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Best Fish Oil Supplements for Improved Heart Health

Fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel contain omega-3 fatty acids which play an important role in healthy brain function, growth, and human development. Deficiencies in these fatty acids have been linked to health problems such as cardiovascular disease, mood disorders, and arthritis. Since these fatty acids are not produced by the body, getting them from your diet is essential for optimal health. If you do not eat a lot of fatty fish in your diet, taking a supplement is your next best option. There are however hundreds of different fish oil supplements available and not all of them have equal health benefits. The two key omega-3 fatty acids are DHA and EPA. In this guide, we’ll help you navigate through the different types of omega-3 supplements and help you choose the best fish oil in 2021 to keep you healthy.

Best Fish Oil of 2021 Reviewed in Detail

Megared Advanced 4in1 Softgels Fish Oil

MegaRed offers a concentrated omega-3 fish and krill oil supplement in 500 milligram soft gels with a combined EPA and DHA of 314mg. The combination of oils helps support heart health, joints, brain function, and eyesight. With the addition of krill oil, the supplement contains more omega-3s than standard fish oil alone. In addition, krill oil is easily recognized and absorbed by the body in its phospholipid form.

  • No fishy aftertaste
  • 2 times more concentrated than standard fish oil
  • Easily absorbed by the body
  • Not suitable for people with shellfish allergies

Nature’s Bounty Softgels Fish Oil

Nature’s Bounty consistently produces high-quality supplements; fish oil being no different. The great thing about these fish oil supplements is the fact that they contain no shellfish, GMO, gluten, or sugar. You are getting a pure fish oil supplement that shouldn't give the user any reactions. Although the label does not specify the exact dosage of EPA and DHA, it does provide 720mg of total omega-3.

  • Affordable price
  • Does not contain shellfish
  • Mercury-free
  • With 200 soft gels per bottle, the oils may start to oxidize and diminish in quality before you use them al

Nature Made Heart Health Fish Oil

Nature Made products have been independently verified for potency, purity, and quality. Each serving contains 500mg of heart-healthy EPA and DHA. With 250 soft gels per container, this makes for a great family pack. The product does not contain any artificial colorants, flavors, gluten, or dairy. The dark bottle also helps protect it from sunlight, but we always recommend storing it in a cool, dry cabinet instead. One downside is the fact that the pill itself is on the larger side.

  • Purified to remove mercury and PCBs
  • 500mg EPA and DHA per serving
  • USP certified for quality and purity
  • With 250 soft gels per bottle, the oils may start to go rancid and become less effective before you get to use them all

Dr. Tobias Omega 3 Fish Oil

This triple-strength fish oil supplement supports brain and heart health. The fish oils are derived only from wild-caught fish and not farm-raised fish. As mentioned in our Buyer's Guide, EPA and DHA are what's most important when evaluating fish oil. Dr. Tobias doesn't skimp out. Each serving delivers 1400mg, which is more than the others on the list. Dr Tobias’s omega-3 fish oil supplement is also non-GMO product that has been purified to remove heavy metals, contaminants, and PCBs.

  • Delivers 1,400 milligrams of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids per serving
  • Certified for quality and purity
  • No fishy aftertaste
  • The product contains soy and is not suitable for people with soy allergies

Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega Fish Oil

Nordic Naturals high potency fish oil soft gels offer 1100mg of DHA and EPA omega-3s per serving of 2 soft gels. The fish oil concentrate is in the triglyceride molecular form which is naturally found in fish, and optimal for easy absorption in the body. The soft gels have a natural lemon flavoring to erase the fish smell and do not contain any artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.

  • Certified for purity
  • Omega-3s are in a triglyceride molecular form which is easily absorbed in the body
  • High potency fish oil
  • The product is on the pricier side compared to other available fish oil supplements

Buyer's Guide

Eating whole foods such as fatty fish that are rich in omega-3s is the best way to fuel your body with these essential nutrients. Alternatively, taking a fish oil supplement can help you get enough omega-3s to keep your heart and brain healthy. With all the supplement jargon and various labeling, it can be hard to decipher which products are most beneficial and which can be absorbed best in your body. In this guide, we uncover everything you need to know when choosing the best fish oil supplements for better health.

Types of Fish Oil

Before we consider which fish oil is best for omega-3 supplementation, we’ll look at the variety of fish oil types available. In natural whole fish, the omega-3 fatty acids are available to the body as free fatty acids, triglycerides, and phospholipids. The processing of some supplement varieties can affect the form of the fatty acids which may be absorbed differently in the body.

Natural Fish Oil

Natural fish oil supplements are the closest thing to eating real fish with oil that comes from oily fish tissue in the form of triglycerides. The amount of omega-3s, EPA, and DHA in natural fish oil ranges from 18–31%, depending on the fish species. It is also a good source of vitamins A and D which are required for healthy hair, nails, and skin. The oil is sourced from sardines, herring, salmon, menhaden, and cod liver and is available in both capsules and liquid forms.

