How to Choose the Best Omega 3 Supplement

Nutrition / Omega 3 / December 20, 2019

Omega 3 Supplement Options

A search of “omega 3 supplement” on Amazon brings up more than 1,000 results!

There are capsules, liquids, gummies, infused chocolates, drink powders, and much more. They can cost just pennies per daily dose, or several dollars! 

If you’ve never taken an omega 3 supplement, and you don’t know what you’re looking for, that can be really overwhelming.

And even if you’re already taking an omega 3 supplement, it may not be doing you any good. That’s because the market is full of low-quality products that either don’t provide enough nutrients to make a difference… or the ingredients are substandard… or both. 

That’s where this guide to omega 3 supplements comes in. It tells you everything you need to know before you spend a cent. That way, you can choose the supplement that’ll give your body the greatest possible benefit.


Why You Need an Omega 3 Supplement

Omega 3 fatty acids — or “omega 3s” — are an incredibly versatile nutrient that your body uses in all sorts of important ways. Thousands of studies show that omega 3s play critical roles in human health… everything from cardiovascular and brain function, to pain management and eye health. 

This is why the popularity of omega 3 supplements is growing rapidly— because there are so many reasons to take one. If you’re thinking about taking one (or you already are), it may be with a specific health concern in mind, such as…

  • low bone density
  • a family history of heart disease or stroke
  • improper lifestyle (stress, lack of sleep, poor nutrition)

But all of those reasons come down to the same goal… You want to reduce the low-grade, chronic inflammation that causes disease. 

Chronic inflammation is the root cause of many of the ways we become sick. And increasing your intake of omega 3s is a clinically supported way to reduce the inflammation that can make you sick in the first place.

So, you can see why omega 3s are vital for good health. But how do you know if you need to take a supplement? 

Well, as this page explains, most people don’t get enough omega 3s from their diet. In fact, the modern western diet is severely lacking in omega 3s.

The problem is, it’s quite difficult to get enough omega 3s from food sources alone…

Omega 3 Fatty Acid Food Sources

Dr. William Harris, a globally recognized expert on omega 3s, has noted that the average American consumes no more than 150 mg (1.5 g) per day.   

Now, there’s no universal recommendation for daily intake of omega 3s. But the recommendations of numerous governmental agencies in the U.S., Canada and Europe indicate somewhere between 2.6 g and 3 g combined of two omega 3 fatty acids in particular –eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) –daily.

Everyone’s omega 3 needs are different, though, because of factors like metabolism, genetics, and nutrient absorption. One of the best ways to find out your daily requirement is by taking an omega 3 blood test. Keep reading to find out an easy, accurate way to do this — right in your own home! 

Let’s say, though, that you do need at least 2.6 g of EPA/DHA daily — the minimum recommended amount, according to the research I mentioned above. To meet that target, you’d have to eat at least two three-ounce portions of wild-caught fish every day

So, a supplement really is the easiest way to make sure you’re getting all the omega 3s you need.

Now, though, you need to actually choose a supplement… which is where confusion might set in! Here’s a simple formula that will help make your decision a whole lot easier.


How to Choose an Omega 3 Supplement… Look for the Three “Ps”

A simple way to remember what you need to look for in an omega 3 supplement is “the three Ps”:

Potency

Purity

Palatability

What does this mean? Read on to find out!

Potency icon

Potency

There are two types of omega 3 fatty acids that provide the most potent benefits to your health:

  • EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid)
  • DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid)

You’ll want to be sure you’re getting EPA and DHA in any supplement you consider buying. (Discover what they are, and all the amazing things they do, here.)

So, when you’re shopping for an omega 3 supplement, there are two things you’ll want to pay special attention to:

  1. How many milligrams (mg) of EPA and DHA you get per serving
  2. The serving size 

That might seem straightforward, but things can get a bit tricky here. That’s because many supplements are labeled in not-so-straightforward ways. 

For example, some supplements will claim that a serving contains a high number of milligrams of fish oil (“1,200 mg of fish oil!”). But that’s not the same as how many milligrams of EPA and DHA you’re getting. You’ll need to look at the Supplement Facts panel on the package to find out the exact EPA and DHA content per serving.

Now, as I mentioned above, in order to enjoy the full benefits of omega 3s, you should aim to consume 2.6 to 3 grams combined of EPA and DHA each day. (That’s 2,600 to 3,000 mg.) But every person’s requirements are different, because of factors like metabolism, nutrient absorption and genetics.

