This article on Omega 3 fish oil supplements covers the following topics:

  • What Are Omega-3’s
  • Are Omega-3s The Same As Fish Oil?
  • How Do You Know If You Need Omega 3 Fish Oil?
  • Benefits of Taking Omega-3 Fish Oil
  • How Do Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplements Work?
  • Foods Highest in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
  • Can You Get Enough Omega-3s From The Diet?
  • Qualities Of A Good Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplement
  • The Best Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplement

Spoiler alert! 

Yes, you should absolutely take an omega-3 fish oil supplement. 

If you have any inflammatory condition like type 2 diabetes, obesity, osteoarthritis—and, honestly, who doesn’t have one these days—taking fish oil is a must. 

That unequivocal reality may sound like a bitter pill to swallow—or, more accurately, a burpy, fishy-smelling capsule to swallow. Good news: I have a recommendation for an omega-3 fish oil supplement that doesn’t come up on you. (More on this below.)

But in the crucial fight against chronic inflammation, which is the root cause of virtually every disease, taking an omega-3 fish oil is one of your best weapons. 

In a perfect world, we’d get all the nutrients we need, like omega-3s, from our diet. 

However, because food manufacturers have us hooked on inflammatory crap that fires up the dopamine-reward center of our brain, we need omega-3 fish oils to come to our defense. Perhaps, though, I’m getting ahead of myself, and I should start at the very beginning…

What are Omega-3s?

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat that play crucial roles in maintaining overall health. Omega-3s are essential fatty acids because your body does not make this building block of fat on its own. Now, maybe you’re thinking, “Why would I want a building block of fat in my body? I have enough fat to spare!” 

OK, fair enough, good point. But here’s the thing. There are actually some fats in the body that actually help you fight excessive fat storage and offer many more benefits. Omega-3s fit that bill. 

OK. So here’s what else you need to know. There are three main types of omega-3s: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Don’t worry about sounding out or memorizing the full name. Here are the important takeaways about these 3 omega-3 essential fatty acids.

ALA is primarily found in plant sources like flaxseeds, walnuts, and chia seeds. These foods are healthy, and you should definitely include them in your diet. But there’s a downside to ALA. It’s not as potent as EPA and DHA, which are predominantly found in fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines.

Are Omega-3s The Same as Fish Oil?

Fish oil is a popular source of omega-3 fatty acids. But it’s not the same thing as omega-3s. Fish oil contains EPA and DHA, the two most biologically active (potent) forms of omega-3s. This makes fish oil one of the best sources of omega-3s, assuming that the omega-3 fish oil supplement is high quality. (More on this below.) Fatty, cold-water fish like salmon are high in Omega-3s because they eat lots of algae, which is naturally rich in this healthy fat.

The body does a poor job converting ALA (the vegetarian source) into the more potent EPA and DHA. This is why I recommend that pretty much everybody should take an omega-3 fish oil supplement.

How Do You Know If You Need An Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplements? 

If you don’t have type 2 diabetes, obesity, arthritis, or any other diagnosed disease, how do you know if you should take fish oil? 

Well, how do you feel in general? If you feel amazing with lots of energy, a healthy immune system, and no pain or swelling, then maybe you don’t need fish oil. The reality, however, is that most people experience joint pain and stiffness, fatigue, and poor memory and concentration. If you’ve got one or more of those symptoms, omega-3 fish oil can help. Plus, if you have dry skin, brittle nails, thinning hair, and mood swings, these are also indications you likely have a fatty acid deficiency. 

But you can’t know for sure if you’re deficient in fatty acids unless you take a test. Comprehensive health assessments through lab testing are one of the services I offer in my functional medicine practice here in Norfolk, NE. (I see clients at the Diabetes & Wellness Clinic on S. 13th St.). 

Let’s assume, however, that you do have a fatty acid deficiency. We’ll now take a look at why you should take fish oil capsules…

Benefits of Taking Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplements

Omega 3 fatty acids are crucial in brain health, cardiovascular function, and inflammation regulation. Research suggests that omega-3s may support cognitive function, alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety, and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Not only that, omega-3s exhibit anti-inflammatory properties, which may benefit individuals with conditions like arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.

