Thinking about buying a fish oil supplement but don’t know where to start? Don’t worry, today I’m going to fill you in on everything you need to know before you step foot in to a pharmacy.
Firstly, congratulations on realising how important fish oil is for your body! If you’re buying a supplement, you’re probably aware of omega-3 essential fatty acids (in fish oil) and their miraculous health benefits. If you haven’t yet heard, omega-3 fats can do just about everything but cartwheels. From reducing depression and dementia to preventing heart disease, joint pain and inflammatory skin conditions, omega-3 fats are a one stop shop. While I generally try to stick to whole foods rather than supplements, there are certain nutrients that the body requires in high amounts in order to be therapeutic and omega-3 is one of these.
So, back to your expedition to the pharmacy. Here’s what you need to tick off before you buy a fish oil supplement:
This is pretty important. Nearly all fish are contaminated with mercury so look for a brand that has been tested for heavy metals and has stringent filtering processes.
Ideally, a fish oil sourced from small fish ensures lower mercury (small fish have lower mercury than larger fish). If the oil is from salmon, make sure the label specifies that the salmon is wild caught.
Fish oil is a fragile fat and can easily be damaged by heat, light and air. For this reason, good quality fish oils will always include an antioxidant such as vitamin E to ensure the stability of the oil (this prevents you from consuming rancid oil!).
Just because it says a whopping 1 or 2 grams of fish oil per serve doesn’t mean anything unless the EPA and DHA content are high. EPA and DHA are the therapeutic components that create all the health benefits. They will usually be higher (per serve) in liquid forms of fish oil than capsules, but if you can’t stomach the liquid that’s okay as long as you don’t mind popping down a few capsules each day. The higher the EPA/DHA, the less capsules you need to take.
If you’re choosing capsules over oil, enteric coating of the tablet ensures you won’t get any fishy aftertaste or burping. Enteric coating isn’t essential, but if you’re prone to nausea it’s a probably a good idea
If you keep these five factors in mind when choosing a fish oil supplement you’re off to a good start. You may not be able to tick them all off depending on your local variety and supply but at least you know what to look out for. Every condition requires a different dosage of fish oil so speak to your health care practitioner for exact dosing. Happy fishing!