Wouldn’t it be great if there was a pill you could take that acted as an “insurance policy” to help safeguard your health? Well, there is. They’re called omega-3 (or fish or krill oil) supplements and they have been shown to support heart, brain and eye health. But with so many supplements available on the shelves at grocery and health food stores, how do you know you’re choosing the right one? Here are three easy steps to help you make the best choice:
Step 1: Learn how EPA and DHA omega-3s can support your health
EPA and DHA are long-chain omega-3s and are the primary omega-3s your body needs to support overall health, especially the health of your heart, brain and eyes. The amount of EPA and DHA you need depends on the benefit you’re interested in, so invest in a little research. As an overview:
Heart Health: As part of a healthy lifestyle, omega-3s may help to maintain blood pressure, support healthy triglyceride levels and manage your risk of heart disease. In fact, scores of studies have been done on omega-3s and their impact on heart health, and the evidence suggests there’s a positive correlation between the increased intake of omega-3s and heart health benefits.
Eye Health: DHA omega-3 is a major structural fat in the retinas of our eyes, and as such, it plays an important role in the health of our eyes. This is especially so in the case of infants and their visual development, which is one of the reasons why DHA is so important for pregnant and nursing women.
Brain Health: A notable percentage of our brains are made up of DHA, which helps support brain health during all stages of life. Research shows that insufficient omega-3s may negatively affect brain function and cognitive development. This infographic shows the reasons your brain needs omega-3s.
Step 2: Find out if you’re getting enough EPA and DHA in your diet
Start by taking this quick quiz to determine if you’re already getting enough EPA and DHA. Although there is no established Adequate Intake (AI) or Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) in the U.S., most health professionals recommend the average person consume 250-500 mg of EPA and DHA omega-3s per day. Your body doesn’t efficiently produce EPA and DHA on its own, so it’s important to get the recommended amount by consuming at least two servings of fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, etc.) per week. If you’re among the majority of Americans who do not get enough EPA and DHA from diet alone, adding an omega-3 supplement to your daily routine may help you fill in any nutritional gaps and you can also “top off” your intake with omega-3 fortified foods.
Step 3: Select an omega-3 supplement
As with any insurance policy, it’s important to read the fine print. Pay special attention to the “Supplement Facts” panel on the packaging. Here are several important things to look for on the label:
Check that it lists the exact amount of EPA and DHA omega-3s in the supplement.
Don’t go by labels that list only the amount of fish oil in the product, as that number doesn’t necessarily correspond to the amount of EPA and DHA omega-3. Choose a supplement that specifically lists the EPA and DHA content and has at least 250 to 500 mg combined in each serving.
Choose a supplement with the right amount of omega-3s for your needs.
While the general recommendation is 250 to 500 mg per day, if you are concerned about a particular condition, you may need more. For example, the American Heart Association recommends up to 1g per day for secondary prevention of heart disease. Make sure you consult with your doctor about the dosage that’s right for you. One important note: the FDA has stated that there are no safety concerns associated with intakes of EPA and DHA up to 3g per day.
If you experience a fishy burp, try another brand.
Don’t give up on the healthful benefits of omega-3s just because of a bad aftertaste. This is thought to be a result of oxidation, which is a normal process that happens with all fats and oils that contain unsaturated fatty acids. Research has shown that there are no negative health effects with an oxidized omega-3 product and most omega-3 products are made with specialized manufacturing techniques that help manage the oxidation process. At the end of the day, you still want to have a positive experience in addition to getting the health benefits, though, so if you don’t like the smell or taste, try another brand.
If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, buy an algae-based supplement instead of fish or krill.
There’s no reason to miss out on omega-3 benefits just because you don’t consume animal-based products. You should find source information on the “Supplement Facts” label.
This is a “sponsored post,” meaning the company who sponsored the article compensated me for writing the article. The opinions I have expressed, however, are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”