Fish oil has received a lot of attention, some good and some bad but can be a very key part of a healthy centered lifestyle.
How can fish oil help you in your health pursuits, help your joints, combat major diseases like diabetes and heart disease, improve your skin and even help with your memory and focus?
Well read on!
Under The Sea: Fish Oil
We’ve got a lot of good stuff from the oceans over the years including this:
Probably shouldn’t hold my breath on Christian Bale playing him in a big movie anytime soon…
But let’s focus on what else has been swimming around in our waters and look at the tremendous benefits fish and fish oil provide.
Some people are not big on eating fish but here’s a quick breakdown of the benefits of this amazing source of protein.
We will get to the Omega-3 benefits in a moment but here’s some of the key nutrition you get from fish:
- low fat
- high quality protein
- Vitamin D
- Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
Looks like a swimming multi-vitamin!
What About Toxins In Fish?
This is a genuine concern as the amount of pollutants in our environment have entered our water supplies and can be found in the animals we consume.
Fish are able to store incredibly high amounts of toxins in their flesh and fat as much as 9 millions times more than what is in the water around them.
The big two toxins when it comes to fish are mercury and polycholorinated biphenyls or PCB’s that have been associated with increased cancer risk, decreased mental functioning and damaged sexual health.
If you consume fish it is obviously important to be very aware of what you are consuming and where it comes from.
I live in southwestern Ontario and years back there was an incident involving a fishing derby that was taking place on lake Ontario. The lake had been known for higher pollution levels and a competitor was disqualified when it was found he had brought in fish that he had caught in Lake Erie and claimed to have caught in Lake Ontario.
Why was he disqualified? They tested it and found the fish from Lake Erie had a much lower level of toxins and could not have been from Lake Ontario…
The Issue With Salmon
Salmon is one of the most popular and potentially healthiest fish out there but because it is becoming so rare in the wild due to over-fishing and popularity. PETA claims that 80% of the salmon consumed in America today come from massive fish farms.
The farmed fish are fed the flesh of commercially caught varieties of fish that are not generally consumed by people. For every one pound of farm fish it takes 5 pounds of this commercially caught toxin filled fish resulting in fish that are loaded to the gills with toxins.
Not funny but that was a good time for that joke I think…
Toxins are stored in fat and farmed fish is fattened up resulting in double the fat storage and ending up with more stored toxins. These weaker versions of their wild alternatives also end up being a dull gray color instead of the bright pink of their wild cousins.
I’m sure most people have heard of the issue of these farmed salmon being dyed pink to impersonate their wild cousins. This has shown up in the courts as back in 2003 a class action lawsuit was filed in the state of Washington because labeling on farmed salmon did not mention the use of dye in the product.
Fish farmers would use “salmon fans” which is a chart of colors to choose the color of their fish.
Honestly it is not much different than choosing paint colors for a room. These colorants are added to the feed contribute to one third of the feed costs
These dyes have been traced to retinal damage and ADHD in children making it a very real issue about knowing what’s in our food.
The clear takeaway here if you consume salmon is to be aware of where it has come from and look for the freshest, most natural source possible.
Best Fish Choices
When they are natural and organic these are your best bets.
Wild Alaskan Salmon- Alaskan fisheries are so well managed that biologists make note of how many fish return to spawn at river mouths and if the number begin to dwindle the fishery closes before it reaches its limit. There is a close monitoring of the water and these fish contain up to 1,200 mg of omega 3 per three ounce serving.
Oysters- Just because they don’t have fins doesn’t mean oysters need to be dismissed. Farmed oysters contain 300 mg of omega-3 and a lot of iron.
Sardines– not just an unnecessary pizza topping anymore.. wild caught pacific sardines have more omega 3 than pretty much any other fish or food in general at a whopping 1,950 mg per three ounce serving. It is also one of the very few foods high in vitamin D.
Albacore Tuna- it is advised to steer towards pole caught or trolled U.S or British Columbia tuna. Tuna is often associated with mercury but the albacore is the best choice for white canned tuna. Finding out if it is troll or pole caught will give it a higher green rating so you know that it is the lowest mercury possible. When tuna is caught by troll or pole it means it is a smaller fish so can’t contain as many contaminants and being from the U.S or B.C means it was caught in colder, northern waters which are cleaner waters.
