Fish Oil vs. Algae Oil: Which One is Better for Omega-3?

Fish Oil vs. Algae Oil: Which One is Better for Omega-3?

There might be a bit of a misconception when it comes to where to get your intake of omega-3 fatty acids as a vegan.

Most people perhaps falsely believe that the only source of high-quality omega 3 is from fish – those that don’t eat seafood rely on taking a supplement derived from krill, cod, mackerel, sardines, or anchovies. 

While chia seeds and flax seeds might not be enough to meet the nutritional needs of the 250-500 mg minimum per day EPA/DHA for women and men, algae oil offers all the nutritional benefits of omega-3 fatty acids derived from fish oil. 

Instead of being harvested from farmed or wild-caught fish, which are known to bioaccumulate environmental contaminants, algae oil is the source that provides fish themselves with their own omega-3 content. 

In one study, algae oil supplements were demonstrated to have an equivalent omega-3 nutritional profile when compared to cooked salmon, and worked the same way within the body as traditional fish oil.

Omega-3 Content in Algae Oil

Algae oil supplements can vary in the amount of EPA and DHA they contain. Our vegan omega-3 algae oil supplements contain 1,000 mg DHA per serving, or 500 mg per capsule.

Most brands will contain total DHA content in the range of 200 mg – 500 mg DHA per serving. Our supplement has higher levels of DHA and total omega-3 content when compared to competitors. We would always recommend comparing labels or nutritional content when shopping online. 

Specific species of microalgae, such as Schizochytrium sp., are especially high in the main types of omega-3 fatty acids people need to supplement. These are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). These provide important cardiovascular and neurological benefits.

Compared to fish, algae can be grown to increase production of omega-3 fatty acids by adjusting their controlled exposure to light (UV), oxygen, and temperatures. Even those eating eggs or dairy that claims to be enriched with omega-3s, are eating products that have been fed supplemental algae oil.

This species of algae is specifically grown for its high omega-3 content, and is ecologically sustainable. It is cruelty-free, and does not involve the over-farming of wild fish.

What are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

Omega-3 fats are an integral part of our diet.

While not all fats are healthy, despite an abundance of marketing to the contrary, omega-3s like DHA and EPA support healthy triglyceride levels, heart health, brain function, and improve nerve cell functioning

Omega-3s belong to a specific group of polyunsaturated fats that are commonly found in plant food and fish. Your body cannot make these fats on its own, and requires them through supplements or diet. 

While we get plenty of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids in our diets, the sources of these are often not ideal. The largest source is refined vegetable oil, which is often a driver of inflammation and (unhealthy) weight gain.

Instead, we want to prioritize balancing the omega 3: omega 6 ratio by ingesting more high-quality DHA + EPA, such as in the form of algae oil. While a form of omega-3 called ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) is often found in fatty plant foods like chia seeds, flax seeds and walnuts – it is poorly converted by the body to the forms DHA and EPA that we need.

Fish vs. Algae: Which Omega-3 is Best?

While those adhering to a strict vegan diet and lifestyle cannot consume fish oil or seafood containing omega-3s, even those who do would be better suited looking into algae oil as a substitute. 

Algae and seaweed supply the same EPA and DHA that fish supply. Fish are not able to biologically produce EPA or DHA on their own, and get it by eating the same microalgae now available as a supplement through Earth & Elle.

Thus, we can consider algae or “vegan omega-3” as the primary source of omega-3 fatty acids. 

Numerous studies reinforce the science that algae oil is comparable to fish oil in every conceivable way. Participants in studies were able to raise blood levels of DHA from an algae oil supplement just as effectively as when compared to a fish oil-based supplement.

The major benefit to supplementing with algae oil as opposed to fish oil is a higher degree of purity.

Algae oil is grown under extremely tightly controlled conditions and is then purified. It is never exposed to the environmental pollutants fish are, especially as something lower on the food chain. 

While most commercial fish oils are free of mercury, unlike seafood, they will still contain biological contaminants like microplastics, dioxins, PCBs, and petrochemicals present in the fish they were extracted from.

Algae grows exceptionally quickly and doesn’t contribute to overfishing, making it a more environmentally friendly and sustainable choice.

How to Take Algae Oil

Algae oil is an exceptionally safe plant-based source of the essential omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. These are important fats for maintaining vision health, brain health, cardiovascular health, and joint health.

It provides the exact same benefits as eating fish or taking fish oil, for those who are on a vegan diet, plant-based diet, or looking to avoid contaminants present in seafood.

Omega-3 supplements, like ours, are considered safe. They have very few documented side effects, and taking upwards of 5,000 mg per day is established as safe by the NIH.

We suggest 1,000 mg daily of our omega-3 formula, which is taken as a 2 capsule dosage, once daily. This is the amount recommended by most health organizations – particularly for those not consuming fatty fish or with high cholesterol levels.

Our algae oil contains sunflower seed oil, as other fats help aid in the absorption of this nutrient. You can consume the capsules before or after a meal.

While fish oils may lead to an unpleasant aftertaste, heartburn, or digestive complaints – none of these side effects have been reported with algae oil.

Our recommendation is that you consult with your healthcare practitioner should you already be on pre-existing blood thinners, as omega-3s have been documented to increase risk of bleeding for those on warfarin.

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