How many times this year have you committed to eating more fish? Now, how many times have you not eaten more fish? I bet the answer to both is a lot. Look, when it comes to nutrition, we always have the best intentions, but we rarely realize them.
Fatty fish is the best source for omega-3 fatty acids and eating a couple of 3.5-ounce servings of salmon per week is what most doctors recommend. But is that always enough? It really depends on what you want from it.
Because most North Americans don’t eat that much fish—it can be an acquired taste and rather pricey—they elect to supplement with a daily omega-3. And that’s great!
If you’re taking fish oil for overall general health, a daily dosage of about 250 mg per day, made up of EPA and DHA, is the minimum you’ll need to see any therapeutic benefit. If you’re eating salmon, tuna, or other fatty fish twice per week, you’re covered. But once again, that’s the absolute minimum we’re talking about for general health.
Let’s say your goal for omega-3 is heart health. Well, in that case, 250 mg per day won’t cut it. The American Heart Association recommends getting at least 1 gram (1,000 mg)—nearly four times the minimum therapeutic dose for general health—of fish oil per day. To get 1 gram per day, you’ll need to eat 3.5 ounces of salmon (or another low-mercury, fatty fish) twice per week like religion.
Your DHA and EPA intake can come from a mixture of dietary fish and omega-3 supplements: the more fish you eat, the fewer supplements you’ll have to take to get the benefits. If going above 3 grams per day worth of supplements, talk to your doctor because it could lead to complications in certain individuals. If you’re eating that much in fish alone, the same risks would not apply—just make sure it’s a low-mercury variety.
Not only does dose size make a difference, but timing does too. For your smaller doses, like 250 mg or 1 gram, take your fish oil with breakfast. Taking it with a meal can reduce the likelihood (and power) of a fish burp. With larger does, like 6 grams, take throughout the day with meals. Two grams with three meals is best, if possible. Also, you may be able to increase absorption of the omega-3 by taking it with another natural fat source like avocado, eggs, and nuts.
Even if you bump up your fish intake, you might not be getting enough omega-3 to reach your goals. Supplement wisely to get the most from your money!