Welcome to part two of All About Omega's. If you have not read part one, you should definitely start there.
All aboard for part two of our journey.
In order for many people to get enough omega-three, it is necessary for them to take a supplement. Remember to check with your doctor before starting any supplement.
With so many omega-three supplement choices, how do you know which one to take?
Seeing as whole foods are the best way to get omega-three (and all other nutrients), the best omega-three supplements would be as close to whole food as possible. Check out our blog article to learn more about real versus fake whole food supplements.
The most well-known type of omega-three supplement is fish oil. You can get them from a variety of fish including salmon, anchovy, sardine, cod livers, and sometimes from squid. All fish have similar fatty acids, just in different ratios and amounts. Some oils, like cod liver, may have additional vitamins or beneficial compounds, such as alkylglycerols in ratfish.
Other less common types of omega-3 supplements are krill oils, algae oils, ratfish oil, and fish roe. We do not count flax, chia, or hemp oils as omega-three supplements for the reasons we outlined in part one.
The first things to consider when choosing a fish oil supplement are sustainability and ethics.
Fish oil companies may often tell you the country of origin of their oil, but that is not really enough and actually tells you very little. Here are some important questions that you need to ask to find out more about where your fish oil comes from and how sustainable it is:
Are huge bottom trawlers used, or are they line-caught by small fishermen, and how is this verified?
Huge bottom trawlers are terrible for the environment. This causes a massive loss of sea life and often damages the local environment, such as harming coral reefs.
What is the state of the fishery they come from, and how is this verified?
You should be able to look up the fishery and see reports on how well it is managed from a source other than the company.
Can the fish be traced back to the boat they came from?
Traceability back to the boat is key to verifying all of the other sustainability and ethical claims.
Are the fisherman well compensated for their work?
Everyone deserves a living wage. In addition, there is a lot of slavery involved in the seafood trade, so knowing that the fish is caught without slavery is incredibly important.
What percent of bycatch is there, and how is it verified?
Bycatch is the fish or marine life that is caught that the fisherman was not aiming to catch. Bycatch is a huge problem in the fishing industry and results in massive amounts of marine creatures being killed needlessly.
Bycatch ideally should be less than one percent.
Ethically sourced fish oil should be produced with nearly no bycatch.
The next question is how long it takes for the fish to get to the processing facility. Just like with fish you buy, the fresher, the better. Most fish oils are made from the rendered by-product of fish meal processing facilities, and needless to say, this is not going to be the freshest. They need a lot of processing and added flavorings to turn it into a palatable oil.
After that, you should ask how is the fish oil made and who makes it. Most companies do not make their own oil. They simply buy bulk oil and bottle it or have it bottled for them. Ideally, you want companies who control the process from boat to bottle.
Nearly all fish oil supplements are heavily processed. This is done to remove contaminants and improve the flavor. While these processes may “clean” the oil, they come at a heavy cost.
As with any food, heavy processing removes beneficial nutrients and compounds. Think of whole wheat bread versus white bread.
Here are some of the steps that traditional fish oil products go through:
Separation and removal of phospholipids
Deodorization via hot steam
Removes some free fatty acids
Increases the concentration of some fatty acids and removes others.
Remove contaminants such as heavy metals and PCBs.
Changes the structure of the fatty acids.
The fatty acids are no longer in their natural form.
Some companies produce an ethyl ester form (a form of fat not found in food), others produce monoglycerides, and many companies try to reattach the triglyceride backbone. This reesterified triglyceride form is not identical to the natural triglyceride form found in fish.
There are ongoing lawsuits that are challenging whether these altered fatty acid supplements should be allowed to be called fish oil as they do not occur in fish.
Removes most of the vitamin content.
Many companies will add synthetic vitamins A and D back to their oils, while others will sell the oil without the vitamins or very low levels of them.
You can see that each of these processes removes something from the oil. While it is a good thing to remove the contaminants from the oil, removing all of those other beneficial compounds is not a good thing.
What if there was a better way? A way that removed the contaminants but left the oil in its original state with the naturally occurring nutrients and beneficial compounds still there.
We always recommend true whole-food supplements whenever possible. They are simply better in every way. Finding a fish oil that was truly whole food was not an easy task. There were a lot of companies claiming to sell them, saying their process was raw or unheated. However, those claims usually turned out to be false. For example, there were quite a few companies that claimed that their Alaskan salmon oil was raw when in fact, it was treated with hot steam and other refining processes. Very often, companies who sold the bottled oil were not actually aware of how their oil was actually being produced.
Other times, they came from fisheries that were not sustainable and becoming overfished or the fish were caught in ways that produced a lot of bycatch and damaged the local environments, such as bottom trawling.
We wanted an oil that was:
Strict government monitoring and regulation of the fishery.
The fishermen are paid a fair wage for their work, and no slavery is used.
Traceable from boat to bottle
The company should produce its own oil from fresh fish.
Incredibly fresh and pure
The fish get to the processing facility very quickly.
Every batch is third-party tested to ensure low levels of rancidity.
The liquid bottles are nitrogen-flushed to protect the oil from oxygen.
Every batch third-party tested for contaminants like lead, cadmium, mercury, PCBs, and dioxins.
Every batch third-party tested for radioactivity.
Every batch third-party tested for microplastics
This one was very important. With more microplastics ending up in the environment every day, it was so important to us that the fish oil be free of microplastics. Unfortunately, most fish oil companies do not test for this.
Truly whole food
We wanted an oil that was not refined.
One that kept the fatty acids in their natural state.