Processed Fish Oil

Fish oils are processed to allow manufacturers to adjust the concentration of EPA and DHA in the oil by turning triglycerides into ethyl esters. These ethyl esters can be converted back into triglycerides to make them more easily absorbed by the body. If they are converted back, the product is then termed as reformed triglycerides. Concentrating the oil can increase EPA and DHA levels. Some fish oils can contain between 50 to 90 percent EPA and/or DHA after processing.

Although this sounds very beneficial, ethyl esters oxidize and turn rancid faster than triglycerides. The body does not absorb the nutrients as well when in the ethyl ester form as with natural fish oil. However, if it is converted back into reformed triglycerides it will be well absorbed.

Oils can also be processed to purify them and remove contaminants such as mercury and harmful PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls).

Processed fish oils in ethyl ester form comprise the majority of fish oil supplements on the market since the capsules are cheap. Reformed triglyceride fish oils are the most expensive types of supplements, making up only a small percentage of the market.

Krill Oil

Krill oil is obtained from Antarctic krill which are small shrimp-like animals. Krill oil contains omega-3 fatty acids similar to fish oil in triglyceride and phospholipid form. These fatty acids are known to lower cholesterol, decrease inflammation, and cause blood platelets to be less sticky which means they are less likely to form clots.

Omega-3’s are absorbed just as well from krill oil as from fish oil. Krill oil contains a potent antioxidant called astaxanthin which makes it resistant to oxidation. Krill are small creatures with a short lifespan which means they do not accumulate too many contaminants in their lifetime and don’t need to be purified. Therefore, krill oil is not often found in the ethyl ester form.

Green-Lipped Mussel Oil

Green-lipped mussel oil is considered the most environmentally friendly omega-3 supplement. Besides containing EPA and DHA this oil also contains small amounts of rare ETA (eicosatetraenoic acid) which is thought to be more effective than other omega-3s at lowering inflammation. Green-lipped mussels are native to New Zealand with their oils available in the form of triglycerides and free fatty acids which are easily absorbed by the body.

ALA Oil

ALA, also known as alpha-linolenic acid, is the type of omega-3s obtained from plant forms. Although foods rich in ALA such as flax seeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds do not contain DHA and EPA, the body can convert ALA into EPA or DHA. The problem seen with relying on plant sources for omega-3’s is that you need to consume a high amount of these foods to get a sufficient dose and that the ALA conversion process is not efficient. Plant oils are a good source of omega-6s.

Algal Oil

Algal oil has many benefits. It is obtained from marine algae, microalgae in particular, and provides a triglyceride source of EPA and DHA. The EPA and DHA found in smaller fish actually originates from the algae, as they consume it and it moves up the food chain. Algal oil is a great source of omega-3s for vegans and vegetarians and may be more concentrated in DHA than fish oil. It also contains important minerals such as iodine. Other benefits of algal oil are that it is environmentally friendly, sustainable, and healthy since it does not contain any heavy metals.

What to Look for When Buying Fish Oil Supplements

Type of Omega-3

Not all omega supplements actually contain EPA and DHA, which are the most important types of omega-3s to ingest. Make sure your supplement not only contains these but also contains enough.

Amount of Omega-3

As stated above, check the amounts of EPA and DHA in the supplement. The packaging may say that it contains 1000 mg of fish oil per capsule, however, the actual EPA and DHA content may only be 320 mg.

EPA and DHA Sources

EPA and DHA are generally obtained from animal sources. Vegetarian options usually only contain ALA. Algal oil is however one exception and is suitable for vegans, containing excellent quality omega-3s.

Form of Omega-3

For omega-3s that are going to be well absorbed in your body, choose products that have FFA (free fatty acids), PLs (phospholipids), TG (triglycerides), and rTG (reformed triglycerides). Avoid EE (ethyl esters) supplements.

Purity and Sustainability

Choosing fish oils that have been certified, confirm that they are of good quality and contain the ingredients they claim to. Fish oil that is MSC or EDF (Environmental Defense Fund) certified tends to be more sustainable, while products that have a GOED or a third-party seal tend to be of better quality.

Freshness

Omega-3s are perishable so buying in bulk to last you longer is not a good idea. Omega-3s that have gone rancid will be less effective or even harmful. Check the manufacturing date as opposed to the ‘use by’ date. Once the bottle is opened and exposed to air the quality will decline much quicker and result in a poor product long before the stated expiry on the bottle.

The gel capsules fish oil comes in can mask a foul odor that would otherwise indicate that it has gone bad. Occasionally open a capsule to smell and check that the supplement has not gone bad. Check for additional helpful ingredients such as antioxidants like vitamin E.

Fish Oil FAQ

Q: How should you take fish oil supplements?

A: It’s best to take fish oil supplements with a meal that contains fat since this will facilitate the absorption of omega-3s.

Q: Is there a difference between krill oil and fish oil?

A: Fish oil is generally yellow while krill oil has a red color since it comes from a small shrimp-like crustacean. Fish oil is cheaper than krill oil due to being more easily obtained from oily fish, such as herring and sardines.

Q: Can you take fish oil every day?

A: Fish oil is safe for most people to take daily, however, always check with your doctor as your conditions may differ. Taking more than 3 grams per day can be a reason for concern since it can prevent blood from clotting which essentially increases the chance of bleeding.

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