What smells fishy here? Oh sorry, that’s just my fish oil pills on the counter. I receive many questions about fish oil, is it good for me? Should I be taking it? I know I should take fish oil but I don’t know what to take! Should it smell fishy? I do not blame you for all of the questions as there are a lot of mixed reviews and information out there and it is hard to know what might be right for you.
Today I want to walk you through what fish oil is and what you can do to get the most benefit from the amazing health food. Remember there is no such thing as a miracle pill and by taking one food item or supplement you will not grant yourself immortality, sorry it just doesn’t work that way. I, however, do want to give you all the tools you need to live the healthiest life you can possibly live, and for you fish oil might be a part of that!
When I worked in the hospital in the cardiac unit it seemed that the only supplement doctors were behind (well on most days) was fish oil. However, they never seemed to suggest changes to a patient’s diet. Instead it was what supplement, medication or surgery do I need to have them take or endure in order to make said individual healthier. This must be why people enjoy Seafresh fish to get their intake of fish oils. While I am not knocking doctors and modern medicine because let’s be honest most of us would not be here without it, and I am very grateful for our hard working doctors and medical professionals! By offering a patient a fish oil supplement as a solution they missed out on the bigger picture which is a holistic diet and lifestyle approach to health and wellness.
Let’s dig in to what fish oil is all about and then you can decide for yourself with the help of your health care providers what is best for you. Remember my recommendation is always real food first, because you cannot out-supplement a poor diet.
Remember this information is just for general information only and is not meant to be used as substitute for medical advice or treatment. Please contact your doctor and dietitian before starting or stopping supplementation.
So what is fish oil?
The oil from fish of course! Have you ever had a delicious filet of salmon and seen the oils come off of the skin or the white come through the flakes? That is fish oil my friends. Yes, you can actually find it in REAL FOOD, shocking, I know. The oil of fish is extremely high in what are called omega-3 fatty acids. This healthy fat is great in reducing inflammation in the body. Inflammation can be caused by many different things including exercise, poor diet, stress, lack of sleep, a cut or bump, trauma, burns and much more. While some inflammation is good and needed to protect us, too much is NOT a good thing and that is where diet and lifestyle changes come into play.
We cannot make omega-3 fatty acids internally, so we must eat a source that contains the actual real deal omega-3 fatty acid. That means it is essential for you to consume healthy omega-3 rich foods daily, if possible, especially if you suffer from a SAD (standard american diet) diet and/or a stressful life. There are cultures that have been shown to have decreased risk of heart disease, like the Inuit and the Japanese, and it is thought it is because they have a diet rich in fatty fish (not because they take a supplement). So head to your local fishmonger and start eating more fish!
Where can you find fish oil?
Fish! Well, okay sorry that was obvious, right? There are certain fish that are fattier than others and thus make a better source of fish oil. Those include:
- …and more!
Supplements: fish oil and cod liver oil are your best bets! More on which supplements I recommend below.
Omega-3 in other foods: If you are looking for the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids in other places, a few other good sources (but not nearly as potent) are: chia seeds, ground flax seed, flax seed oil, walnuts, walnut oil, grass-fed dairy/butter, grass-fed meat, eggs from pasture raised chickens, and some vegetables.
Should you be supplementing with fish oil?
It depends. I know that is probably not the answer you were hoping for, but it’s the truth. The research out there on fish oil is quite split. Some studies show health improvements with supplementation, some show no change, some show toxicity if over consumed. Could it have to do with other variables like your diet, lifestyle, exercise routine and sleep habits? Yes, of course. Could if have to do with the quality of supplementation? Most definitely. I do not think that taking a fish oil supplement will cure you of any or all of your ailments as there is no magic pill. However, there may come a time and a place for supplementation.
Who should take fish oil?
- Those who do not consume enough fatty fish during the week (Recommended is 2-3 servings (4-6 ounces/serving) per week unless pregnant please check with your doctor)
- Those that are looking to heal from an injury, but please talk with a doctor and a dietitian before prescribing your own doses!
- Competitive athletes. You are hitting the gym multiple times per day and your body is taking a beating. Cool the inflammation naturally by taking a supplement and eating fish.
Any downsides to fish oil?
If you are not careful you may be consuming rancid fish and/or nasty fillers. Just like food (only worse) supplement companies sell to you using the front label of their products. However, you need to be a detective and turn over the bottle to search for any fillers or strange ingredients.
Also, fish oil is polyunsaturated fat and is at risk of being oxidized and thus no longer anti-inflammatory. If you are not storing your fish oil correctly (cool, dark environment) or if you buy a non-credible source you may be doing more harm than good. Multiple supplement manufacturing companies tend to tie up with White Label Softgel Manufacturer like SS Nutra and similar other companies in an attempt to bring customized and good quality supplements for our consumption. Nevertheless, it is always necessary to get yourself checked for deficiencies in the body, before taking any supplements.
More is not better. Just because this is a real food source and is thought to be anti-inflammatory does not mean you can run wild and overindulge. Taken in proper dosages (see below) there are benefits but beyond that you may increase your risk of heart disease and other health conditions. The research is not clear enough on over indulging, so don’t put yourself at risk, okay?
One final note on downsides. Increased intake of fish oil may thin your blood and put you at increased risk of bleeding too much when cut. If you are someone that is say fighting in the military and do not have immediate access to medical care I would not recommend taking a fish oil supplement. At least not during that time.
Recommended Food Sources
The above sources listed are what I recommend, so a good amount of WILD CAUGHT fatty fish and shellfish.
I recommend 12 to 16 ounces of fatty fish (wild caught fish preferred) per week. In addition add some of the other omega-3 containing foods like grass-fed meat and dairy as well as chia seeds and ground flax seed. An most importantly, make sure you are also eating a real food diet filled with fruits, vegetables and quality meats.
If you have scrolled down here and have not read the rest of the post, I get it. BUT supplementation is not the answer. You cannot and SHOULD not out-supplement a poor diet. If you have not made changes to your diet to ensure maximum omega-3 intake, then go back and read the rest of this post!
If you have ended up here and decided that supplementation might be right for you. These are a few of the brands that contain high quality ingredients and may help reduce inflammation.
Runner Up: Nordic Naturals (while not the absolute best, it is the most accessible at local health food stores by you and is okay quality!)
Supplements are not regulated like food is and thus they are not created equally. Do not always believe what the package states. Just because they put something IN the supplement does not mean it is still there when you consume it. A lot of the processing is harmful to the supplement. Check out Labdoor.com (https://labdoor.com/rankings/fish-oil ) for their top 10 fish oil supplements worth spending your hard earn dollars on, and stay informed.
The recommended dose is different for everyone. Most people can benefits from 1 gram of DHA/EPA fish oil from a good quality source daily.
*Always check with your doctor before starting a new supplement
Phew! That was a lot of fishy information! I hope this gives you a bit more insight as to what fish oil is and where you can find the anti inflammatory nutrient.
Let me hear from you!
What is your favorite fish?
Do you supplement with fish oil? Favorite brand?