One that retained all the beneficial nutrients and beneficial compounds.
This gentle, cold processing removes the contaminants, keeps the fatty acids in their natural state, preserves all the naturally occurring nutrients, and keeps the oil fresh.
While it was not easy, we were very excited to actually find a company that produced an oil that checked all of our boxes. That brand is Rosita Real Foods.
Rosita's oils are line-caught near the Island of Donna by small, fisherman-owned Norwegian fishing boats, virtually eliminating bycatch. There is no trawling whatsoever. The fishery is strictly monitored and protected by the Norwegian government. They have some of the most stringent regulations in the world. These rules have allowed the fishery to thrive, while in many other places, codfish populations are in decline.
The cod livers go right from the boats to the processing facility, which is located just a few minutes away from the docks. As fresh as can be!
Check out this great video with one of the fishermen:
Look how beautiful the fishery is (hopefully, one day, we can all visit):
While most fish oils are the same color all year round because of the heavy processing, this
incredible oil actually has a different color throughout the year because the diet of the cod changes. This also causes the taste of the oil to change throughout the year as well. Rosita's cod and ratfish oils are truly the gold of the ocean.
While many people actually like the taste of whole-food cod liver oil, some people are not fans of the flavor. Here are some great ways to disguise the taste:
Give it flavor! Add a hint of licorice, ginger, or lemon
Mix it into a smoothie.
Add it to a tangy juice.
Try adding it to yogurt, raw cream, raw honey, maple syrup, apple sauce, or even peanut butter.
Use a chaser. Try a slice of lemon or a crisp cucumber.
Use an ice cube tray and freeze it into small pieces that you can swallow.
Beat the oil into a bit of fresh-squeezed orange juice to emulsify it.
The I don't want to taste it method:
Pour your oil into the glass measuring cup.
In a drinking glass put a couple of ounces of cold water or juice.
Hold your breath and swallow the oil
Then drink the water and don’t breathe until after you swallow the water.
Chase with a lemon or lime slice like you would after a shot of tequila.
How much omega-three do you need?
We get this question a lot. It is a complicated question. As with most supplements, a focus was put on a few isolated fatty acids or compounds instead of the whole food. It started with EPA and DHA, then companies started finding out the benefits of DPA, and that became a hot compound to advertise. Then it moved to SPMs (specialized pro-resolving mediators). Soon it will be another fatty acid or compound that gets promoted. It becomes a moving target, get more of this fatty acid, no, this one is better, no, that one, and you need this amount. This is a major problem in the supplement industry. They are always chasing the next big thing that they can isolate and make a lot of money on. There are so many wonderful fatty acids and beneficial compounds in omega-three-rich foods that focusing on one or two will always leave you missing out. Instead of focusing on how much of a particular fatty acid or compound to get, focus on getting more omega-three rich whole foods in your diet, to ensure you get a good amount of a wide variety of these beneficial compounds and fatty acids. If you are not eating enough of them, have health issues, or are eating too much omega-six then you should consider adding a whole-food fish oil supplement. When choosing an omega supplement remember that every major medical and scientific organization agrees that whole foods are the best way to get your omega-three, so we want our fish oil supplement to contain a full spectrum of beneficial fatty acids and compounds, just like you get when eating fish, not just a few isolated fatty acids.
Remember to talk to your healthcare practitioner before starting fish oil, especially if you take blood-thinning medications like Warfarin or medications that affect clotting, such as Plavix.
There are a number of factors that determine how much omega-3 you need.
Your intake of omega-6. The more omega-six rich foods you eat, the more omega-3 you need.
Your health status. If you are struggling with your health, you will most likely need a higher dosage than if you are looking to just stay healthy.
If you are on certain medications. For example, cholesterol medications can negatively affect the omega-six to omega-three ratio, so you may need more if you take them.
Testing is a great way to accurately measure how much omega-three you need. We recommend getting tested when you start trying to reduce your omega-six intake and increase your omega-three intake. Then in twelve weeks, get tested again. Here is a link to our favorite omega-three test. We have no affiliation with the company; we have just found their testing to be very helpful. Remember, the more omega-six you eat, the more omega-three you will need.
For everyday health in adults, we recommend taking 5 ml of the Rosita cod liver oil per day. When first starting. we recommend using 2.5 ml in order to allow your body to become accustomed to a whole food omega-three. Whole food fish oil supplements have a much more potent effect than heavily refined ones, so starting a little lower and gradually increasing is the best way to go. For kids, we recommend starting with 3-5 drops of unrefined Rosita ratfish oil. It has all the same benefits as cod liver oil, but it has a milder taste and helps to support a healthy immune system, which is so important for growing children.
Some people may need a higher dosage if they are facing health challenges. Talk to your healthcare practitioner to see if a larger amount might be best for you.
In order to make sure you are getting the right dosage, make sure to use a proper measuring device. Do not use a soup spoon. Make sure to shake it well and keep it in the fridge. Because it is unrefined, it will get cloudy and may thicken a bit in the fridge. Make sure to always take it with food for the best absorption.
Keep in mind it can take up to twelve weeks to start to feel the full effects because they need to build up in your body. Remember, omega-3 fatty acids are nutrients you need every day, like B12, vitamin D, or calcium.
Reduce your omega-six intake from food.
Increase your omega-three intake from food.
Take a whole-food omega-3 supplement.
Stop settling for heavily refined oils. They can never replicate the balance found in whole foods. Raw, unrefined fish oils are an easy and potent way to nourish your body and improve your health.