Fish oils are all the rage, however, they’ve been around for a very long time. Although long ago grandma new best when delivering that cod liver oil, the initial science showing its benefits is relatively new. This doesn’t go to say there aren’t skeptics out there, (not a bad thing!) and the science is still a little shaky, so it’s really up to us decide if consuming fish oils is beneficial to our healthspan. Keep in mind that it may be likely that fish oil (and the amount) may be beneficial to one and detrimental or non-effective to another.
Know Your Omega Ratio
I personally check my omega-6 to omega-3 ratio making sure it is as close to the recommended 4:1 (mine is optimal at 2:1 :)) and as a health coach I recommend my clients to check their omega ratios before supplementing or actively increasing their fish consumption too. We can check our ratios with a simple blood test. The average American has a ratio of anywhere from 12:1 to 25:1. This means that our diets tend to be top heavy in omega-6s. This is a problem as scientists believe omega-6s are pro-inflammatory, while omega-3s are anti-inflammatory. Although the inflammatory response is necessary and a natural function of our bodies, too much inflammation may raise the risk of disease and accelerate aging.
4 Ways to Take Your Omegas
One of the best ways I balance out my omega ratio is to lower my consumption of processed foods which contain high levels of pro-inflammatory omega 6s from industrialized vegetable and seed oils. I personally believe my body will respond best by first lowering the amount of omega 6 and then increasing my omega 3s. Here are three ways I boost my omega 3 intake:
1. Fish and Seafood
I always look to get my nutrients from whole foods first. A supplement is “a supplement to an already healthy diet”…not a replacement of a healthy diet. I first ask my clients to get their omega levels tested and then, if necessary and if they are generally healthy, I feel safe recommending them to eat about 12 to 16 ounces (340g to 450g) of cold water fatty fish or shellfish each week. When we get our nutrients from whole foods, we also get many other beneficial nutrients that fish oil may not contain, such as selenium, zinc, iron and protein.
My favorite ways of getting my omegas is from sardines, which have 740 mg of DHA and 450 mg of EPA in a serving. I also enjoy fresh salmon which has approximately 950 mg of DHA and 250 mg of EPA per serving. When I cannot get fresh wild caught salmon, I opt for canned salmon and enjoy the benefits of the extra calcium from the bones. Other ways I sneak anti-inflammatory rich omega 3s in my diet is through flaxseeds and pastured or omega-3 enriched eggs.
2. Fish oil gel capsule
If you’re not a fan of seafood you can opt to get your omegas from a capsule. I personally prefer to pop a capsule in addition to my seafood consumption to be sure I am covered. My diet isn’t perfect, so I like to mix it up with a high quality omega supplement such as Pharmanex’s MarineOmega. No fishy taste or smell, no fish burps, includes krill oil and is a safe option that is less likely to oxidize if you’re ok with swallowing capsules. This is an ultra pure fish oil manufactured to the high standards of the 6 Standard Quality Process guaranteeing that each bottle is free of harmful toxins, contaminants, and heavy metals.
I like taking my omegas in a capsule, because I get the job done quickly without any fishy taste and they’re easy to transport when I am on the run or traveling, plus there is no guessing on dosage. I follow the recommendation of Chris Kresser who suggests having 1g of EPA and DHA daily and avoiding high doses of fish oil (i.e., more than 3g/day) over the long term.
3. Liquid fish oil supplement
If you’re just not into swallowing pills, then a liquid form of fish oil may be best for you. More companies out there are making fish oils palatable and even blending them with heart healthy olive oil like EQ Pure Arctic Oil to provide even more health benefits. I like this brand made in Norway which complies with EU, MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) and GMP standards (Good Manufacturing Practice). This one goes great on top of a salad or with avocado toast! FYI, if you’re reading this around New Year’s time 2019, take advantage of this New Year’s special offer. It includes omega-3 fish oils, olive oil AND vitamin D3! (I am not sure how long it will last.)
Liquid fish supplements are more flexible when it comes to dosing, so you can control the amount you need. Believe it or not, I give my dog omegas and have found it easier to use the liquid form. Also, if you need to take larger doses of fish oil, you may find it easier to take it in a liquid form as you may need multiple capsules to get the same amount of omega-3s that you would get in a teaspoon of liquid fish oil.
NOTE: When using fish oils in liquid form, once you open the bottle, store it in a dark place to help prevent it from going rancid. Oils, in general, need to be kept in dark bottles and away from light as this may reduce its durability. Once the bottle is open, keep it in a cold place, such as the refrigerator.
4. Fish oil chewies
Adult chewies and gummies are all the rage now and make taking our vitamins and supplements a whole lot more fun. However, we can’t forget that these little bursts of pleasure are NOT candies and we should not consume more than the recommended dosage. I make a point to read the ingredient list of any supplement that looks like candy and if the main ingredient is sugar or uses an sweetener that I don’t approve of, then I put it down. If you can get over this, then you’ll look forward to taking your morning supplements with an omega soft chewable like the Focus Chews (220 mg DHA 60 mg EPA, choline & vitamin D3 per gummie) designed to boost brain health.
Oxidation in omegas
Be aware that fish oil supplements may be highly oxidized. EPA and DHA are long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids that are pretty susceptible to oxidation from heat, light and oxygen exposure. When our supplements are oxidized it may put us at risk of organ toxicity and atherosclerosis. A 2016 study revealed that oxidation levels were four times higher than the safety level in America’s three top selling fish oil supplements. Do your homework!
Good luck in your exploration of omegas and finding the perfect balance.