I know very few people think fish oil is a miracle from God. You know this, too. Like me, you probably just want to do the best you can. You want to eat less of the junk food that’s bad for you, and more of the ‘super foods’ that are actually good for you. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as going down the ‘super food’ aisle in your local grocery store though. This is especially true when it comes to omega-3s. So, when people ask me what kind of omega-3 to take, I always tell them the same thing – there’s only one way to be sure.
In researching omega-3 fatty acids, I’ve discovered that there’s always more than meets the eyes. I wish it were as simple as reaching for the perfect bottle of omega-3s or even just eating a lot of fish; but it simply isn’t. Below, I’ve listed 12 sources of omega-3.
Read about them. They’re not all the same – and some can actually do more harm than good.
Fish. Since most experts agree that a reasonable recommended daily allowance of omega-3 is somewhere around 2.5 grams, providing no other health problems are present. This is something like 4 tins of canned tuna, 2 servings of fresh tuna, or 3 servings of salmon.
That’s A LOT of fish! As you should now be able to tell after watching my videos on the dangers of fish oil, obtaining adequate levels of omega-3 solely from fish or even off brand fish oil is a very bad idea indeed. Alternatively, take a fish oil supplements. Just be sure it bares a five-star IFOS rating. If yours doesn’t mention this directly on the bottle, don’t even bother!
Seal. There is a least some evidence supporting the claim the seal oil is actually better than fish oil due to the incredibly high levels of DHA and EPA it contains. Of course, all that omega-goodness does come at a price. In light of unscrupulous seal hunting practices, seal products are banned in the European Union and strongly frowned upon here in the states. What’s more, numerous researchers believe the amount of omega-3 present in seal blubber may actually vary depending on the seal’s dietary habits, location, and age.
Whale. Both whale and seal blubber don’t seem to differ that much when it comes to omega-3. Like seals, whales seem are a rich source of omega-3. However, the omega-3 content tends to vary greatly between species and harvesting poses ethical concerns.
Shark. Like cod liver oil listed below, shark liver oil contains high levels of vitamin A and is susceptible to toxins like mercury, dioxin, and BPA just like other big fish. Certainly, shark products such as shark liver oil, cartilage, and fins are one source of omega-3. However, they should be used with expressed caution and concern.
Cod Liver. Sure cod liver oil tastes awful…but, did you know that it also contains excessive amounts of vitamin A and can be dangerous if you consume too much? That’s right, two really important studies found that high levels of vitamin A resulted in pains, rashes, ulcers, hair loss, and even hip fractures in women! Also, because cod liver oil is so well known for it’s vitamin A content, manufactures often dilute it with vegetable oils which can contain omega-6s.
Chia. Chia seeds, also known in the botanical community by the name Salvia Hispanica L., are certainly one of the lesser known sources of omega-3 on the market. To be sure, even less attention is paid to the type of omega-3 fatty acid this source yields. Similar to the flax seed you’ll read about below, this source is rich in ALA. A type of omega-3 that’s not efficiently used by your body. While some people consume chia directly for it’s omega-3 content, others have been interested in it’s ability to produce healthier meat alternatives. One recent study found that feeding pigs chia actually did result in higher ALA content. However, I’ll repeat this is not an ideal type of omega-3 to consume!
Flaxseed. Flax, or flax seed oil is very popular with vegetarians since it provides omega-3s without needlessly involving fish. The type of omega-3 fatty acid found in flax is called ALA, which your body doesn’t do a good job at using. In fact, you would need to take 7 times the amount of flax seed oil to get the same benefits as fish oil. Plus, there is research suggesting that what doesn’t get converted can increase your risk for scary health conditions like silent inflammation, and even cancer.
Algae. In an ideal world, everyone would be consuming algae for omega-3s. This may come as a surprise, but omega-3s don’t really come from fish! The omega-3s actually come from microscopic algae that fish eat. Of course you could get your omega-3s from this algae directly, but the manufacturing process is so expensive that many companies simply don’t bother.
Salmon. People love to recommend salmon as an ideal “brain food”, but the truth is smaller fish like trout, tilapia, and fresh tuna have far more omega-3 per serving. What’s more, salmon are HUGE fish and are naturally at the top of the food chain. For this reason, they’re even more likely than other fish to accumulate harmful toxins like mercury. The FDA has actually put a 1-2 servings per week restriction on this fish, and pregnant women are advised to avoid it all together.
Canola. Canola, along with soybean, sesame, peanut, and grapeseed are best thought of as sources of omega-6, not omega-3. Omega-6s can actually increase the amount of inflammation in the body; undermining any benefits you’re seeking.
Krill. Krill are similar to shrimp, only they’re very tiny. Some people believe krill oil is superior to fish oil because it binds to phospholipids, contains astaxanthin, and do not have the same contamination problems as fish. Unfortunately, these beliefs aren’t accurate! First, there is no research to date suggesting there is any advantage to having omega-3 bind to phospholipids. Next, let’s look at astaxanthin, which is an antioxidant belonging to the beta-carotene family. Research suggests that it doesn’t actually have any characteristics superior to others like it. Finally, shame on manufacturers that don’t think krill are susceptible to contamination! Krill are just as likely to contain toxins as fish…after all, they share the same home!