It’s no great secret that fish oil is good for us.
It’s one of the most highly researched nutrients in the world with benefits spanning from brain health to our hair, skin and nails and reducing inflammation.
With the convenience of it being available in a supplement, fish oil has become a popular addition to many household cabinets. Available for purchase everywhere from pharmacies, health food shops, supermarkets, influencers, and pop-up online stores - the fish oil market is vast and omnipresent. However, like all booming markets, with popularity comes competition and the production of a range of products that vary widely in quality.
Unfortunately, many fish oil supplements don’t meet the standards of what’s needed to actually have an impact on your health, with some even being harmful to your health.
A quick glossary:
- Fish Oil: Any oil from fish
- Omega-3s: Fatty acids found in fish, nuts, tofu, and seeds.
- DHA and EPA: The two omega-3s that positively support our health that are found in fish
Why is Fish Oil So Good For Us?
It has been found that we need a diet rich in healthy omega-3 fats to support almost all bodily functions, but specifically for:
- Reducing inflammation
- Aiding Immune function
- Cardiovascular health
- Mental wellbeing
- Brain health
- Cognitive function
- Healthy hair, skin and nails
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats, which means that our body cannot make these substances itself and needs to ingest them frequently to survive. Because of this, essential fatty acids like DHA and EPA (which are found in oily fish), need to be consumed regularly from food sources (such as salmon, mackerel and anchovies) or added to our diet via an omega-3 rich supplement, like a quality fish oil.
EPA and DHA are the two major players when it comes to essential fatty acids and the most important to look for in high levels when choosing your fish oil. They play an essential role in reducing inflammation and are the building blocks for hormones that control immune function, cell growth and normal metabolism.
To help sort the good oil from the bad, we’ve refreshed our handy fish oil checklist, based on the latest scientific research and our 15 years of clinical experience to support you in knowing what to look for.
Your Ultimate Fish Oil Check List
While it’s fantastic that the world is switching on to the power of nutrients and more people are starting to make and take them, it’s more important than ever to check what you’re putting into your body is helping rather than hurting your health.
Note to self - cheap supplements often mean cheap ingredients, but unfortunately even expensive supplements can skimp on the important elements such as strength, quality and purity.
To keep it simple for us all, here’s the ultimate checklist for choosing your fish oil based on science, research and our 15 years of clinical experience;
Check the total amount of EPA and DHA combined equals at least at least 1000-2000mg
2. Purity & Oxidation
Check it's been tested for heavy metals
As our oceans experience more pressure from pollution it's important to check your fish oil has been tested for heavy metals. If not, you may be ingesting toxic heavy metals (like mercury) in your fish oil supplements that harm your health. If a brand has carried out this check, they’ll tell you about it!
Check that your omega-3 fats aren’t damaged
Check that it’s sustainably sourced
1. Choose a fish oil product that chooses sustainability. Check NZ’s ‘Best Fish Guide’ and avoid any fish that is at risk.
2. Small fish such as sardines are generally best as they are abundant in our oceans PLUS being a small top feeding fish they are also more free of heavy metals and toxins. Win - win!
As a bonus tip, it’s also helpful to look for what other nutrients have been included in your fish oil supplement. Check for supporting vitamins in the formulation - such as Vitamin E and iron - to prevent oxidation. However, keep an eye on the amount of vitamin A: A lot of brands will add vitamin A to their fish oil but too much can be bad for the liver. It should not exceed 1000IU per serve. Don’t exceed 10,000 IU a day of vitamin A.
A Closer Look at the Science: DHA and EPA - What Are They and Why Are They So Important?
The two omega-3s most important to our health are EPA and DHA.
EPA stands for: Eicosapentaenoic acid.
DHA stands for: Docosahexaenoic acid
You may have heard the phrase, ‘essential fatty acid’ floating about. Both EPA and DHA are essential fatty acids and we use this term when we describe fatty acids that cannot be synthesised by our bodies, and therefore we need to consume regularly.
EPA and DHA are two types of omega-3 fatty acids that cannot be made in the body, and for that reason they must be consumed from dietary sources (such as salmon) or an omega-3 rich supplement, like fish oil! There are also algae sources for shellfish allergies, and vegans.
Both are found in the meat of cold water fatty fish like salmon. They are both easily absorbed by the body because of the fact that they come from fish, as opposed to plants.
DHA has been shown in particular to support brain, eye and heart health, whilst EPA supports cardiovascular and brain blood circulation, inflammation and depression or low mood.
As with all supplements, they are a concentrated source of a nutrient or herb that allow us to get the benefits when we can’t get enough of the food at high enough nutrient densities that we need for wellness.
Look for DHA and EPA that have been molecularly distilled to concentrations that your body needs (at least 1000 - 2000mg) while also ensuring it’s a company that you can trust to have used quality processing and testing for purity from toxins.
For context, BePure Three has a combined total of 1400mg of active ingredients (EPA and DHA).
So, what's the bottom line?
The quality of your fish oil is more important than anything else. If the quality is bad, it will do more harm than good.
- Amount: Look for at least 1000mg of DHA and EPA (combined). Keep an eye on vitamin A levels as well as other protecting nutrients like iron and vitamin E.
- Source: Look for fish oil that has come from fish in the South Pacific as they're less likely to be contaminated with mercury.
- Sustainability: Look for fish oil from fish at the bottom of the food chain, they're the most abundant!
- Packaging: Look for dark bottles and dark capsules which will protect the oil from light.