Weight Loss

Fish Oil Omega-3 Fatty Acids Health Guide

Most of us have heard that omega-3 fatty acids offer many health benefits. These essential fats are available in supplements, but can also be added to your diet. They offer a long list of health benefits, yet most of us don’t eat enough omega-3 rich foods to reap the rewards. Here is our guide to fish oil omega-3 fatty acids, so you have everything you need to know about this essential fat in one handy place. (1)

What Exactly Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats that your body needs, yet cannot produce on its own. This is why they are considered “essential.” However, because our bodies actually don’t produce them, we either need to add foods to our diet which contain them, or take supplements. (1)

Why Do We Need Fat In Our Daily Diet?

We all need fat in our diets because our cell membranes need fat to remain healthy. The amount of fat each of our cells has contributes to the health of cell structure and ultimately how well the entire body functions. When you include omega-3s in your diet (and also decrease unhealthy saturated and trans fats) you can improve your overall health. (2)

Why Are Some Fats Bad But Omega-3 Fats Are Good?

This is a very good question. Bad fats such as trans fats and saturated fats are bad for your health. Trans fats are considered the worst type of dietary fat because of the process used to produce it. Hydrogenation is used to stop healthy oils from turning rancid. Unfortunately, once this process takes place, the oils no longer have any known health benefits. As a result, they are banned in the U.S. Trans fats have a twofold negative effect on our bodies: 1) They increase unhealthy cholesterol in the bloodstream while 2) also reducing healthy cholesterol levels. In addition, they increase inflammation, leading to a long list of issues including heart disease and diabetes. But unsaturated fats, like omega-3s, help promote many healthy functions including: (3)

  • Healthy triglyceride levels to help manage blood pressure and reduce risk for heart disease. (3)
  • Omega-3s contain docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which can help support brain and eye health. (3)

These are just a few examples of how healthy fats like omega-3s help support your health. (3)

What About Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid?

It does become confusing with the term “saturated” appearing in so many different ways when it comes to fats. However, polyunsaturated fatty acids are good for you and include the DHA mentioned above as well as eicosatetraenoic acid (EPA). (2)

What About Alpha-linolenic Acid (ALA)?

This is yet another essential omega-3. This type of omega-3 comes from seeds, which is why you might be hearing more about needing to include more seeds in your diet. However, it is important to keep in mind it doesn’t have quite as many health benefits as its counterparts EPA and DHA. (4)

Why Is Fatty Fish Good For You When Fatty Meat Is Not?

First, the term fatty fish can be misleading as they are quite lean compared to meat from animals. Second, when referring to the fat in fish, the fat contains healthy omega-3s which meat fat does not. (2)

What Is The Recommended Intake For EPA And DHA Omega-3s?

At the moment the U.S. government does not have a recommended intake for omega-3s. However, other countries recommend varied amounts starting at 250 mg per day and going as high as 1000 mg. For EPA and DHA the range is from 250 mg to 500 mg. (2)

How Do I Know If My Omega-3 Levels Are High Enough?

You can test your omega-3 or fatty acid levels if you are worried you aren’t getting enough. There are various kits available, or you can speak to your health care practitioner to discuss your concerns. (2)

How Do I Increase My Intake Of Omega-3s?

If you like fish, you can get a very healthy serving of your omega-3 fats with the following: (1)

  • Salmon: 4,023 mg 
  • Cod liver oil: 2,664 mg 
  • Sardines: 2,205 mg 
  • Anchovies: 951 mg 

If you don’t like fish, other foods include meat, eggs, and dairy products, however you just won’t get us much. These goods are not included in vegan and vegetarian diets which can be a problem. However vegans and vegetarians can also find some healthy food choices containing the omega-3 fatty acid ALA from: (1)

  • Flax seeds: 2,338 mg 
  • Chia seeds: 4,915 mg 
  • Walnuts: 2,542 mg 

There are many vegetables that contain some omega-3s. Eating more spinach and Brussels sprouts for example can help. It’s just important to keep in mind they only contain very small amounts, but every bit helps. (1)

Is There Another Way To Get Enough Omega-3s?

