Vitamins and mineral supplements are huge business in the United States, with the supplement industry bringing in just under $37 billion per year. After minerals and vitamins omega-3 fatty acids are the most popular food supplement sold in the United States. Why? Because proponents of omega-3 supplements claim that you will gain health benefits ranging from prevention of cancer, heart disease, and even helping to control ailments such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and eczema to name just a few.
Omega-3 fatty acids cannot be made by the body, so sourcing this vital fatty acid is a must for health and general well-being. One of the best ways to get omega-3 fatty acids is the eat whole foods that are naturally rich in omega-3, like fatty fish and eggs. However, if you are not a fan of fish or your hectic lifestyle leaves you struggling for time you may want to consider taking an omega-3 supplement.
Before you run out and buy some omega-3 supplements it’s important to note that there are hundreds of different supplements available all claiming to be the best, but to be honest not all of the provide the same health benefits. So to give you a helping-hand I have put together a detailed guide on everything you need to know about omega-3 foods, the best omega-3 supplements and other useful information regarding this supper healthy fatty acid.
The 3 Main Types of Omega-3 Fats
There are actually three types of fatty acids that are collectively referred to as omega-3’s. EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are found in shellfish and fish, and the third, ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) is found in plant sources.
Obviously the best way to get your daily dose of omega-3 is through the food you eat. Getting your vitamins and minerals from your food is always the better option than by popping a pill. Below I have listed 7 of the best omega-3 foods to add in your diet that contain high amounts of the amazing health-enhancing properties of omega-3 fatty acids.
7 of the Best Omega-3 Foods
- Anchovies: 951 mg per serving (EPA and DHA).
- Salmon: 4023 mg per serving (EPA and DHA).
- Chia Seeds: 4915 mg per serving (ALA).
- Cod Liver Oil: 2664 mg per serving (EPA and DHA).
- Sardines: 2205 mg per serving (EPA and DHA).
- Flax Seeds: 2338 mg per serving (ALA).
- Walnuts: 2542 mg per serving (ALA).
Another source of omega-3 fatty acids is in the form of soft-gel capsules. Omega-3 supplements are popular with consumers mainly due to the ease and simplicity of popping a pill to get the benefit of this fatty acid. Many of the best omega-3 supplements are made from a soft layer of gelatin and then coated in an enteric coating. The enteric coating stops the capsule from breaking down and dissolving until it reaches the small intestine. This helps to stop so called “fishy burps” and the unwanted fishy taste that is known to come from taking omega-3 supplements.
The only problem with this tough coating is that is can mask the foul smell of rancid fish oil. So if you plan of taking omega-3 capsules I recommend breaking one open before you start to take your new batch so you can smell it so you can make sure it hasn’t gone rancid.
Health Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are among the one of the most comprehensively studied nutrients on found on earth. I have briefly touched on some of the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids further up in this article but in case you missed it here is a more in-depth list where studies have shown that omega-3 has powerful health benefits for various body systems.
- Cancer: having a diet rich in omega-3’s has been linked to a reduced risk of prostate, colon, and breast cancer.
- Fatty Liver: taking regular omega-3 fatty acid supplements can help to reduce excess fat from the liver.
- Blood Triglycerides: omega-3’s can help to significantly lower blood triglycerides.
- Asthma: young adults and children who have asthma may benefit from taking omega-3 supplements.
- Depression and Anxiety: taking omega-3 fish oil has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Dementia: some recent studies have linked a higher omega-3 intake to a reduced risk of getting dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Inflammation and Pain: it has long been know that adding omega-3’s into your daily diet can help to reduce the symptoms of various autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
- Baby Development: consuming omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy and while breastfeeding can improve the baby’s eye health and intelligence.
- ADHD: studies have shown that children with ADHD benefited from taking omega-3 supplements.
How Much Omega-3 To Take to Reap the Health Benefits?
There really isn’t anything “set in stone” when it comes to how much omega-3 to take for the optimum health benefits. However, the World Health Organization and the European Food Safety Authority recommend a daily intake of a minimum of 250-500 mg combined EPA and DHA.
Eating fatty fish at least two times a week is recommended by the American Heart Association in order to ensure optimal omega-3 intake for heart disease prevention.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding an additional 200 mg of DHA on top of the recommended intake is recommended.
Should You Take an Omega-3 Supplement?
As I have pointed out previously the best way to get these much needed fatty acids into your body is by eating omega-3 rich foods. However, if you don’t eat a lot of seafood or fatty fish or you simply have a hectic lifestyle that prevents you from getting enough vitamins and minerals from your daily diet then it is probably a good idea to take a supplement. Supplements can be as beneficial as sourcing it from naturally from food. In-fact, most of the studies actually used omega-3 supplements so they can definitely be beneficial. The best omega 3 supplements with EPA and DHA include krill oil and fish oil, if you are a vegan or vegetarian a supplement made from algae is your best option.
What to Look for When Buying Omega 3 Supplements?
There are lots of omega-3 supplements in the marketplace all claiming to be the best. However, not all of these omega-3 supplements are good and some can even contain harmful compounds. When buying omega-3 supplements try to opt for a well-known reputable brand and always read the label carefully to check the following.
✓ Type of Omega-3: many of the high-street omega-3 supplements brands often contain little, if any DHA or EPA which are the must have types of omega-3 to reap health benefits.
✓ Form of Omega-3: omega-3’ can be found in many forms, however, for better absorption look for TG, rTG (triglycerides and reformed triglycerides), FFA (free fatty acids), and PLs (phospholipids), rather than EE (ethyl esters).
✓ Amount of Omega-3: the label might say 1000mg fish oil per capsule. However, the label can often read that the levels of DHA and EPA are only 320mg.
✓ Purity and Authenticity: when buying omega-3 supplements look for products that have either a the GOED standard for purity or a “third party tested” stamp on the label, like these.
✓ Sustainability: when it comes to the best omega-3 fish oil small fish with short lifespans tend to be more sustainable so try to buy fish oil that is certified by the MSC, the Environmental Defense Fund or a similar organization.
✓ Freshness: fish oils are prone to going rancid if not stored correctly. One they go bad fish oils will have a foul smell and can even be harmful. Always check the date and break open a capsule on each new batch to make sure they are ok to consume.
Best Omega-3 Supplements
When it comes to finding the best omega-3 supplements I have done some of the leg-work for you. The omega-3 fish oils listed below are some of the popular choices with today’s health minded consumers and I have been taking some for these brands for the past 12-months.