Omega-3 is essential for good health and has been found to help with everything from heart health to depression – yet most of us don’t get enough. With so many omega-3 supplements available, which one is best for you? Nutritionist Bridget Carmady investigates.
Most of us don’t get our daily requirement of the key omega-3s [including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA ) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)], from food sources – such as oily fish, flaxseeds or chia seeds. However, there are now so many kinds of omega-3 supplements available that it’s easy to get all the omega-3 your body needs.
According to the Heart Foundation, consuming 500mg omega-3 every day will help lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. When it comes to maintaining overall good health, the NHMRC estimates that consuming at least 90mg (for women) and 160mg (for males) of omega-3 every day is adequate. This amount is higher for various health conditions – such as arthritis, high cholesterol, depression, dementia and the protection of overall eye and brain health.
Fish oil is produced from the fresh tissue of oily fish, mainly salmon. Most 1000mg fish oil capsules contain 300mg of the omega-3s EPA and DHA.
Pros: With so many types of fish oil supplements on the market, prices are competitive and they are easily affordable. Fish oil supplements are sold in both liquid and capsule version (for those who find the taste and smell off-putting). Odourless capsules are also available.
Cons: The dose of EPA and DHA can be low, so you may need several capsules to meet the recommended dosage for particular health disorders.
Useful for: General health and wellbeing
HFG recommends: Swisse Odourless Fish Oil capsules, Blackmores Fish Oil 1000 capsules.
Concentrated/high-strength fish oil
Fish oil can be concentrated, with capsules containing up to 600mg omega-3s. You can also purchase fish oil supplements specifically concentrated to contain greater amounts of either EPA or DHA.
Pros: You can take fewer capsules to get the same dose and you can supplement your diet with the specific omega-3 fatty acid recommended for your health condition.
Cons: If you take blood thinners (e.g. Warfarin), speak to your doctor since fish oil supplements can potentially thin the blood and concentrated fish oils are likely to have an exaggerated effect.
Useful for: Excellent for health conditions that require large doses of fish oil to improve symptoms, such as arthritis and high cholesterol. DHA is particularly important for brain health, while EPA supplementation is effective for cardiovascular disease and inflammatory conditions.
HFG recommends: Ethical Nutrients High Strength Fish Oil capsules, Nature’s Own High Strength Odourless Fish Oil Capsules, Nordic Naturals ProDHA and ProEPA capsules, Bioglan Super Fish Oil Brain Power (High- DHA).
Cod liver oil
Cod liver oil is produced from the livers of cod fish and is a rich source of EPA and DHA, as well as vitamins A and D.
Pros: Vitamins A and D are essential for a healthy immune system, making this is a particularly good supplement in winter, since vitamin D (which you normally get from sunshine) is necessary for calcium uptake.
Cons: Caution is warranted during pregnancy, since large amounts of vitamin A can increase the risk of birth defects.
Useful for: General health and wellbeing, particularly if you want to boost your immunity.
Flaxseed oil is a rich source of the omega-3 alpha-linoleic acid (ALA). ALA is a short-chain fatty acid which is not as easily converted in the body to EPA and DHA.
Pros: Flaxseed oil not only contains omega-3s but also phytoestrogens, which are thought to reduce the risk of oestrogen-dependent cancers. This supplement is also suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
Cons: The conversion process is poor and can be impeded by a number of factors, including a diet rich in saturated fats and deficiencies in the vitamins and minerals needed for the conversion. Research shows that less than 10% of ALA converts to EPA , and even less to DHA.
Useful for: General health and wellbeing, particularly in women.
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