Sources of Omega 3: Flaxseed Oil vs Fish Oil

by Kelli

flax seed vs fish for omega 3's

Just briefly let’s define what is Omega 3? It’s an essential fatty acid that is critical for a number of your body’s systems to run smoothly. The title ‘essential fatty acid’ means that it is necessary for human health, but your body can not make it. You have to get it through food or supplementation.

The benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids have now been well established through a number of recent studies. They’ve been shown to have enormous effects on your mood, vision, skin, joints, brain, heart, lowering your cholesterol and even increasing fertility. So, no surprise, there is suddenly a plethora of products at the store all claiming to be the the best sources of Omega 3.

The two most common forms of Omega 3 supplements are fish oil and flaxseed oil. Both have high amount of Omega 3’s, but it’s the type found in each one that makes the difference.

Only fish oils provide Omega 3 in the form of EPA and DHA. Flaxseed oil benefits are high levels of alpha linolenic acid (ALA).  It’s the EPA and DHA that your body uses to generate all the benefits of Omega 3’s that we already talked about.

So here’s the deal. ALA requires enzymes from the body to create EPA and DHA. The general medical consensus is that a maximum of 5% of flax seed oil that is consumed may convert within the body to EPA, while a maximum of 2% may convert to DHA. Since that’s the form your body needs, the benefits of flaxseed oil really aren’t that great.

So when it comes to Omega-3s, when it comes to flaxseed oil vs fish oil, fish oil supplements will deliver far more bang for your buck.

Benefits of Omega 3I discussed this more in my post about choosing a high quality fish oil, but the best Omega 3 supplement I’ve found is the Vital Choice brand because so much of the fatty acids contained in each pill is found in the EPA and DHA forms. When it comes to the correct Omega 3 dosage, you want to aim for between 600 to 1000 mg every day. The Vital Choice brand has enough DHA in two capsules to achieve that dosage, where with lesser quality brands you’ll need to take several more.

About the author...

, diagnosed with an auto-immune disease as a child, has always paid close attention to her health. But when that disease went beyond the care of traditional care medicine, she found answers, and healing, through lifestyle improvements and working with a functional medicine doctor.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Kevin October 6, 2010

Very helpful comparison! I kinda figured that I’d get what I’d pay for given the wide variation in fish oil capsule prices, but now I know what to look for. Thanks!

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Kelli November 23, 2010

Hi Kevin. Sorry to be long in responding (moved to Costa Rica)! You’re right – you generally get what you pay for with Omega 3 fish oil supplements, but not always. Check out this new post to get more information on what to look for in a good fish oil supplement.

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