With all the supplements lining store shelves you’ve most likely come across fish oil. Thanks to its high content of omega-3 fatty acids research has, for years, linked fish oil to health benefits, including better heart health, cognitive function and reduced risk of certain cancers.
Like other supplements, it can be confusing to determine whether or not to take fish oil, especially if you do not consume fatty fish regularly. Here’s what you need to know about fish oil before deciding if a supplement is right for you.
Fish oil is found in the tissues of fatty, oily fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, anchovies, sardines and trout. Just like these fish, fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, specifically EPA and DHA. Omega-3 fats are important components in the structure of our cells, especially in the brain and eyes. They’re also an energy source for the body and an anti-inflammatory agent.
Because omega-3’s, especially DHA, is an important component in the structure of brain cells, it is thought that fish oil may be protective against cognitive decline and promote overall brain health.
Fish oil is commonly thought to have a cardio-protective effect, but the research has also been somewhat mixed. Studies have found a reduced risk of cardiovascular death and significant reductions in rates of heart attack and heart disease in individuals taking fish oil supplements compared to those who did not.
Fish oil is also known to produce molecules that work to reduce inflammation in the body, which may help reduce the risk of chronic disease and even some cancers. It may also be beneficial to help reduce painful symptoms of inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
If you like and consume fatty fish regularly (2–3 times per week), fish oil supplementation isn’t typically a necessary supplement. You can also get omega-3’s from other sources such as grass-fed beef and free-range eggs.
If you’re not quite there yet, working to include more fish in your diet is a great goal. A couple of delicious ways to incorporate more fatty fish into your diet include:
– Making a sheet pan dinner with roasted salmon, seasonal veggies and potatoes
– Using canned wild salmon to make a savory frittata or trying salmon cakes with egg, breadcrumbs, herbs and spices
– Adding sardines to pasta dishes with lemon, olive oil and garlic
– Baking trout to serve with wild rice and steamed broccoli
– Adding 2-3 orderings of pre-portioned, ready to heat-and-eat to your regular Fuel-Up order
Supplementing with fish oil can help those who dislike the taste of fatty fish, but it’s not strictly necessary if you’re eating a well-balanced diet.
If you’re thinking of supplementing, always discuss it with your dietitian or doctor and make sure you’re purchasing from a reputable brand that does third-party testing. It’s also a good idea to store the bottle in the refrigerator to slow oxidation.
Ultimately, the best way to reap the most benefits from fish oil is to combine your intake (either via supplementation or fish) with a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes.