Did you know that there are different types of fish oils? We’re not just talking about omega-3 fatty acids here. We have another article just for that. We’re simply here to speak about fish oils, the common types, their differences and which might be best for you.
Fish oil comes from the body tissues of oily fish. But it’s essential to note that fish oil doesn’t contain only the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Some types of fish oils contain other nutrients too. The fish themselves don’t make the oil. They acquire and store it by consuming prey fish (the smaller, full of fear ones) and microalgae.
Common Types of Fish Oils
Let’s look at the approximate omega-3 content in different types of fish oils per tablespoon (14g).
Type of fish oil
Omega-3 fatty acid content Per Tablespoon (14g)
Nutrients and other comments
Best to look for one sourced from wild salmon.
Cod liver (oil from the liver of cod fish)
A great source of vitamins A and D.
Also contains small amounts of vitamin D.
A lower risk of heavy metals than the larger fish.
Krill oil (not actually a fish, but plankton)
Predominantly available in supplement form. Supplements typically contain from 150mg to 300mg of omega-3’s per 1000mg of krill oil.
Naturally contains astaxanthin, a super antioxidant to guard against cellular free radical damage.
Rich in phospholipids to support cell membrane health.
Algae Oil (marine microalgae)
Predominantly available in supplement form. Supplements typically contain from 300mg to 500mg of omega-3’s per 1000mg of microalgae oil.
Naturally high in DHA necessary for brain development and health.
Recent study suggests that it may lower triglycerides and raise healthy HDL cholesterol levels.
Of course, there are other types of fish oils available, but we have just listed some of the most common ones. Now let’s proceed to buying fish oil supplements…
What to look for when buying fish oil supplements
Fish oil supplements are a good way to get adequate omega-3 essential fatty acids in your diet, especially if you don’t often eat fish. Watch out though, there are some things you have to consider first before buying them.
Freshness. Fish oil is exquisitely sensitive to oxidation. When it oxidises, it becomes rancid. Rancid oils do the opposite of fresh fish oils. Instead of being anti-inflammatory, they become pro-inflammatory. Of course, we don’t want that. Make sure you buy fresh fish oils and always check the expiry date. A good product will contain antioxidants to stop the fish oil from oxidising.
They must be pure! Avoid fish oils high in mercury. Other contaminants include dioxins, PCBs, and other heavy metals. The best rule of thumb is to look for fish oil supplements made from the smaller fish such as anchovies, sardines and herrings. These are lower down in the food chain, so they accumulate fewer toxins from eating other fish. Look at the label to see if a third party laboratory has inspected and tested the product for contaminants. If not, then look for another brand shows this kind of testing.
Potency. How much of the good stuff (EPA, DHA, other nutrients) are contained in your fish oil supplement? Look for the highest levels of DHA and EPA per capsule when comparing brands. Though depending on what you’re taking the oil for, you may want higher DHA or higher EPA levels.
Other nutrients? All of our fishy friends have both EPA and DHA in varying amounts. Fortunately for some, they have additional nutrients like fat-soluble vitamins that are hard to get from foods unless you eat like a ton of them. As you can see from the table above, these include vitamins A & D and the antioxidant astaxanthin.
Sustainability. Make sure that you eat the type of fish that’s abundant in nature so you don’t help to wipe out those types dwindling in numbers, okay? Saving Mother Earth includes the fish too. This will depend on where you live. If in doubt get algae oil instead which is usually sustainably grown for omega-3 algae supplements.
Bioavailability. The most bioavailable form of fish oil is the natural triglyceride form. Basically the form the oil is in within the fish. Look out for this on the label. Your digestive system has to absorb them first so your body can appreciate their full benefits. Its also best to take them with food to enhance absorption.
How much do they cost? Do your homework to find the best quality for the best price. But don’t compromise quality for a better price. Your health may pay the price.
Be careful when and where you buy fish oil supplements from. Make sure you buy from a trusted source. Lastly, the state of your health, medications you’re taking, whether you’re pregnant or not, and if you’re allergic to fish oil should all be taken into consideration before going on a fish oil expedition.