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Dr. Andrea Pinto Lopez

Feb 17, 20237 min read

Omega-3 Supplement Guide: What to Buy and Why

The information provided herein does not constitute an expert or medical advice, nor intended to replace such advice.


If you’re into wellness and a healthy lifestyle, you’ve probably heard about omega-3 fatty acid supplements at some point. But what exactly are omega-3 fatty acids, and how can you make sure that you’re buying the right omega 3 supplements? Keep reading this article to learn more about what to look for in fish oil supplements.

What are omega-3 fatty acids?

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat that play an important role in maintaining your health. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the human body can’t produce omega-3 fatty acids from scratch, so you need to obtain them from the foods you eat. This means that omega-3 is considered to be an essential nutrient.

There are two main types of fatty acids: unsaturated and unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats can be further divided into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

Saturated fats are often referred to as “unhealthy fats”, because consuming them often can increase your risk of different diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, weight gain, and stroke. According to MedlinePlus, foods like baked goods, fried foods, processed meats, palm oil, and whole fat dairy products have higher amounts of saturated fats.

Unsaturated fats, on the other hand, are beneficial fatty acids that can reduce certain health risks. Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats that can provide a healthier alternative to other types of dietary fats.

Benefits of omega-3 fatty acids

According to the National Institutes of Health, there are three types of omega-3 fats: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is mainly found in plant-based foods, whereas EPA and DHA come mostly from seafood and animal sources.

Omega-3 can be found in the membranes that surround the cells in your body, particularly in the cells of the eye, brain, and sperm. Omega-3 fatty acids are also very important to your heart health, circulatory system, endocrine function and immunity, among other functions.

A deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids is rare, but it can lead to a wide range of symptoms such as an itchy rash or scaly, flaky skin. Low omega-3 intake has been linked to a number of diseases, including coronary heart disease, eczema, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus.

According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, omega-3 fatty acids are also important for blood cell production, blood vessel contraction, blood clotting, and inflammation. 

Food sources of omega-3

The best form of omega-3 fatty acids comes from fish and seafood, although you can also get some omega 3 from certain plant-based foods. Dietary sources of omega-3 include:

  • Herring

  • Wild salmon

  • Bluefin tuna

  • Mackerel

  • Sardines

  • Anchovies

  • Lake trout

  • Striped bass

  • Flaxseed oils

  • Chia seeds

  • Canola oil

What fish oil should I buy?

When it comes to choosing essential fatty acids supplements, it can be overwhelming to pick the right supplement. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of different DHA omega-3 supplements available at most pharmacies and grocery stores, but you want to make sure that you’re getting the best fatty acid supplement for your health.

Adults should take around 250-500 mg of omega-3 fatty acids (especially EPA and DHA) everyday. Since most American adults don’t eat enough fatty fish to get this amount of omega-3 from their diets, you may need to find a good omega-3 supplement to increase your intake.

Once you have found a good omega-3 supplement, it’s important to store it in a cool, dark place, such as the refrigerator. Fish oil can become rancid, especially after being stored incorrectly.

Taking your omega-3 supplement with food can help maximize its absorption and reduce any fishy aftertaste.

What to look for in fish oil?

Many natural fish oil supplements also contain omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids. While some studies have shown that omega-6 fatty acids may help prevent chronic diseases, more research is still needed on the topic. Most people who eat a balanced diet already consume enough omega-6, which mainly comes from vegetable oils and nuts.

Omega-9 fatty acids, on the other hand, aren’t considered to be an essential nutrient, since your own body is able to produce them. Omega-9s can also be found in vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds.

As a result, most people don’t need to supplement with these fatty acids, and you should focus on finding a supplement that contains the highest amount of omega-3 fatty acids instead. Otherwise, you may end up spending more money on omega-6s and omega-9s that your body doesn’t truly need.

Fish oil can become oxidized if it’s exposed to heat, so a safe omega-3 supplement will also be cold pressed. This will minimize the damage to the fatty acid molecules. Additionally, look for a supplement that also contains vitamin E to further minimize the risk of oxidation.


Omega-3 Fatty Acids - my.clevelandclinic.org

Facts about saturated fats - medlineplus.gov

Omega-3 Fatty Acids - ods.od.nih.gov

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Contribution - hsph.harvard.edu

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