it can use. Unfortunately, once the ALA has been converted, our absorption of the Omega-3s from plants is less than 5% so you must consume much, much more plant sources than fish sources of Omega-3s to derive the same benefits and your body has to work harder for them. Therefore, unless you have an allergy or food sensitivity that prevents you from doing so, I strongly recommend opting for a fish source over plant sources of Omega-3s.
Benefits of Omega-3s
The more we learn about Omega-3 fatty acids, the more amazing things we learn they do for us. Studies have shown that Omega-3s may help lower your blood pressure, mitigate the effects of stress on your heart, act as anti-inflammatories and anti-coagulants, lower your cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and steady your heart rate. They may also diminish depression and may help protect against Alzheimer’s, dementia, and memory loss. For pregnant women, DHA (a form of Omega-3) has been found to be important for neurological and vision development in babies. Pretty amazing stuff, right?
What to Look for in a Fish Oil Supplement
When selecting a fish oil supplement, you want to make sure that you are purchasing one that is made with clean, quality ingredients. You may have heard people complain about the flavor of their fish oil supplements repeating on them throughout the day – this is common with low-quality fish oils. As with all supplements, it’s important that you do your research here. You want your fish oil to be sourced from wild-caught fish, not farmed fish. Often, you will find quality fish oils made from sardines. You also want to read the label to verify what the capsule’s coating is made out of. Gelatin is commonly what the coating is made out of; however, some poor quality capsules may actually use PVC or BPA materials (enteric coating) which have been linked to cancer and other health problems. Finally, you want to read the label to make sure that the supplement contains EPA and DHA – the forms of Omega-3s that can be readily absorbed and used by our bodies. Here is a link to the fish oil supplement that I have selected for myself and my family.