One of the best ways to find out your daily needs is to take an omega 3 blood test. The OmegaQuant Analytics test is easy and fast, and is the most accurate test of its kind on the market. Even better… you can do the test right at home!

Fun fact: Dr. William Harris, the omega 3s expert mentioned above, is the founder and president of OmegaQuant.

So, once you know what your daily omega 3 needs are, the next question is: What does your omega 3 supplement serving size need to be? Once again, you’ll need to check the label. Depending on the product, it could be anywhere from one spoonful or tablet daily, to several spoonfuls or tablets. By “several”, think as many as six or eight… every single day!

Of course, the best possible option would be just one small dose per day. That way you’re less likely to forget, and you won’t have to worry about scheduling multiple doses around your daily activities.

But there’s one more factor to consider when it comes to potency — and it’s a big one. It’s not that easy to spot, but it can make the difference between experiencing all the health benefits of omega 3s… or virtually throwing your money away.

We’ve already learned that you have to read the label to check the quantity of omega 3s you’re getting in a supplement. You’ve also got to confirm the quality. That’s because there are three forms that omega 3s can take, and your body uses each of them differently.

The three different forms of omega 3s are: 

  • Natural triglycerides
  • Ethyl esters
  • Synthetic (reverse) triglycerides

Now, there currently aren’t any laws requiring supplement manufacturers to say on their packaging what form of omega 3s they use. This is frustrating, because it makes a huge difference. Here’s why…

1. Natural triglycerides

Like the name suggests, this is omega 3s in their natural form. Natural triglycerides are highly bioavailable, meaning the nutrients are easily absorbed into your system. And they’re the closest thing to eating the original food source… like omega-3-rich fish!

What are triglycerides?

Triglycerides are the most common type of fat in your body. They come from foods you eat — especially oils and other dietary fats like butter. They’re then stored as extra calories in your fat cells. When your body needs extra energy, it releases some of those triglycerides.

High triglyceride levels may lead to serious health issues, like increased risk of heart attack and stroke. But triglycerides consumed in the form of a high-quality omega 3s supplement may help to reduce harmful triglyceride levels in your body, leading to improved overall health. 

2. Ethyl esters

When natural triglycerides go through a chemical process called “transesterification,” the result is ethyl esters (EEs). Supplement-makers convert natural triglycerides into EEs because it allows them to double or triple the levels of EPA/DHA, compared to what natural triglycerides provide. 

That might sound like a great thing, but the process has major drawbacks. 

Ethyl esters are much harder to digest, so they’re a lot less bioavailable than natural triglycerides. Back in 1988, a study showed that EPA and DHA were, on average, more than 300% better absorbed in their natural triglyceride form than as EEs. A more recent study, in 2010, found that EPA/DHA bioavailability from EEs was 73% lower than from natural triglycerides. 

So, even though a supplement made from EE-type omega 3s offers more EPA/DHA, your body will absorb far less.

Maybe even more importantly… the safety of the EE form has not been confirmed in humans. EEs are also known to accumulate in major organs such as the heart, liver and pancreas. And they can potentially accumulate in the placenta, which makes them an even bigger concern for pregnant women.

There’s another big reason for pregnant women to avoid the EE form of omega 3s. When your body absorbs EEs, it has to convert them back into their natural triglyceride form. When it does this, alcohol is released. It’s a tiny amount of alcohol, but it still has the potential to harm a developing fetus. Pregnant women are advised not to use omega 3 supplements that contain EEs. 

3. Synthetic (reverse) triglycerides

Synthetic triglycerides are EEs taken one step further. After the manufacturer converts natural triglycerides to EEs, they then re-convert them back to triglycerides… except in a synthetic form. The triglycerides’ overall structure is altered, and the bioavailability of the omega 3s is less than if they were in their natural form. 

All in all, natural triglycerides are the way to go. It’s the form of omega 3s that’s best absorbed by your body. And as the name suggests, you’re absorbing the nutrients in their “natural” state, without any chemical intervention. It’s even better if those triglycerides are delivered as an emulsion — meaning they’re suspended in another liquid. (Milk is an emulsion of fat and water.) The bioavailability of omega 3s has been shown to be even better when they’re part of an emulsion.