* if you’re buying canned tuna you want to look out for the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) blue eco label.
Benefits Of Omega 3
Fish oil capsules are probably the most convenient way to get an intake of fish oil however consuming fresh clean fish whenever possible always makes for great nutrition. There are 3 types of omega 3:
- ALA- alpha-linolenic acid
- EPA- eicosapentaenoic acid
- DHA- docosahexaenoic acid
ALA is found in things like flax seed and plants and have some benefits but are a short chain fatty acid that have less potent benefits as the long chain EPA and DHA
If you wanted to know exactly why omega 3 is something beneficial for your body here’s a quick rundown:
Can Help You Stay Lean & Lose Weight
This probably catches most people off guard but your body will use these ideal fats to build the outside layer that protects our cells. This is optimal for metabolism and helps improve insulin sensitivity. Better insulin sensitivity is a big factor in weight loss.
Helps To Fight Inflammation
In my eyes this is the main benefit of omega 3. Some people hear the word inflammation and they think of a cut or infection on a finger or something that gets red and hot. This is an important immune response to protect and heal your body but this happens internally and over time turns into a chronic condition.
You might not physically feel the effects but over years and even decades it can cause real problems to your cellular health and has been linked to degenerative diseases including:
- heart disease
Omega 3 fights inflammation by binding to some proteins that are found on immune cells involved with inflammation.
So besides that big degenerative diseases fighting inflammation in the body allows for less pain in your joints and can help relieve the effects of arthritis
Helps Lower Cholesterol
Those who follow Mediterranean type diets tend to consume more omega 3 through seafood and nuts and seeds and this helps to raise the good HDL cholesterol levels.
Even Inuits who have a diet made up of mainly protein and fat consume a large amount of seafood and have higher reported HDL levels. At the same time they show low levels of plasma cholesterol and triglycerides despite having a large intake of saturated fat.
I’ve got a whole breakdown on the misconceptions of saturated fat here
Has A Positive Impact On People With Diabetes
People who have diabetes tend to have lower HDL levels and high triglycerides. Omega 3 can help reverse this situation while also lowering apoproteins which are markers for diabetes.
Those with type 1 and 2 diabetes are also at higher risk for coronary heart disease, hypertension and obesity due to insulin resistance and low HDL levels paired with high levels of triglycerides. The omega 3 benefits help to promote a better cellular environment to combat these conditions.
It’s recommended however to consult with a doctor regarding potential higher fasting blood sugar when taking fish oil in type 2 diabetics.
Omega 3 Helps In Cognitive Function
Our brains are made up of omega 3 and studies have shown that the use of fish oil results in less brain shrinkage. Researchers specializing in alzheimers and memory disorder in Rhode Island looked at 819 individuals and found besides promoting higher brain volume the fish oil helped in memory and better cognitive function.
Fish has always been thought of as “brain food” and it appears to be correct.
How Much Fish Oil Should You Take
This is going to vary widely as some say you should not take more than 3 grams a day and people on blood thinning medications need to be aware and consult with a doctor regarding use of fish oil
The American Heart Association suggests taking 1 gram of EPA and DHA when coronary heart disease is an issue and 2-4 grams per day of EPA and DHA for people who need to lower tryglycerides
I think if you shoot for around 2 grams per day you will put yourself in a good position to receive the positive benefits. This is where liquid fish oil is a good choice as you don’t have to worry about too many pills if you’re not a pill person.
Wrapping It Up
People might be wondering about certain brands of fish oil and if one is better than an another. Use this article as a jumping off point to continue to do further research and always investigate products if you are to use them.
A tip though is to look for products with the highest amount of EPA and DHA per capsule. And to make sure that the fish they use come from organic, clean sources.
This goes as well for any actual fish you might consume. We are what we eat so make sure you become the healthiest, cleanest version of yourself you can be.
Just stay away from this little guy as delicious as it might be…sorry kids.
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