There are many supplements available, but not all of them are alike. You can look at the supplement facts panel to find out how much EPA and DHA is contained in your supplements. Your supplements will list a “serving size” which would be the amount of capsules you need to take each day. However, it is important to note that many supplements don’t provide enough EPA and DHA, and instead simply contain fish oil. This can be very misleading. So be sure you read the label carefully to see the actual levels of EPA and DHA. You can also ask your health care provider what they recommend for your particular needs. (2)

What If The Capsules Taste Fishy?

You can find some products using ingredients such as rosemary to help reduce the fishy taste, while also keeping the oil from turning rancid. These ingredients, in hand with investing in a higher quality product, can help you avoid “fishy burps” from your supplements. (2)

I Am A Vegetarian/Vegan – How Can I Take EPA/DHA Omega-3 Supplements?

Look for supplements made from marine algae containing EPA and DHA and omega-3s sourced from algae. In these products you won’t be getting the oils from “meat”. (2)

Are Omega-6s Better Than Omega-3s?

You might think that because the number is higher, omega-6s are better. However, both provide health benefits for your cells. The main difference between omega-6s and omega-3s is where they come from. As already mentioned, omega-3s are from fatty fish and other marine sources while omega-6s come from plant oils. This is why the idea of hunter/gatherer diets are so healthy. These diets include naturally sourced omega-3s and omega-6s. (2)

I Only Buy Sustainable Products When I Can. Are Omega-3s Sustainable?

In many cases supplements made at marine farms are certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or Friend of the Sea groups. However, the monitoring body depends on the fish source and where the farm or source is located. You can check your supplement package to look for sustainability certification if it is an important factor when choosing your supplements. (5)

Can My Fish And Supplements Contain Contaminants Like Mercury?

Although eating too much of certain types of fish is not recommended due to mercury and other contaminant levels, it is still believed the benefits of eating more fish are higher than not eating enough. If you are worried you are eating too much fish, or want to understand the safest types of fish to add to your diet, you can look at the recommendations by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Wild caught salmon tends to top the list as a healthy choice, and it is also readily available. You can check the list of safe fish using the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. For your supplements, the manufacturing process purifies the oil, reducing contaminants, so it is not as worrisome if contaminants are a concern. (2,6)

Why Do So Many Health Professionals Recommend Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

Omega-3s are one of the most studied and researched nutrients in the world. Because the studies are endless and ongoing, health care professionals have information and data supporting the many positive effects of omega-3s. (2)

What Are The Health Benefits Of Omega-3 Fatty Acids Found In The Studies?

Studies have pointed to the following possible health benefits of omega-3s: (2)

  • Lowering blood triglycerides (7,8,9)
  • Reduced risk of colon cancer (10)
  • Reduced risk of prostate cancer (11)
  • Reduced risk of breast cancers (12)
  • Ridding the liver of excess fat using omega-3 fatty acid supplements (13)
  • Reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety (14,15)
  • Reducing autoimmune related inflammation and pain (16)
  • Reducing menstrual pain (17)
  • Reducing symptoms of ADHD in children (18)
  • Preventing asthma in children and young adults (19)
  • Improving a baby’s intelligence when taken during pregnancy and while breastfeeding (20)
  • Reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia (21,22)

What About Omega-3s Helping Prevent Heart Attack And Stroke?

Although omega-3s have been shown to help reduce triglycerides, there are no specific findings related to actually preventing heart attacks or strokes according to the latest studies. (23,24)

What Are Common Myths About Omega-3s?