If you’re interested in a supplement and it doesn’t say what form of omega 3s it’s made from, contact the manufacturer. It’s worth the time and effort to find out if you’ll be getting your money’s — and your health’s — worth.

Purity icon

Purity

A study out of New Zealand in 2015 revealed shocking statistics about some of the fish-oil-derived omega 3 supplements on the market. While only 32 supplements were involved in the study, the results are well worth noting.

Among the supplements that scientists tested…

  • Only 3 contained the levels of EPA and DHA listed on the label 
  • Over two-thirds contained less than 67% of the EPA and DHA listed on the label
  • Only 8% met international recommendations for safe levels of toxic contaminants! 

That last point is a big one, because the level of toxicity in a fish-oil supplement is an indication of how much the oil has oxidized. (In other words, how rancid it’s become.) And the consumption of oxidized oils may actually increase inflammation. Imagine taking a supplement and it ends up doing the opposite of what you bought it for!

Another study found that more than 80% of fish oil supplements tested contained unacceptably high levels of peroxide. Peroxide is the first toxic compound produced when oxidation occurs. 

And here’s an additional cause for concern. The more unsaturated a fat is, the more vulnerable it is to becoming oxidized. EPA and DHA are the most unsaturated of all fats, meaning their chances of becoming oxidized are especially high.

How to Know If Your Omega 3 Supplement is Rancid

If your omega 3 supplement is old, has been improperly stored, or was manufactured using fish oil that had already oxidized, it may be rancid. 

Fortunately, it’s easy to test your supplement for rancidity. Simply smell it. (If it’s in capsule form, break one open.) If it smells “fishy”, don’t use it!

Always refrigerate your supplement, ideally even before unsealing the package. And before you buy, make sure the supplement contains antioxidants that preserve the oil’s freshness. But remember, vitamin E — a popular choice in omega 3 supplements — doesn’t effectively prevent oxidation. You’ll want a supplement with antioxidants that are shown to be more effective.  

You see, there’s something called persistent organic pollutants (POPs). These are toxic compounds in the environment that don’t break down. They persist in the water, and in soils and the plants grown in them. They also accumulate in animals, fish and humans as a result of what they eat and drink. 

One type of POP is polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) — man-made industrial chemicals so harmful to the environment and to human health that U.S. Congress banned their manufacture back in 1979. PCBs are endocrine disruptors, and cause cancer and reproductive toxicity. 

Remember… PCBs don’t break down. So, even though they were banned over 40 years ago, they’re still with us. 

Now, while it’s impossible to completely avoid trace amounts of toxins, you definitely want to be sure that whatever you’re consuming contains safe levels of them. 

When it comes to fish oil supplements, one of the best ways to ensure this is to choose a supplement derived from fish species that are low on the food chain. Why? Because toxins like PCBs accumulate up the food chain. Smaller, short-lived fish like sardine, anchovy and mackerel contain the smallest amounts of these potentially harmful substances.

Palatability icon

Palatability

“Palatability” simply means that something is pleasing to your palate… that it tastes good!

Unfortunately, one of the most common complaints about omega 3 supplements is they don’t taste good at all! Because even if a supplement has no flavor when you swallow it, it might still produce a nasty flavor (or some other unpleasant side effect) later on.

See, almost all the best sources of EPA and DHA come from seafood… particularly oily fish like trout, mackerel, anchovies and salmon. So the majority of omega 3 supplements on the market are made from fish oil. (Vegetarian supplements source their omega 3s from algae, but they may not provide the recommended amounts of EPA and DHA.) And with lots of those supplements, people complain about fishy taste… or digestive after-effects like fishy burps, flatulence, bloating, and even diarrhea.

Why does this happen? Well, it relates back to the Potency section above. 

You can digest a supplement made from natural triglycerides significantly better than the EE and synthetic triglyceride forms. If you experience fishy burps or other digestive disturbances after taking a supplement, it probably means it’s made with either the EE or synthetic triglyceride form of omega 3s. 

This is why some capsule supplements have what’s called an “enteric” coating. This prevents the capsule from dissolving until it gets to your intestinal tract. But while that might help reduce or eliminate side effects, you may still be consuming rancid oil that’s not only failing to improve your health… it could actually do you harm by increasing, rather than fighting, inflammation.

