When reading about or listening to the benefits of fish oil supplements, most people have one question in common: why not just eat fish itself? The answer is more complex than a straightforward ‘sure’; there are several different factors here that play a role in getting omega 3 from the source to the bloodstream.
So, which is better: fish meat or fish oil?
Consume Fish Or Consume Fish Oil: A Breakdown
Both fish and fish oil have one thing in common: Omega 3 fatty acids. To be more specific, you’ll find fatty acids Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA), Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA), and Alpha-Linolenic Acids (ALA)—all vital for your health. This is the very reason fish oil is extracted from fish.
That does not mean you can get your fill of it by eating fish. Both options are strong contenders, so why do some people choose either one or the other?
Let’s break this debate into different factors of fish and fish oil.
More Nutrient Content?
Let’s start with fish. This food is not just a source of EPA and DH; it also provides us with vitamin D, selenium, and protein. The presence of vitamin D plays a vital role in improving immunity against various diseases. Additionally, selenium is crucial as it helps protect you from mercury toxicity.
On the other hand, fish oil fish oils typically consist of EPA and DHA only. The exceptions are salmon and cod liver oil, as they also provide moderate levels of vitamin D. However, it’s important to note that fish oil lacks other nutrients such as selenium.
If your focus is Omega 3, since you’re sure you’re getting your fill of other nutrients from other foods, then fish oil outshines fish meat in this aspect. Thanks to its distillation and purification process, fish oil typically contains significantly higher levels of DHA and EPA.
A single capsule of high-quality fish oil daily can give you more Omega 3—especially DHA—than you’d receive if trying to reach your fill of the nutrient solely through consuming fish. You may have to eat platefuls of fish to get an equal amount of DHA in your system!
- Which Absorbs Better?
Studies show that omega 3 absorbs well when taken with high-fat meals. So, when it comes to fish, you don’t have to rely on any additional foods to make that happen.
The effectiveness of DHA is particularly much better when you eat fish as your source of omega 3 fatty acids. Research shows that you need one-ninth of the DHA from fish compared to fish oil to obtain an equivalent DHA amount. In simpler terms, you would need nine times more DHA from fish oil to match the DHA content found in fish!
Of course, this figure is not always the same when you consider different types of fish. Salmon makes the top of the list for the highest fatty acid content, and therefore, the highest DHA content.
If you are taking oil capsules, pair these with high-fat meals to improve their absorption. In fact, this method can even rival the absorption rate of consuming whole fish. The reason is the presence of other fats triggers the body’s fat absorption mechanisms, leading to better results.
- What’s More Accessible/Affordable?
It can be challenging to make a comparison between fish and fish oil due to the fluctuating prices and varying fish availability across different regions. In numerous Western areas, finding fresh fish can be quite a task. However, in contrast, Mediterranean communities are fortunate to have easy access to a variety of seafood.
Let’s say you aim to consume the recommended 450-500 mg of EPA and DHA daily. To reach this target by consuming salmon, you would need to devour approximately one pound of it every week. On the other hand, if you opt for a top-notch fish oil supplement, you would typically need to take 2 capsules per day (1 capsule for kids) to meet this requirement.
It’s not hard to see a handful of fish oil capsules usually cost a fraction of what fish would cost, the figure going higher if you consider factors such as limited accessibility to fish and inflated prices.
- Higher Health Benefits?
The omega 3 fatty acids in fish provide benefits to most vital organs, especially your cardiac and digestive systems. By eating fish, you may protect your body from ailments such as hypertension, diabetes, and even anxiety and depression.
Studies indicate that both fish and fish oil supplements offer similar advantages for heart health. Nevertheless, fish also offers extra nutrients such as vitamin D and protein, which may be lacking in supplements.
Looking to stay healthy without any specific goals? A moderate portion of oily fish in your diet is nice. You’ll get a good dose of EPA & DHA. Additionally, you’ll also fuel your body with a range of other essential nutrients.
On the other hand, if you suffer from chronic inflammatory condition like heart disease, the ideal solution is to add both whole fish and top-notch fish oil supplements into your diet. As a result, you can get higher doses of DHA and EPA, which work wonders for your health!
- How About Dietary Issues?
If fish isn’t your thing, there are plenty of alternatives to get your omega 3. You can consider flaxseed, walnuts, chia seeds, and green veggies. While all these are good sources of omega 3, they mostly contain Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA). You’ve still got that valued EPA and DHA to add. And you can find these in none other than fish oil.
Get your fish oil supplements in the form of softgels or capsules. These are a convenient option if you don’t enjoy seafood, have allergies, or follow a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Fish oil supplements have concentrated doses of essential fatty acids. Plus, you can consume these without any worries about toxins. Besides, you can get special capsules to avoid triggering any allergic reactions.
The Verdict: Fish Or Fish Oil?
The fish vs. fish oil debate does not have a clear-cut answer. Eventually, you need to look at factors such as personal preferences, health requirements, and dietary habits too.
Don’t consume fish regularly? Think of fish oil supplements as a practical solution to meet your omega 3 needs. However, while supplements help, a balanced diet is the real deal to obtain other essential nutrients for your overall energy!