There are some common myths you might come across regarding omega-3s to keep in mind including:

Any Fish Is Good For Omega-3s

As mentioned, when discussing sustainability as well as contaminants, there are many different types of fish from many different sources. As a general rule, it is best to steer clear of farm raised fish when trying to get your omega-3s as these fish are fed grains which can reduce how much omega-3s you find in them compared to wild caught fish. (25)

All Omega-3s Provide The Same Benefits

The various types of omega-3 fatty acids serve various roles in your cell’s health. Therefore, ideally you want to make sure you are getting all of your fatty acids in a healthy, well-balanced diet, or a supplement containing the right amount of EPA, ALA, and DHA. (2,4)

Omega-3s Lower Cholesterol

Omega-3 LC PUFAs actually lower triglycerides which is a good thing. When it comes to cholesterol however, while EPA doesn’t affect LDL-cholesterol (bad cholesterol) levels, DHA actually can increase LDL. The reason omega-3s don’t really affect cholesterol levels is because they cancel each other out so the ill-effects of DHA are balanced by the effects of EPA. (3)

Eating Any Fish Is Enough To Get Omega-3s

To get enough omega-3s eating fish alone you would have to eat 1750 mg of high omega-3 fish per week such as anchovies or herring. However, if you eat fish such as canned tuna, cod or haddock, you aren’t getting enough. (26)

Here is a breakdown of how many mgs of omega-3s commonly eaten fish contain: (27)

  • Anchovy 2.0 oz: 1,200
  • Catfish (farmed) 5.0 oz: 253
  • Clams: 3.0 oz  241
  • Cod (Atlantic)  6.3 oz: 284
  • Crab 3.0 oz: 351
  • Fish sticks (frozen) 3.2 oz: 193
  • Halibut 5.6 oz: 740
  • Lobster 3.0 oz: 71
  • Mahi mahi 5.6 oz: 221
  • Mussels 3.0 oz: 665
  • Oysters 3.0 oz : 585
  • Pollock (Alaskan) 2.1 oz: 281
  • Salmon (wild)  6.0 oz: 1,774
  • Salmon (farmed) 6.0 oz: 4,504
  • Sardines 2.0 oz: 556
  • Scallops 3.0 oz: 310
  • Shrimp 3.0 oz: 267
  • Swordfish 3.7 oz: 868
  • Trout 2.2 oz: 581
  • Tuna (albacore) 3.0 oz: 733
  • Tuna (light, skipjack) 3.0 oz: 228

So you really have to pay attention to the type of fish you are eating and the serving size required. 

Omega-3s Are Only Essential If You Have Heart Disease

Although the American Heart Association recommends 2 servings of fish per week to help maintain a healthy heart, most people do not get enough in their diets. Because omega-3s are essential, everyone should try to either take supplements or add more foods rich in omega-3s to your diet. (28,2)

It all comes down to the simple fact that omega-3 fatty acids are good for our health. Trying new dishes that include fish is one way to start adding more omega-3s into your diet. However, if you either dislike fish, don’t have access to fish, or your diet does not include fish, there are still ways you can include omega-3s through plant based foods and supplements. As with any aspect of your health and diet, speak to your doctor for advice on how to incorporate omega-3s into your diet. You can then reap the possible benefits to your wellness, both mentally and physically. (1)


1.    https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/omega-3-guide#intro

2.    https://goedomega3.com/faqs

3.    https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-truth-about-fats-bad-and-good

4.    https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1035/alpha-linolenic-acid-ala

5.    https://goedomega3.com/omega-3-science/omega-3-sustainability

6.    https://www.seafoodwatch.org/

7.    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22113870/

8.    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10977042/

9.    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21297494/

10.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17493949/

11.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9811313/

12.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15570047/

13.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22023985/

14.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21939614/

15.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21784145/

16.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12480795/

17.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3770499/

18.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21961774/

19.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3827145/

20.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12509593/

21.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19262590/

22.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25592004/

23.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22493407/

24.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24352849/

25.  Sargent J. R., Tocher D. R. & Bell J. G. The Lipids in Fish Nutrition 3rd edn, (eds Halver J. E. & Hardy R. W.) Ch. 4, 181–257 (Elsevier Science, 2002).

26.  https://www.nutri-facts.org/en_US/news/articles/Debunking-Myths-with-Facts-about-Omega-3-Fatty-Acids.html

27.  https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-and-cholesterol/types-of-fat/omega-3-fats/ 

28.  https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/fish-and-omega-3-fatty-acids

Related Articles: