Just about any time supplements, health practices, or nutrition are brought up in conversation we hear about one thing in particular: fish oil. In fact, it’s become such an essential part of our health practices that fish oil is now one of the best selling supplements in the world.
We all know we should take fish oil; it’s good for our heart, eyes, hair, joints, and brain. But there are dozens of versions and brands for sale; when buying a fish oil supplement, what is it that we should be looking for? What makes a fish oil supplement good, and what makes a fish oil supplement bad? Let’s discuss three different things to look for when purchasing and taking fish oil.
The great thing about the free market in which we live is the choices we’re given. The problem is that with clever marketing is, it’s hard to know whether you’re buying quality or snake oil – no pun intended. When purchasing fish oil, there are some tell tale details to pay attention to.
As simple as it sounds, taste should always be the first thing you look for when trying out fish oil. Fish oil isn’t like the Flintstone vitamins you took as a kid. In fact, fish oil is just a food, and like any food it can spoil. For most people fish oil won’t taste good, but there’s a difference between food that doesn’t quite stimulate your palette and food that’s spoiled. While there will be a slight aroma of fish, it should not be overwhelming. If it smells and tastes very fishy this is an indication of too much oxidation, the fish oil is spoiling. If after taking a pill you burp up a fishy taste throw it away or return it for a refund. You can never be sure how long ago the oil was bottled or injected into capsules, and if it sat in a hot truck or warehouse for a significant amount of time it could very easily have gone bad. Trust your instincts, believe me when I say you’ll know if it’s rancid or not.
Marketing teams are smart because their careers depend on it. Since organics are now all the rage, you see ‘All Natural’ on everything from processed cereal made from GMO crops to cattle fed GMO grains. Pay attention to your labels; while companies can’t out right lie, they can manipulate wording so that a product sounds a lot better than it really is. Bottled water labeled ‘Bottled At The Source’ is one of my all-time favorites (isn’t the tap in your kitchen a source?). So pictures of gleaming salmon are not an indication of a quality supplement.
For fish oil, look for oils with labels stating it’s made from fish like Anchovy, Hoki, Whiting, Pollock, Mackerel, Krill, and Sardines. These are smaller fish, and the smaller the fish the shorter the life span. A shorter life span means that these fish don’t live long enough to soak up harmful amounts of toxins from the water, like mercury. Also look for keywords like: organic, non-purified, fresh caught, whole, and Norwegian. Norway is known for having some of the most nutritious fish in the world.
Have you ever seen those yellow milk jugs at your local grocery store and wondered why they’re colored? It’s for good reason: light can zap out nutrients. The same is true for fish oil, and the best kind of bottling is in dark or opaque containers. These protect the oil’s nutrients from oxygen and light, keeping the nutrients in tact. The best way to store any fish oil is to keep it refrigerated once it’s been opened.
Finally, let’s not forget that really good fish oil is going to be a bit expensive, and bad oil is going to be cheap. That’s just how it works when you’re shopping for quality, there’s really no other way around it. Fish oil is like anything else you buy: you get what you pay for.