Fish oil sounds gross, but if you’ve been paying attention to the news, you’ll probably have heard it mentioned as a suggested supplement. There are so many kinds, however the best fish oil supplement and they range dramatically in price, source, and availability. How can you know which you need?
This list is your answers! We’ve scoured the internet to find the best fish oil supplement available, so you don’t have to. Plus, we’ve got a handy guide on who should take a fish oil supplement and how to navigate those technical vitamin labels.
The Best Fish Oil Supplements: Comparison Table
Viva Naturals Omega-3 Ultra Strength Fish Oil
It has total of 2200mg of fish oil (1400 EPA and 480 DHA)
Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega SoftGels
These soft gels constitute 1280mg of omega-3s, less than Viva Natural
Dr. Mercola Antarctic Krill Oil
In addition to 100mg of EPA and 55mg of DHA
Barlean’s Total Omega Swirl
You’ll get 300mg each of DHA and EPA from salmon or cod liver
Jarrow Max DHA
DHA in this formulation than EPA--500mg and 130mg, respectively
How We Chose Our Ratings
One final word before we dive into our best fish oil supplement picks: especially because this field is rife with false claims and too-good-to-be-true marketing promises, we value honesty and accuracy.
We looked for direct customer testimonials--both are the good and the bad--so that you don’t have to also dug deep into company reputation and available data about the fish oil itself. We’ve got you covered!
Top 5 Best Fish Oil Supplement
1. Viva Naturals Omega-3 Ultra Strength Fish Oil
Viva utilizes a proprietary pressing method called supercritical extraction that produces a highly potent level of omega-3s in triglyceride. Each serving consists of two capsules and a total of 2200mg of fish oil (1400 EPA and 480 DHA).
This ultra strength product is IFOS 5-Star Certified, which means it passes tests for mercury by fishing wild caught small fish sustainably off the coast of Peru.
Viva Naturals contains 90% omega-3s in each capsule, which is one of the highest concentrations available.
We also appreciated that Viva Naturals doesn’t use an enteric coating in its capsules, which can hide a rancid taste and be filled with products like PVC or BPA.
2. Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega SoftGels
The Ultimate Omega fish oil from Nordic Naturals has almost two thousand online reviews--and a whopping 90% of those reviews are four-star or better! Nordic Naturals has long been a popular brand in the fish oil space, and for a good reason, with its 44% lower returns rating than most other supplement brands.
Another triglyceride concentrate, a serving of these soft gels constitute 1280mg of omega-3s, less than Viva Natural, but still very high and readily absorbable.
Something you might appreciate about these capsules, if you’ve had trouble with the aftertaste before, is that they come in a variety of flavors, including lemon.
Nordic Naturals, like Viva Naturals, is wild caught and sustainably sourced from anchovies and sardines. It is also non-GMO, dairy-free, gluten-free, and contains no artificial colors or preservatives.
3. Dr. Mercola Antarctic Krill Oil
Dr. Mercola’s krill oil contains less omega-3s per serving than either of the other fish oil supplements we’ve already rated. However, some people prefer krill because of it is--potentially--more bioavailable.
Dr. Mercola is an established, long-trusted name in the supplement space. Plus, its fishery was the only in the krill oil supplement field to receive an “A” rating for sustainability and a “boat to plate” certification from MSC.
Also, Dr. Mercola sources its krill from the waters of the Antarctic.
In addition to 100mg of EPA and 55mg of DHA, you’ll receive 1mg of Astaxanthin in each serving, which helps the body absorbs the omega-3s in a healthful ratio. The one drawback for us? This is pricey.
4. Barlean’s Total Omega Swirl
While the previously reviewed fish oil supplements come in capsule form, this one comes in a drinkable liquid. If you’re looking for a supplement for children or have trouble swallowing pills, this is a great option.
Plus, customers report that it tastes delicious--Barlean has managed to override the fishy flavor with lightly sweetened flavors such as creamsicle, pina colada, and lemon. Barlean’s Total Omega Swirl is also unique in that it contains more than fish oil.
You’ll get 300mg each of DHA and EPA from salmon or cod liver, but you’ll also receive added benefits from additional flax oil and borage oil.
5. Jarrow Max DHA
On the other end of the cost scale is the Max DHA fish oil from Jarrow. Extremely affordable, you’ll see more DHA in this formulation than EPA--500mg and 130mg, respectively.
It comes in the natural triglyceride form, which makes it extremely bioavailable (though less concentrated).
We also appreciate the good reviews on this product; it’s returned 43% less often than similar products. Customers also report no fishy aftertaste, which is a huge plus!
Why Take a Fish Oil Supplement?
Fish oil is just what it sounds like--oil from fish. What’s so special about the best fish oil supplements are that they contain omega-3s, a type of polyunsaturated fatty acids. These acids aren’t synthesized naturally by human bodies, but they are created in fish.
Omega-3s are believed to have powerful impacts on our health, in a wide variety of ways. There are three different kinds of omega-3’s: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Reseach also shows that these nutrients together with fish oil and Vitamin D helps in keeping our brain healthy and happy.
ALA is found only in plants such as chia seeds and flaxseed. EPA is found only in fish, algae, and krill oil. It is the kind that provides the incredible benefits we’ll explore below. DHA is the third type of omega-3, and it is also found in fish, algae, and krill oil.
On the other hand, fish oil is not recommended to be taken together with other supplements. It is possible that taking fish oil with magnesium supplements can lower your blood pressure too much. It is important to consult your physician to get proper information.
Does a Lack of Fish Oil Put Us at Risk?
In 2005, low dietary omega-3’s were estimated to have been responsible for close to 100,000 deaths in the United States. In addition to high salt intake and high trans fatty acid intake, it was considered by the study authors to be a significant mortality risk factor for most Americans.
While this study’s finding sound alarming, the good news is that finding and taking the best fish oil supplement for you is relatively easy (thanks to this helpful guide, of course), and the benefits are astounding. Here are just a few:
Prevent Alzheimer’s or Mental Decline
Numerous studies exist now that show a link between fish oil supplementation and a reduction in mental declines leading to Alzheimer’s Disease or brain shrinkage (fish oil has not yet been proven to help with Alzheimer’s already in effect, though it has been seen to help perhaps ease some symptoms).
In addition to fish oil supplementation, oily fish such as anchovies and salmon, included in a traditional Mediterranean diet also rich in fruits and vegetables, may help to protect the brain from dementia and the disease. One study even found seniors who ate fish daily were 20% less likely to develop dementia.
That’s certainly a high incentive for finding the best fish oil supplement ; what are fish oil’s other benefits?
Decreasing Risk Factors for Heart Disease
According to a variety of studies available today, the best fish oil supplement may also help to decrease your risk factors for heart disease. People who eat large amounts of fish, in fact, have been shown to have lower rates of heart disease.
While fish oil hasn’t been shown to directly stop heart attacks or strokes from taking place, it has been shown to take on many of the risk factors that lead to a heart attack or stroke, including:
- Reducing blood pressure
- Increasing good cholesterol (HDL)
- Reducing fatal arrhythmia events
- Lowering triglycerides
- Preventing arterial plaque from forming and hardening
And So Much More
In addition to helping prevent mental decline, Alzheimer’s, or the risk factors that lead to heart disease, fish oil has also been shown to help with eczema, psoriasis, ADHD and autism, macular degeneration, diabetes, and depression.
FAQs About Fish Oil
With all the news headlines about fish being toxic and filled with hard metals such as mercury and other pollutants, it’s common to be concerned about taking a fish oil supplement. Is it safe?
We always recommend consulting with your doctor before starting any supplement--especially a high dose--but the American Heart Association approves up to 3 grams per day of fish oil. Be cautious, however, because the side effects of fish oil supplementation can be unpleasant.
