For many of us that have been seeking the therapeutic benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids, we have known about fish oil for a long time. I started taking fish oil during my second pregnancy after reading about the health benefits for the baby’s development. Also, as many of us know, the later it gets in our pregnancy, many things become less and less comfortable. Many of us suffer fatigue, joint pain, unexpected acne, increased stress, and many other difficulties of pregnancy. I began taking fish oil for the baby, but I was also certainly hoping it would alleviate some of the discomfort I was having along with my pregnancy.
However, when I was choking down these huge fish oil pills every day, it became harder and harder to ignore the things I didn’t like about the supplement: The taste going down, the after taste, and the worst part, the “fish burps.” Pregnancy already isn’t glamorous, and tasting a hint of fish all day made me feel less and less Zsa Zsa Gabor. I wanted the benefit of omega-3 supplements, but I was was really starting to grow to resent the taste of fish.
Flaxseed vs Fish Oil for Omega-3
Flaxseed oil has been shown to also have high amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids. However, not all Omega-3 supplements are created equal. In fact, the type of Omega-3 fatty acid found in flaxseed is a completely different kind of Omega-3 amino acid. Fish oil contains large amounts of DHA and ARA, both Omega-3 fatty acids that have been shown to reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, as well as have a whole host of other benefits to your heart and overall health. Flaxseed oil contains a different type of Omega-3 known as ALA, a plant based amino acid that is shown to have many of the same positive effects as DHA and EPA.1 ALA is often referred to as “the third Omega-3.” I began taking flaxseed for Omega-3 as my supplement for a while and left the fish oil in the cabinet. I had sufficient fish burps for the time being and didn’t even think about it, I just made the switch.
However, as I mentioned before, not all Omega-3’s are created equally. While flaxseed oil does have a significant amount of ALA, there have not been the same amount of studies done on the effects of ALA as opposed to DHA and EPA. The benefits of ALA, found in flaxseed oil, are less clear.2 ALA also has a lower rate of absorption than the Omega-3’s found in fish oil. Only about 10-15 percent of Omega-3 is actually used for its intended purposes, and around 85 percent is broken down and used elsewhere in the body. This can even lead to increased bad cholesterol, although, this only usually occurs when taken in doses of several grams a day. However, the main problem is potency; you would need to take roughly seven times the amount of flaxseed for Omega-3 fatty acids that are equal to the contents in one standard fish oil pill of the same size. Flaxseed oil also contains large amounts of Omega-6. While these can also be helpful to the body as well, when mixed with Omega-3, it makes both much more difficult to absorb.
Naturally, since I didn’t check before switching the amount of Omega-3 fatty acids that were actually benefiting my body, I began to feel run down and achy. I had no energy; something just wasn’t right. That’s when I decided to do my research on flaxseed for omega-3 to find it isn’t as beneficial as one may think, and really, isn’t a sufficient fish oil substitute.
Flaxseed vs. Fish Oil: Benefits of Fish Oil
When learning about the benefits of Fish oil as a delivery system for Omega-3 fatty acids, I pulled the fish oil back out of the medicine cabinet. Albeit begrudgingly, I resumed my normal fish oil regimen. With the wide array of positive effects Omega-3 has, I definitely wanted to use the most effective form of it, even if I was quite literally sick if the taste, smell, and worst of all the “fish burps,” I stomached the slight nausea over the taste as just “part of it” so I could enjoy the other benefits. After all, ever since I had been taking fish oil, I have had more energy, healthier skin, and most importantly for me, less knee pain when walking or running.
Also, the benefits of fish oil are something I also wanted to consider in the long term. DHA and EPA from fish oil have been shown to help lower blood pressure, promote healthy weight, reduce triglycerides and curb the development of plaque within the arteries.3 All these things add up to a decreased risk of heart disease or other heart problems in the future. Since heart disease is the number one killer of women not only in America, but worldwide, taking care of myself and my heart is extremely important. I love my family, and I want to be around for them as long as possible. That is one of the reasons I exercise; I want to keep my body healthy and in shape as long as possible. Fish oil not only helps keep me running, but it will ultimately help keep me around.
Still, I was not satisfied. I was not happy with having to wake up every day and take fish oil because I knew that it didn’t matter what I did that day or what kind of day I had or even if I was in a good mood. Because, when it was all said and done, my good mood still tasted like fish. I wanted a better option. I had wanted a fish oil alternative for a long time, which is why I started taking flaxseed for omega-3 in the first place. Even with the research showing flaxseed wasn’t as good, I thought “maybe if I just take seven times the amount of flaxseed, it’ll be just as good.” While in theory that sounds great and the math is about right, it probably isn’t “just as good.” I never did that. I stuck by my fish oil, but I started to search around for other supplements that would give me the real benefit of fish oil without a fishy taste I would need to endure all day long.
The Best Omega-3 Supplements
I did lot of internet research before deciding which fish oil supplement I would switch to from my normal routine. After all, while I was very much tired of a fishy aftertaste and again, the fish burps, I had already leaped to the decision to switch to flaxseed for omega-3, which turned out not to be the fish oil substitute I thought it was. I wanted to make sure I was getting something with the recommended amount of DHA and EPA, and not just something that was easier for me to take. I had endured the fish taste for this long, after all. I wasn’t going to switch to an inferior supplement and sacrifice the benefits just to get rid of the taste.
Omega-3 GummiesThe particular brand I used was Nature Made Omega-3 gummies. I thought that maybe if it wasn’t bad to chew, it probably wouldn’t have a bad aftertaste all day. While that was true, they still didn’t taste too good going down. The sugar helped mask the fish oil taste, so it wasn’t bad… then again, I didn’t have to chew the pills, so this choice was less than a win for me. It’s extra sugar, about 25 extra Calories, and while it was a little more pleasant to deal with throughout the day, it was not good on the way down. In fact, the fact that I had to chew it made it worse than the fish oil pill going down. It doesn’t really taste like fish, but it still smells like it in your mouth, and that’s close enough for me. Fish oil gummies were not my solution.
Krill OilThe MegaRed Omega-3 Krill oil proved to be much better than both the standard fish oil pills and the gummies. For one, it’s a tiny pill. There isn’t any fishy aftertaste, there isn’t a bad taste or bad smell going down. Overall, it is a much better supplement than the gummies or the standard fish oil pill. The amount of DHA and EPA in the pill is also proportionate to what I knew I wanted in the supplement after I knew what to look for. Overall, I would recommend this product to friend who wanted a good Omega-3 supplement for all its heart benefits. However, it did not help with my joint pain as much as I would have wanted, and since I am using them for running, it just wasn’t the right choice for me.
Omega XLOmega XL was different than the other supplements because of how many more amino acids that are in it besides just EPA and DHA. Omega XL is made from the green-lipped mussel off the coast of New Zealand. Because of the unique extraction process, this supplement actually doesn’t contain any fish oil at all. This makes it perfect for people who have fish and seafood allergies that want to enjoy the benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil, but can’t because of dietary restrictions. If you do have a serious shellfish allergy, it’s probably a good idea to consult your doctor anyway, as it is when beginning any new supplement. However, the proteins that cause an allergic reaction to shellfish have been removed from the mussel. This supplement brought me a great deal more natural pain relief for my knee joint pain.
Overall, OmegaXL helps me stay moving, stay focused, and make sure my whole day doesn’t taste like fish.
1 Why Not Flaxseed Oil? -- Harvard Medical School
2 Fish Oil Versus Flaxseed Oil -- Better-Nutrition
3 Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplements for Heart Disease -- WebMD