Omega-3 fatty acids have become pretty popular in the past few years as more and more people learn about their incredible health benefits. And, thankfully, there’s more than one way to get your daily intake of omega-3s. Two of the more popular ways to ensure you’re getting enough omega-3 is by taking a fish oil or flaxseed oil supplement. Some people swear by flaxseed oil, while others believe that fish oil is a better source. So, which should you choose? Well, let’s start at the beginning…
What Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids, meaning your body can’t naturally make them. But they are essential fats, so your body has to get them from somewhere. And that somewhere is food. There are three primary types of omega-3 fatty acids: 1. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) – found mostly in fish 2. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – found mostly in fish 3. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) – found in vegetable oils, nuts, flax seeds, leafy veggies, and grass-fed animals.1 Now, your body can actually convert ALA to EPA and then into DHA – but only in small amounts at a time. So, it’s often advised that you get a good mix of all three types of omega-3 fatty acids.2
Why are these fats so “essential”?
Well, they’re an important part of the membranes that surround every cell in your body. Omega-3s also support your energy levels, and your overall health, as your body performs critical functions in your heart, blood vessels, and immune system. They could even help with hormone production.3
What does that mean for your health in the here and now?
Over the years, research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids could be useful in helping keep you sharp as you age, supporting heart health, and keeping your skin and joints comfortable, among other ailments.4 In fact, one study found that up to 96,000 deaths may be attributable to low dietary levels of omega-3 fatty acids.5 Now, let’s take a closer look at those two most popular sources of omega-3 fatty acids…
Fish vs Flaxseed Oil
1. Fish Oil
“Marine Omega-3,” or fish oil, “is derived from cold-water, oily fish. It contains eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The best (and most sustainable) fish you should focus on for omega-3 benefits include wild-caught salmon, sardines, mussels, rainbow trout, and Atlantic mackerel.6 Or, you can find a good supplement. One major benefit of fish oil’s omega-3 is that it clearly doesn’t need to be converted by your body first. The DHA is ready to go to work immediately.
2. Flaxseed Oil
There are many plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids, but flaxseed oil is by far one the best, richest sources.7 The issue that flaxseed oil faces is that it’s often seen as the lesser choice to fish oil because it needs to be converted to DHA in your body. But don’t discount flaxseed oil too quickly. Though only 10-15 percent of flax oil may get converted to EPA and DHA, that still means that one tablespoon will produce around 700 mg of EPA and DHA. And that’s much more than a standard fish oil capsule, which tends to contain around 300 mg.8 Flaxseed oil is still a great source of omega-3, and it’s also a great choice to use as a dressing on salads or vegetables. Plus, it’s the vegetarian Omega-3 option.
Should I Choose One Over the Other?
The reasons for choosing fish oil over flaxseed oil (or vice versa) really comes down to personal taste:
- If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you’re going to want to choose flaxseed oil, as it is plant based.
- Fish oils are very low in mercury, but some people still prefer to avoid them.9 However, don’t rule them out because of this. Do your research, and choose a trustworthy, safe brand.
- If you don’t like a fishy aftertaste with your supplements, you may prefer flaxseed oil.
But here’s the real bottom line …
You Don’t Have to Choose!
In the battle of fish vs flaxseed oil, there’s no loser. Both choices are winners. That’s because both fish oil and flaxseed oil are brimming with wonderful fatty acids.
And, when combined, these oils provide an even stronger force against “evil” health conditions.
Ruling out one to favor the other means you are significantly cutting out an essential nutrient from your diet. If you naturally eat a lot of fatty fish, perhaps you can complement it with some flaxseed oil supplements. If you love your fish oil capsules, try using flaxseed oil on your salads and veggies. And never rule out eating regular amounts of fatty fish, nuts, and leafy veggies – unless your personal dietary requirements prevent you from doing so. Learn More: 6 Amazing Benefits of Avocado Oil Easy One Pan Meal: Salmon, Asparagus & Sweet Potatoes (VIDEO) DHA Health Benefits & Best Food Sources of DHA (including vegan options) Sources 1.https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-and-cholesterol/types-of-fat/omega-3-fats/ 2.http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/other-nutrients/essential-fatty-acids 3.https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-Consumer/ 4.https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/17-health-benefits-of-omega-3 5.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2667673/ 6.https://www.ewg.org/research/ewgs-good-seafood-guide/executive-summary#.Wv84JVMvx0c 7.https://healthyflax.org/health/ask-expert.php 8.https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/why-not-flaxseed-oil 9.https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/22/whats-in-your-fish-oil-supplements/