We all know we should be taking an omega 3 supplement, but how do we know which is the best fish oil for us? There are so many brands and variations in strengths on the market; it can very quickly become overwhelming. Knowing what to look for and how to read the labels is essential if you want to choose correctly. Here are a few factors to consider to ensure you choose the right omega 3 supplement for you specifically:
- Look for the potency of the oil:
The first thing to look at when considering a fish oil is the amount of oil per capsule. This will vary anywhere between 100mg – 2000mg of fish oil. We then need to concentrate on the amount of EPA/DHA per serve. EPA and DHA are the key components that provide the anti-inflammatory benefits to omega-3 oil, as well as support cardiovascular health, increase blood flow and improve cholesterol.
If you compared two different 1000mg fish oils, they may have different qualities of EPA/DHA simply due to the quality of the oil encapsulated. Go for fish oil that has at least 180mg EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) and 120mg DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) per 1000mg of fish oil. The higher the amount of EPA/DHA per capsule, the higher the quality and therefore benefits of the fish oil will provide. Concentrated forms of fish oil can sometimes be more expensive, but it often means you are having to consume less capsules per day, making it cheaper in the long run.
- Has the oil been tested for heavy metals?
Fish and shellfish can contain concentrated amounts of heavy metals such as mercury which means it is important to find out if the fish oil we buy has been tested for such contaminants. Look for fish oil that has passed the international standards for testing of PCB’s, heavy metals, dioxins and other contaminants. This information should be supplied on the label itself.
- How fresh is the oil? All oils are susceptible to oxidation, and omega-3 is no exception. If the oil becomes oxidised (exposure to light, heat or air), it can become rancid making it more likely to cause inflammation in the body. Look for fish oils that are sealed well, in containers that will not expose the fish oil to light. Keep the oils in the container and store them correctly according to the recommendations on pack. Be sure to note the expiry date on pack and be realistic with your time frame.
- Is the fish sustainably sourced?
Look for a supplier that ensures the fish are harvested in a sustainable manner and that the fish are not a species that are under threat. The exact fish source may be specified on the label.
- What about the price?
Price is not always an indicator of quality, however generally speaking cheaper fish oils are usually not the best quality. When it comes to fish oils you do get what you pay for. Comparing the EPA/DHA amount is another way to ensure you are paying for a quality product. You can work out exactly how many capsules or the amount of EPA/DHA you will need, to then compare prices. Quite often there will be a recommendation on the label to give an indication of how many capsules you will need for general wellbeing.
If you have any questions or concerns in regards to which omega 3 supplement is best for you, it is best to discuss with your GP or healthcare practitioner.