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If you have been looking to increase your omega-3 intake and give your heart health a boost, fish oils are a popular supplement choice. These convenient capsules are commonly recommended because of their omega-3 fatty acid content, and many people take them to boost their heart health and fight inflammation.
Since fish oils are so widely used and for such a wide variety of reasons, there are several brands competing on the market, which can make it complicated when you’re looking to find the right fish oil for you. Where do you start?
Here’s what to look for when buying fish oil supplements to ensure you’re getting the best product for improving your health.
What To Look For In Fish Oil Supplement:
1. Omega-3 Serving Size
The first thing to look out for when shopping for fish oil is the amount of omega-3 fatty acids that you’ll get from your daily serving.
Fish oils are often recommended as a dietary supplement because they are a good source for EPA and DHA, omega-3 fatty acids that have been identified in the fight against several health issues including (but not limited to) cardiovascular disease, cognitive performance, mental health, and muscle recovery.
There are no standard daily recommendations for fish oil, but for the best results, you should be aiming for at least 1g (or 1000 mg) of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA daily to promote your heart health unless your healthcare provider recommends otherwise.
It’s important to read your nutrition labels very carefully in this case – you want to make sure that your supplement specifically has 1g of omega-3s per serving and a good amount of EPA and DHA. Some fish oil supplements may claim to contain 1g or more, but that could be referring to the fish oil itself or other additives and ingredients, not the omega-3 content itself.
In addition to the amount of omega-3s per serving, it’s also important to consider how well your body can actually use the nutrients from the supplement.
A supplement’s bioavailability refers to the amount of the active ingredient that your body can use to promote your health. In this case, just because a supplement says that it’s high in EPA and DHA doesn’t necessarily mean that your body can use all of it effectively.
The omega-3s in your supplements can be in various forms, including natural triglycerides, ethyl esters, and re-esterified triglycerides. Ethyl esters go through a manufacturing process that makes them the least bioavailable form of omega-3s from fish oil supplements. So you may want to avoid these if you’re looking for the highest bioavailability and choose supplements in triglyceride or free fatty acid form instead.
Some studies suggest that emulsified fish oil supplements are more easily absorbed than fish oil capsules, making them a better choice for getting your healthy fats.
In this case, it’s also important to note that other omega-3 supplements besides fish oil maybe even better for the high bioavailability of healthy fats. For example, algae oil supplements have been found to be bioequivalent to salmon as a source of DHA. So not only does this fish-free alternative offer plenty of omega-3s, but these fatty acids are just as bioavailable as a whole food source!
Another important factor to consider when looking for fish oil supplements is the source of fish oil and the equivalent impact that its production might have on the environment.
The production of fish oil has a huge impact on the oceans, especially since the demand for fish oil has risen drastically in past years. In fact, one report estimated that the harvesting of fatty fish requires millions of tons of marine life every single year.
Overfishing, habitat destruction, and contamination from fishing are all implicated as significant concerns for the environment as well as your health.
Industrial-scale fishing, as is used in the production of fish oil, can hurt whole oceanic food chains, kill other marine life, and otherwise degrade entire ecosystems, making it an unsustainable choice for producing omega-3 supplements.
Common concerns for the production of fish oil and other aquaculture products include the escaping of drugged fish that could contaminate wild populations, destruction of landscapes due to fisheries, and increased waste from fish farms that can drain the surrounding water of oxygen.
In addition to the environmental impact, some fish oil production methods may also lead to the supplement becoming contaminated by heavy metals like mercury, which can be toxic when ingested in large amounts.
The fishing industry’s potential environmental and health hazards are so severe that some scientists even go as far as to recommend against taking fish oil supplements because of their lack of sustainability weighed against their purported health benefits.
Any fish oil will contribute to the environmental problem. Your best bet for consciously shopping for a fish oil supplement would be to look for evidence that the fish used in the supplement were fished responsibly. For example, a Marine Stewardship Council Standard on a fish oil label will indicate that the supplement’s fish oil comes from a sustainable fishery.
You can also choose a different and more sustainable omega-3 supplement like algae oil, which doesn’t contribute to the environmental problems that fishing can bring.
Unlike many other nonprescription supplements, fish oil is highly perishable and can go rancid after sitting on a shelf longer than it should. Omega-3 fatty acids are prone to oxidation from many factors, including age, temperature, and exposure to light.
It can be hard to tell upon purchase whether a fish oil supplement is at its freshest by sight alone. Hence, the best way to avoid buying a compromised supplement is to pay attention to the labels on your supplements and make sure that you purchase them within the date. Check the labels to see if the supplement has added antioxidants, as these can help delay the oxidation process.
You should also keep an eye on your supplements after you buy them and watch for signs of decreased quality over time. You can generally tell if fish oil has gone bad if it gives off a rotten, unpleasant smell.
If you have a hard time deciding which omega-3 supplement to buy, don’t forget that fish oil isn’t the only source of DHA and EPA on the market and that it isn’t the right choice for everyone. In addition to the impact that fish oil production has on the environment, they are not compatible with a plant-based lifestyle. The risk of heavy metal contamination can also be a cause for concern.
A Fish-Free Alternative
While fish oils are the most commonly sought-after supplement for increasing omega-3 intake, they are by no means the only option. Omega-3 supplements from algae oil are just as good as fish oil supplements when it comes to nutrient density. When you factor in their sustainability, they are even preferable.
Algae oil based alternatives can provide the same omega-3 benefits as fish oil without contributing to the impacts of overfishing and habitat destruction.
Not only does this make Calgee more environmentally friendly and sustainable, but it also means that they are compatible with vegetarian and vegan lifestyles! These omega-3 alternatives are also rich in the omega-3 acids EPA and DHA and are just as bioavailable as fish oil pills.
So as you hunt around for the perfect omega-3 supplements, be sure to consider algae oil supplements for a healthy and conscious addition to your diet.