How Do Omega 3 Fish Oil Supplements Work?

Warning: I’m about to geek out on some of the science behind omega-3 supplements. If you’re not interested in this section, skip ahead. The important takeaway is that omega-3 fish oil supplements support your cells, lower inflammation, and protect the cardiovascular system as well as the eyes and brain.

  1. Cell Membrane Structure: EPA and DHA are incorporated into cell membranes, where they help maintain membrane fluidity and integrity. This is particularly important for brain, retina, and cardiovascular cells, where omega-3 fatty acids play crucial roles in function and structure.
  2. Anti-Inflammatory Effects: Omega-3 fatty acids are known for their anti-inflammatory properties. They compete with omega-6 fatty acids, another type of fatty acid prevalent in the Western diet, for incorporation into cell membranes. By reducing the production of pro-inflammatory molecules derived from omega-6 fatty acids, EPA and DHA help mitigate inflammation in the body. (Ultra-processed foods are ultra high in Omega-6 fatty acids. Too many Omega-6s in the diet contribute to inflammation.)
  3. Cardiovascular Health: EPA and DHA lower triglyceride levels, reduce blood pressure, and improve endothelial (inner lining of blood vessels) function, all contributing to a decreased risk of heart disease and stroke.
  4. Brain Health: DHA is abundant in the brain and plays a crucial role in cognitive function and development. It is involved in neurotransmitter signaling, synaptic plasticity, and maintaining neuronal membranes. (These 3 actions keep your brain sharp and tickin’!) EPA has also been shown to support mood regulation and may help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  5. Eye Health: DHA is a major component of the retina, where it contributes to visual development and function. Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to a reduced risk of age-related macular degeneration and other eye conditions.

Foods Highest in Omega-3s

While fish, particularly fatty fish, reigns supreme as a source of omega-3s, several other foods boast impressive omega-3 content. Flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, and soybeans are all rich sources of ALA, while algae and seaweed provide vegan-friendly options for obtaining EPA and DHA. If you enjoy eating salmon (I love it fresh off the grill!), try to eat it at least a few times a week. Eggs are another good source of Omega-3s. 

Can You Get Enough Omega-3s from Food?

Despite the abundance of omega-3-rich foods, many individuals struggle to meet their recommended intake solely through diet. Factors such as dietary preferences, access to fresh seafood, and cooking methods can impact omega-3 consumption. (Don’t overcook the salmon!) That’s why I make the blanket statement that everybody needs to take an Omega 3 fish oil supplement. 

Qualities to Look for in an Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplement

Quality matters. We’ve all heard that before. This logic also applies to selecting an omega-3 supplement. Look for products that provide ample amounts of EPA and DHA. You need a ton of EPA/DHA to fight chronic inflammation. Remember, these are the most biologically active forms of omega-3s. Choose supplements that undergo third-party testing for purity and potency to ensure product quality and safety. Additionally, consider factors like sustainability, sourcing practices, and form (liquid vs. soft gel) when selecting.

The quality of an omega-3 supplement hinges on various factors, including the source of the omega-3s, the manufacturing process, and the presence of contaminants. Choose supplements that are sourced from reputable manufacturers with transparent production practices and certifications from independent testing organizations. I personally look for molecularly distilled fish oil because it removes impurities like heavy metals and PCBs. These heavy metals not only harm your health, they can make it difficult to lose weight.

My Favorite Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplement

In my functional medicine practice, I recommend Nordic Naturals Pro Omega 2000 to my clients. It’s basically prescription-strength, with over 2000 mg of the highest potency of Omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA (1125 of EPA and 875 DHA). If you have inflammation in your body—and you just know you do if you don’t feel good—taking a daily Omega 3 fish oil supplement can be a game changer. Of course, learning how to eat healthier while still enjoying your life is important. And that’s something else I can show you how to do. 

Before you start taking a fish oil supplement, the first step to reclaiming your health is to give me a call. Schedule an appointment with me here

Until next time, 

Jenna Witt, NP