Diet + Nutrition

5 Tips for Buying the Right Omega 3 Fish Oils

What makes a good fish oil? How do you know if it’s high quality? Are liquid or capsules better? Here are the must-know tips for buying omega 3 fish oils that will help you find high-quality products and save you time and money.

Omega 3s benefits are far-reaching, from the anti-inflammatory properties, brain and nerve support, anti-oxidants, joint support and hormone balancing to name a few. Living in Calgary, we suffer from extremely dry weather all year long, and being land-locked, freshly caught fish is not something that’s readily available. Among my Top 5 Supplements for the Everyday Person are Omega 3 fish oils. However, what makes a good fish oil, and how do you know if you’re getting a good quality product?

1. 3rd Party Tested

There are so many products on the shelf that claim to be ‘the best, top-rated, grade A-quality’ maybe they even have a fancy looking seal on the package, but how can you really be sure it’s not just another one of those “Voted Best Pizza in New York” kind of claims. I look for the 5-Star Rated IFOS when buying fish oils. The International Fish Oil Standards Program is a 3rd party testing company that will test and rank your fish oil among others on the market for contaminants, heavy metals, raw materials etc. There are currently over 100 different fish oil products you can look up and see where yours rank – they even have a pet category so you know your little fur babies are getting the good stuff too.

2. Storage

A big no-no for me is buying omegas that are in clear/see-through bottles with clear gel caps. Air, light, and heat are things that can destroy oils and cause them to go rancid quickly. Making sure your omegas are in dark glass bottles for liquid, and stored away from light or non-see through bottles with dark capsules will help preserve their shelf life and tip you off as to the quality inside. Some oils do not need to be refrigerated, but always read the label to confirm this. It’s better to refrigerate them, but if you’re going to forget about them along with last weeks leftovers, then I’d rather you keep it someplace you’ll be reminded to take it. (I leave my capsules on my nightstand so I remember to take them when I crawl into bed)

3. What’s the Total Omega 3s?

Just because your fish oils says there’s 1000mg on the front of the bottle, doesn’t mean there’s 1000mg of good quality EPA/DHA in there. Yea, deceiving – I know. Turn that bottle around and see what the label says. I’ve been frustrated on more than one occasion when clients bring in their fish oils. More often than not, they were duped by the marketing industry and not getting anywhere near the amount of good omegas they thought they were.

Reading Labels

Let’s take a look at two very popular omega 3s, available in big box and warehouse stores, compared to a 5 Star IFOS Rated Omega 3 brand that I take and recommend to clients.

  • As you can see the cheapest one on the left says it contains 1000mg of Fish Oil. The ingredients show that there’s 500mg (50%) of EPA/DHA (what you want to look for in a good omega 3). So 1/2 the capsule is filler fish fat.
  • The middle one is a little better, at 1000mg it has about 720mg (72%) of EPA/DHA, so 28% left over fish filler oil.
  • Compared these to the far right omega 3 that has 1175mg of fish oil with 925mg (79%) of EPA/DHA, plus an additional 22% in other Omega 3s and complexes.

The cheap version runs about $15.99, where the other two are on average $29.99. You would have to take at least double the amount of the cheap stuff to come close to the other two, but you’d be consuming 50% more filler fish oil that is not IFOS rated. So, why waste your money?

4. What Are You Taking Omega 3s For?

Aside from it being a great staple among your supplement regime, everyone has different needs and narrowing down what you’re taking omega 3s for will help determine how much EPA/DHA you’ll want to look for.

In a nutshell, DHA helps support the structure of the cell and EPA helps support the cells function. So children, pregnant women and seniors or those with deterioration disorders would benefit from higher amounts of DHA compared to EPA in a capsule/liquid because they’re trying to form, grow and preserve their cell structures. Higher amounts of EPA vs. DHA (usually a 3:1 ratio) helps fight inflammation, lubricates joints, nourishes the brain, nervous and cardiovascular systems, balances hormones, aids in skin health and cognitive health including depression and behavioral disorders. Related Article: How to Prevent Stretch Marks During Pregnancy

5. Are Liquid or Capsules Better?

Let’s ask this differently to find the answer. What form are you more likely to remember to take? Yes, the liquid is the superior form, but If you detest the liquid fish oils and avoid taking them, opt for a high-quality capsule instead. I am not too fond of the liquids myself (and I can huck back some pretty weird hippy green drinks without batting an eye). However, if you’re one that doesn’t mind the taste, but doesn’t have the desire or physically can’t swallow capsules, there are fish oil brands that have some lemon, apple and even strawberry flavors that may tickle your fancy. Those I would recommend keeping in the fridge as directed on the bottle.


Top Recommended Brands:

I’ve tried many kinds over the years and these three are my top choice brands for liquids or capsules. Genestra Super EFA Plus Liquid, Nutra Sea High Potency EFA Liquid and Renew Life Super Critical Omega 3 Capsules