People report fishy breath and a fishy taste in their mouths or even sometimes an upset stomach, nausea, or loose bowels. A further caution: more than the recommended AHA 3 gram limit daily might increase your bleeding risk.
What Form Is It In?
Your fish oil will likely come in one of three different forms: natural triglycerides, ethyl esters, or synthetic triglycerides. Natural triglycerides are the closest to the source; they’re the first press, if you will, from the whole fish.
It’s in a very bioavailable form (it’s readily absorbed by the body), but it has the lowest concentrations of DHA, the type of omega-3 we most want.
Ethyl esters are the next step in the processing, and they deliver much higher levels of DHA (and EPA) because they consist of natural triglycerides that have been concentrated and distilled.
The final stage of processing produces even more concentrated amounts of EPA and DHA; it’s called synthetic triglyceride oil, and it has the added benefit of being supremely bioavailable.
Where Does It Come From?
Fish oil can come from a wide variety of fish sources. Krill has become a popular fish oil choice in recent times, in part because it appears that our bodies might utilize krill’s omega-3’s at a more efficient rate because they’re bound to something called phospholipids.
The most popular fish oil supplement sources are mackerel, anchovy, and sardines, simply because these fish are so available. They can be sustainably harvested, and these fish reproduce at such a rapid rate that there’s little concern about over-fishing.
Wild caught salmon oil is also available on the market today. It is extracted from salmon that has already been harvested, which makes it an extremely environmentally sustainable fish oil option.
Finally, cod liver oil is another very popular fish oil, though unlike oil from, say, anchovies, cod liver oil is harvested from the cod’s liver. As a liver extract, it’s extremely high in vitamins D and A, as well as DHA.
Making Sure It’s Safe
Fish oil, as we’ve mentioned, can be very concerning for some people. When coupled with the fact that the supplement industry is not well regulated, it’s even more important to make sure you’re choosing a supplement that’s safe, and that contains what the label says it does.
The three biggest thing you should be checking for include freshness, freedom from chemical contaminants, and the omega-3 concentration and form.
Make sure your fish oil isn’t rancid! If it’s dark or it smells especially potent or fishy, it might be past its prime, even if it hasn’t passed its expiration date. Rancid oil will increase inflammation in your body, which is exactly what you’re trying to avoid!
If you’re burping fish, that’s often a sign that your fish oil supplement is old. To help avoid this problem, make sure you store your supplements correctly, according to the package directions. And never push expiration dates--stay well within them!
There are two certifications you should look for in every supplement you consider to help ensure purity of product: the International Fish Oil Standards Program (IFOS) and the cGMP (current good manufacturing processes) certification that comes from the FDA.
IFOS provides third-party analysis of the fish oil to ensure its purity as wells as its freshness. The cGMP certification through the FDA helps to ensure the manufacturing facility is maintaining safe practices.
You can also look for certification from the Marine Stewardship Council to ensure that your fish oil provider is practicing sustainable fishing practices.
When you’re looking for the best fish oil supplement, you’ll find different brands and formulations have different levels of DHA in different forms (the two triglyceride forms or the ethyl ester form, both of which we explained earlier in this section).
Each of these forms and potencies have pros and cons; it’s best to work with a health professional to find the right scenario for your body.
Final Thoughts: The Best Fish Oil Supplements for You
Now that you know all the benefits that come with taking fish oil, we’re sure you’re chomping at the bit to find the best fish oils supplement available! The first thing you’ll notice, however, when you visit the vitamin aisle at your local health foods store or look for a fish oil supplement online, is that the information is overwhelming; how can you make sense of it all? This guide aims to assist you with just that.
We’ve shared our top fish oil picks and thanks to our buyer’s guide; you’ll be able to easily identify the best fish oil supplement for your needs, preferences, and budget. Happy shopping!