Two steps are required to ensure a fish oil supplement is palatable:

  1. The EPA and DHA should be in the form of natural triglycerides
  2. Those triglycerides should be paired with antioxidants that prevent them from going rancid

Now, this is why you may have noticed that some omega 3 supplements also contain vitamin E. Vitamin E is very popular for its antioxidant properties. Unfortunately, studies show it isn’t up to the task of fully protecting EPA and DHA from oxidation. Vitamin E may reduce oxidation somewhat, but it won’t prevent it.

In order to preserve the delicate fish oils and ensure you don’t experience an unpleasant taste — now or later — a more effective antioxidant is needed. Two particular antioxidants have been singled out for their potency: astaxanthin and curcumin. These two natural substances prevent fish oil from going rancid — which is where a supplement’s foul taste and smell come from. Plus, they provide powerful anti-inflammatory properties of their own, helping to support heart and brain health, improve joint function, and much more!


The Best Omega 3 Supplement for You

So, now you’ve got the information you need to make choosing an omega 3 a whole lot easier. Remember to keep “the three Ps” — Potency, Purity, and Palatability — in mind when you start shopping around. Take your time to find the one that best suits your needs… It’s worth putting in that little extra effort! 

Of course, carefully reading the label of a supplement can help ensure you’re meeting your requirements for potency and purity. But how can you be sure you’re getting a supplement that tastes good — and that doesn’t produce any nasty after-effects, like fish burps — without buying it first?

Well, what if there were an omega 3 supplement that tastes like — and is actually made from — natural mango flavor? And what if it had more than 200 five-star reviews from folks who have tried it? 

There’s only one supplement in the world that offers this, while also meeting all your needs for potency and purity. That’s Triple Power Omega 3 Fish Oil

Now, you’re probably thinking: “Of course you recommend Triple Power — it’s an AlgaeCal product!” 

And you’re right to think that. But we want you to make an informed choice based on which omega 3 supplement is best for your needs. So, here are the key points to consider about Triple Power while you’re making that decision.   

Potency: Each 2-tablespoon dose of Triple Power provides 1500 mg of EPA, and 900 mg of DHA, along with 560 mg of other omega 3 fatty acids — all in their natural triglyceride form. That’s 2.96 grams of omega 3s in total. Also, Triple Power is an emulsion, making it 300% better absorbed than a non-emulsified fish oil! 

Purity: Independent lab analyses confirm Triple Power contains even more EPA and DHA than is listed on the label. Triple Power also far exceeds international requirements for safe levels of all environmental toxins. For instance, the FDA’s safe limit for PCBs is 20 parts per million… Triple Power contains less than 0.045 parts per million

Palatability: Triple Power’s omega 3s are sourced from fresh anchovies, sardines and mackerel that have been wild-caught by small Pacific fisheries. The powerful antioxidant properties of astaxanthin and curcumin prevent these beneficial oils from spoiling. Then, to ensure the best-tasting product possible, the oil is molecularly distilled and flavored with delicious natural mango. Triple Power guarantees zero fishy taste! In fact, it tastes so good you can blend it into smoothies or yogurt… or even use it as an ice cream topping! 

Triple Power Omega 3 Fish Oil Bottle

How to Choose an Omega 3 Supplement Takeaways

Omega 3 fatty acids offer an incredible range of health benefits. Their anti-inflammatory properties help support the health of your brain, your heart, your bones, and so much more.

Taking an omega 3 supplement is a great way to take advantage of this powerful nutrient. But it’s important to choose carefully, because the wrong supplement may end up being a waste of money. Or, in the worst case, it could actually do you more harm than good!

That’s why it’s so important to do a bit of research before you make a purchase. Keep the “three Ps” explained above — potency, purity, palatability — in mind, and you’ll be off to a great start. A high-quality supplement like Triple Power Omega 3 Fish Oil ticks all three boxes. You’ll experience all the health-supporting benefits of omega 3s… and actually enjoy doing it!


Author: Monica Straith, BS

Comments
R Patrick
R Patrick

I bought a bottle but when I saw the amount of Cholesterol in one Tablespoon—30mg, I was shocked. That is more Cholesterol than 1 cup of 2% milk—20mg, which I why I switched to Almond Milk for 0mg of Cholesterol and 2x the Calcium. I became very concerned as I need to keep to a low cholesterol diet. Is there a way to get Omega 3’s without the huge Cholesterol hit?

Megan AlgaeCal
Megan AlgaeCal

Hi Richie, we’re glad you reached out!

