If you’ve been into health and fitness to any degree, you have most likely heard of fish oil and its many benefits, but what if I told you there are a few different versions of this supplement you probably don’t know about?
Most vegetarians or vegans know very well the existence of flaxseed oil, as it is one of the only vegetarian Omega-3 sources. The last supplement I’m going to talk about is still relatively unknown, and instead of being harvested from fish, it comes from tiny crustaceans called krill.
Which supplement is best and most worth your money?
In this article I will be explaining why everybody reading this can benefit from an Omega-3 supplement as well as describing each of these Omega-3 rich oils.
Why Do We Need Omega-3s?
In a previous post I wrote comprehensively about where Omega 3 comes from and the best sources. Omega 3s are one of the most important macro-nutrients every fitness fanatic and healthy individual should be consuming; they are an extremely healthy way to get your daily dose of healthy fat.
In short, they are a form of polyunsaturated fats, and yes it is a good fat. Comprised of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), these two have numerous health benefits which every human on earth can use to their advantage. From lowering cholesterol, strengthening blood vessels, lowering plaque buildup, to decreasing the risk of developing diabetes, several types of cancers, and rheumatoid arthritis/ overall joint pain, these Omega-3’s are unmatched in their protective abilities in our body.
Omega-3s can be found in many natural sources such as fatty fish, phytoplankton, flaxseeds, walnuts, chia seeds, and soybeans. But unfortunately, the majority of our western population doesn’t have the time and or cravings to eat the recommended 2,500 mg of Omega-3s a day. Which equates to about three servings of fish a week, or a daily serving of the vegetarian sources mentioned (as they are not as rich in EPA and DHA).
What this means is that every health conscious and or active individual should be investing in a high-quality Omega-3 supplement. But as I will explain, each of the supplements are for a certain type of individual, as some will only need one form of Omega-3, while others might benefit from taking all of them.
The Best Fish Oil
Probably the most popular Omega-3 supplement, fish oil has been raved over the past decade with its seemingly limitless number of benefits.
From lowering cholesterol, triglycerides, inflammation, to increasing recovery from exercise, clearing up the skin and keeping your joints healthy, fish oil seems like it can be used by almost anybody for one purpose or another.
Usually made from small fish like sardines or anchovies, this makes most fish oil safe as the smaller fish used have less heavy metals that bigger fish like tuna or salmon would have. A single concentrated pill can contain up to 500 mg of combined EPA and DHA, which is enough for a single day.
Fish oil does have its downsides though, because it can easily go rancid. This will lead to possible illness and ineffectiveness of the supplement meaning you wasted your money. This can be prevented if you store your fish oil in a room temperature or lower room, away from direct sunlight, and stored with the lid tightly sealed.
A moderately priced fish oil should contain about 750 mg- 1000 mg of total Omega-3s per pill and sell for around $20 (containing 90 softgels). Pills with this much Omega-3s are considered a 1-a-day meaning you don’t need to scarf down three or four pills at one time. But since the recommended amount is almost triple what’s in each pill, I recommend taking one pill in the morning and one before bed if you diet for the day was lacking in food high in Omega-3.
Anybody who wants to supplement Omega-3s for cardiovascular health, to help lower cholesterol, or get an array of cognitive benefits, fish oil will be your go to supplement.
Superfood Flaxseed Oil
A food and supplement that is becoming increasingly more popular in the past half-decade, flaxseed has been touted as one of the next best superfoods.
Its powdered form made by simply grounding up the flaxseed has a very high amount of fiber, magnesium, potassium, and yes Omega-3s. Although unlike fish oil, the Omega-3s in flaxseed come from a source called ALA, or alpha linoleic acid. ALA has a wide variety of its own health benefits as it is an antioxidant, but it is not the same as EPA and DHA.
Under certain circumstances, ALA can be converted to EPA and DHA in the body, but only at around 5-10% for the former and 2-5% for the latter. What this means for you is that you would need to take 10,000 mg of flaxseed oil to get about 100 mg of EPA and 50 mg of DHA.
Of course, nobody will be able to consume that much in one sitting, meaning as a source of DHA and EPA, flaxseed oil is definitely lacking behind fish oil. But for vegetarians and vegans, eating foods like flaxseed, walnuts, soybeans, chia seeds, and other foods high in Omega-3s as well as flaxseed oil can amount to noticeable benefits similar to individuals taking a high-quality fish oil.
Best of Krill Oil
As we come to the third and final Omega-3 on this list, we are also at the least known and utilized source of high-quality EHA and DHA.
This source of Omega-3 comes from Antarctic crustaceans known as krill or phytoplankton. It is important to mention that krill harvesting laws are strictly regulated so unlike fish oil, there is no chance we will hunt krill to extinction, making their source of Omega-3s somewhat more sustainable.
Krill oil and fish oil are almost exactly similar besides two major factors. In addition to a lower dose of EPA and DHA, krill oil has a potent antioxidant called Astaxanthin, which along with other antioxidants can have multiple benefits not found in fish oil. Including fighting free radicals that could cause various types of cancer, reducing inflammation around the body, boosting the immune system and even reducing sunburns.
Critics of krill oil will say that it has maybe a tenth of the EPA and DHA found in fish oil, but this is not a problem. The EPA and DHA in krill oil are bound to phospholipids, meaning it is extremely bioavailable in the body. What this means for you is that you don’t need nearly as much EPA and DHA from krill oil to receive the same benefits as fish oil.
While fish oil is best used for helping lowering cholesterol and various cognitive benefits, krill oil seems to be specifically helpful for decreasing joint inflammation and pain. And in some studies krill oil has been shown to protect the cartilage in our joints. Although it is slightly more expensive, at around $25 for 90 capsules, in my opinion the price can be easily justified for anybody who lifts weights or runs actively to help protect your joints.
Take Home Message
So what does this all mean? It might be hard to decrypt all the information laid out in this article especially if it was new to you, luckily I will keep it simple and concise. If you can afford it, try to get all three supplements in your daily diet!
Invest in a high-quality one-a-day fish oil and krill oil, and either get liquid flax oil to get a larger amount in at one time or invest in ground flaxseed (as whole flaxseeds don’t get digested in your body). If you only have, let’s say, $30 in disposable income, find a good fish oil and get some ALA into your diet as well.
Krill oil is not as much of a necessity as fish oil is, but like I said if you can afford it then krill oil will be worth your money. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you can reap most if not all the health benefits from EPA and DHA, you just need to eat much more ALA from sources such as chia, flax, soy and nuts. Now is also a good time to mention that Omega-3 supplementation is not needed if you eat the recommended three servings of fish a week.
Check out our supplement guide here!