The benefits of fish oil are well-known to some and not to others.
Because of its impressive fatty acid profile, fish oil is touted as one of the best nutrients for brain health, heart health, and fighting inflammation.
Still, there are so many people who don’t eat enough high-quality, wild-caught fatty fish.
That’s where the supplements come in. But how do you choose the right fish oil supplement? And how much should you take? What are the benefits, anyway? Don’t worry – I’ll cover it all in this post!
Why Fish Oil?
Fish oil is famous for its Omega-3 fatty acid content, but what does that even mean?
Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids are known as the essential fatty acids (EFAs). “Essential” means that your body needs them but can’t make them. So, you need to get them from the food you eat.
You’ll find Omega-3 fatty acids most abundantly in:
- oily fish like wild-caught salmon and sardines;
- oils like fish, krill, and algae;
- flax, chia, and pumpkin seeds;
- and walnuts.
In fish oil, you’ll find two main types of Omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is a precursor to EPA and DHA often found in plants. I’ll dive more into ALA in a minute.
Sure, fish oil is great for your brain and body, but why might you need to supplement? Well, the first reason is simple: You’re probably not getting enough Omega-3s from diet alone. Your body needs Omega-3s for growth and maintenance.  The second is about Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acid ratios.
(Expect another in-depth article on essential fatty acids in the near future.)
Why Getting the Right Ratios Matters
The modern Western diet is way too low in Omega-3s and chock full of Omega-6 fatty acids from foods like poultry and vegetable oils like canola and safflower. Omega-6s aren’t bad; in fact, they’re essential for brain function and energy. But when you eat too many of them, they cause inflammation and can “compete” with Omega-3s in your body.
And because there are so many fried and processed foods made with low quality vegetable oils, they’re prevalent in a Western diet.
Fatty acid ratios in action:
- The ideal Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio from most people is 4:1
- The optimal ratio is 1:1 or even more in favor of Omega-3s
- The average American ratio is 12:1 to 25:1 favoring Omega-6 fatty acids [2, 3]
When you supplement with Omega-3s, there’s a much better chance that your ratios are in the right place.
Can You Get Omega-3s From Plants?
Yes and no. The omega-3 fatty acid in most plants is called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and it works a little differently than EPA and DHA. 
ALA isn’t bad – in fact, it’s a precursor to EPA and DHA. That means your body has to go through one more step to get the array of benefits that EPA and DHA offer. Not everybody is great at converting ALA to its more potent forms. Plus, you may have to consume a lot more ALA to get the same effect you would from just a couple of servings of fish per week or a good quality fish oil supplement.
If you’re vegetarian or vegan and won’t use fish oil, there are forms of seaweed that contain straight EPA and DHA. It’s just in much smaller amounts than you’ll find in fish oil.
The Benefits of Fish Oil
Fish Oil for a Healthier Brain
Fish oil is amazing for your brain. It makes sense – your brain is nearly 60% fat, and fatty acids are essential for your brain’s integrity and performance. DHA is linked to overall brain health, including decreased risk of certain brain diseases and even a lower incidence of depression and anxiety. [5, 6] Fish oil also might help improve age-related brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and an overall decrease in brain function. [7, 8, 9]
Fish Oil for Eye Health
Fish Oil for Your Heart
Fish oil can benefit heart health in a couple of different ways. Fish oil can decrease overall inflammation, increase HDL levels, and lower triglycerides. [12, 13, 14] It’s also linked to lowering blood pressure in people with hypertension and may prevent arterial plaques. [15, 16]
Fish Oil for Inflammation
Chronic, low-level inflammation is the root cause of many diseases. There’s a lot you can do to lower inflammation, but some lifestyle factors like stress and chronic exposure to toxins are sometimes out of your control. Luckily, keeping up on your Omega-3 intake can help lower overall inflammation and help with certain inflammatory diseases.  Fish oil may also help reduce inflammatory conditions like joint pain and stiffness. 
Fish Oil for Skin Health
If you have skin issues – from acne to dry skin – you may benefit from a fish oil supplement. Fish oil can also help increase skin hydration and can also help with disorders like dermatitis. [19, 20] (Of course, you’ve got to digest and absorb the Omega-3s you eat. Stay tuned for an upcoming article on digestion for more info.)
Fish Oil for Asthma and Allergies
Fish oil may benefit you if you have allergies and asthma, probably due to its anti-inflammatory properties.  Fish oil supplementation in pregnant women may even reduce the risk of allergies in their babies. 
How Much Fish Oil Should You Take?
About a decade ago, lots of health experts were recommending super high-dose fish oil. Based on evidence that came out to the contrary, most of those experts changed their stance. Nevertheless, the myth of high-dose fish oil still lingers. Please consult your medical provider before taking any supplements, especially high doses.
The general recommendation for Omega-3s is around 2-4 grams daily, preferably in the form of EPA and DHA. For context, one 150-gram serving of wild salmon contains about 3.2 grams of Omega-3 fats.
If you eat high-quality fish daily, that might be enough.
But remember that most people are also consuming a lot of Omega-6s. Therefore, you might want to consider a fish oil supplement even if you do eat a decent amount of fish. The more Omega-3s you get – while avoiding unhealthy Omega-6s like vegetable oils – the more you’re pushing that fatty acid ratio in the right direction.
Because fish oil is anti-inflammatory, it’s also worth mentioning that you m to may want up your dose if you’re an athlete, you suffer from autoimmunity or another inflammatory disease, or have suffered a brain injury. As always, talk to your doctor before adding anything to your nutrition routine or increasing your fish oil dose.
4 Ways to Choose the Best Fish Oil Supplement
1. Choose fish from lower in the food chain
Fish oil is usually derived from fatty fish like salmon, trout, anchovy, and sardines. Good companies will specify the type of fish they use and how they source it.
Their fish oil is derived from anchovies responsibly caught in the south Pacific Ocean. These are some of the smallest oily fish and therefore, lowest in the food chain. This means that they have lower accumulation of toxins like heavy metals and higher Omega-3 profiles.
2. Make sure it’s clean and fresh
Make sure your fish oil is clean and fresh. You can always contact the company about their purification process and, as always, make sure there are no additives, including soy lecithin, dairy, wheat, rice or sweeteners.
Avoid any capsule or liquid that smells “off” or too fishy. A fishy smell means your oil is oxidized, which isn’t as potent as fresh Omega-3s.
Puori O3 fish oil doesn’t have a fishy smell or aftertaste. Plus all their fish oil is third-party tested by IFOS for freshness, stability, and purity.
3. Look at the EPA and DHA in each serving
The amount of EPA and DHA in each serving of your fish oil supplement is way more important than the “total fish oil” amount. But to get high concentrations of EPA and DHA into just a few pills, the fish oil needs to be highly concentrated and high quality.
I recommend 2000-4000 mg Omega-3 made mostly (if not completely) of EPA and DHA.
4. Select for stability
Omega-3 fatty acids – like all essential fatty acids – are polyunsaturated fats, making them sensitive to heat and light. But some fish oils are developed to stay stable, so they’ll stay fresh for longer. Puori’s Liquid Omega-3s are mixed with medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) to stabilize the oil and prevent oxidation. Even more healthy fats for the win!
Choose fish oil stored in dark bottles and/or in dark-colored capsules, which also help prevent oxidation and keep them fresh.
Pin this post for later!
Puori is a sponsor of Steph Gaudreau. All content, opinions, and words are my own, and I only ever share products I believe in 100%.