There’s no need to worry about the cholesterol in fish oil. There’s strong evidence to show that omega 3 fatty acids (like in Triple Power) can help to improve cholesterol levels.

And contrary to popular belief, someone with high cholesterol doesn’t need to be concerned about how much cholesterol they’re consuming. Only around 20% of the cholesterol in your body comes from the food you eat – the other 80% is made by your liver. Your liver makes cholesterol because you need cholesterol…it’s essential to a healthy, properly functioning body. The problem is when we have too much “bad” cholesterol and too little “good” cholesterol. What affects levels of good and bad cholesterol? Things like saturated fats, trans fats, and soluble fibre.

Here’s an article with tips on how to lower cholesterol that you may find helpful.

Hope this information helps and gives you peace of mind about the 30mg of cholesterol in Triple Power 🙂

-Megan @ AlgaeCal

Shelley
Shelley

I’m an international Flight Attendant,
and travel 9-12 days straight, so packing the liquid wouldn’t work for me.
Do you have capsules that don’t have to be refrigerated?

Megan AlgaeCal
Megan AlgaeCal

Hi Shelley, good question!

We don’t offer Triple Power in capsule form – our preference is for liquid because it’s more absorbable and less prone to masked rancidity. Having said that, here are some tips for traveling with Triple Power:

-Triple Power will be fine without refrigeration for a few days
-Pack Triple Power in smaller bottles and keep these in the fridge or a bucket of ice
-If the above isn’t realistic for you, purchase a capsule form of Omega for times of prolonged travel

Hope this helps, Shelley!

-Megan @ AlgaeCal

Liz Morkill
Liz Morkill

I’m allergic to turmeric. Will you ever consider making a version without it?

Megan AlgaeCal
Megan AlgaeCal

Hi Liz,

Thanks for taking the time to share. We currently don’t have any plans to make a version without turmeric, but we like to suggest Nordic Naturals as another high-quality omega 3 supplement! Hope this helps 🙂

-Megan @ AlgaeCal

Brenda
Brenda

Would love to be able to take this but way expensive! Very unfortunate

Megan AlgaeCal
Megan AlgaeCal

Hi Brenda, thanks for your honesty.

We do have bundle pricing which brings down the cost per bottle. You can learn about our pricing options here or by calling our Bone Health Consultants (who can also help answer bone-health related questions) at 1-800-820-0184. ❤️

-Megan @ AlgaeCal

Carolyn
Carolyn

Is triple power ok for a diabetic to take?

Megan AlgaeCal
Megan AlgaeCal

Great question, Carolyn!

Yes, Triple Power is okay for someone with diabetes as it’s sweetened with xylitol, which doesn’t spike blood sugar. You can learn more about xylitol and its benefits here.

Hope this helps and if you have any other questions please call our Bone Health Consultants at 1-800-820-0184!

– Megan @ AlgaeCal

Barbara Stratton
Barbara Stratton

I am vegan and do not want to consume any animal products–especially fish. How can I add Omega 3 to my diet?
Barbara Stratton

Megan AlgaeCal
Megan AlgaeCal

Hi Barbara, good question!

Vegan omega 3 sources include walnuts, ground flax, hemp seeds, chia seeds, as well as their oils (eg. walnut oil, flax oil, etc.). It can be hard for vegans to get enough omega 3 through diet alone, which is where supplements can come in handy.

One brand that carries a good vegan omega 3 supplement is Nordic Naturals – feel free to look them up online! Hope this helps ❤️

-Megan @ AlgaeCal

Jan Thatcher
Jan Thatcher

Glad to hear you are recommending Nordic Natural’s Algae Omega. I have been taking this for three years and find it to be an excellent way for vegetarians to get their Omega 3’s.

Megan AlgaeCal
Megan AlgaeCal

Thanks for sharing, Jan!

Great to hear that you’ve been enjoying taking Nordic Naturals as a high-quality omega 3 source 🙂

-Megan @ AlgaeCal

denise
denise

Your guide provides helpful information. Wish I could use your Omega 3 supplement. However, I cannot use xylitol or citric acid.

Megan AlgaeCal
Megan AlgaeCal

Hi Denise,

Thanks for taking the time to read through our article and comment! Sorry to hear that you’re unable to take our Triple Power Omega 3. We hope you’ll be able to use the helpful tips in this article to choose an omega 3 supplement that fits your needs ❤️

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out!

-Megan @ AlgaeCal

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