We take fish oil to increase the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in our diet. Omega-3’s have been shown to improve bone and joint health, emotional well-being, heart health, blood sugar regulation, and nervous system health. It primarily does this by reducing the amount of total inflammation in our bodies.
Foods that naturally contain omega-3 fats are fruits/vegetables, lean meat from grass-fed animals, fatty cold-water fish, raw nuts, and eggs from grass-fed chickens. Most Americans do not get enough of these foods in their diets.
The opposite of omega-3 fatty acids are omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids increase the total inflammation in our bodies. They are found in abundance in fatty meats, dairy products, grains, processed foods, and anything made with processed vegetable oil – foods that make up nearly 80% of the typical American’s diet.
For thousands of years, humans lived happily on a natural diet containing an equal ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. However, in the modern American diet that ratio is 20:1! There is an absolute avalanche of omega-6 fatty acids in our diets and it is wreaking havoc with our health – increasing the total inflammation in our bodies and making us sick with chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and depression. Signs of omega-6 overload include daily aches and pains, difficulty losing weight, lack of energy – always feeling tired, frequent illness, and grey saggy skin.
The ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is 1:1 and anything under 4:1 is considered healthy. Thus, we take fish oil to help improve that ratio, reduce the inflammation in our bodies, and reduce our risk of developing a chronic disease. But, are supplements really helpful?
The average person takes 2 or 3 capsules of fish oil per day. With most products that’s about 1200mg of fish oil and looking at the label, about 300 mg of actual omega-3 fatty acids. A tiny bag of chips from a vending machine contains 10 grams of omega-6 fatty acids! Can you see the problem here? Those 3 little capsules of fish oil cannot possibly combat a disgusting diet.
Therefore, in order to truly make fish oil effective so that it makes a meaningful difference in our health, there are two things we can do. First, cut down on all the garbage we eat! Seriously. I cannot emphasize that enough. We can improve our inflammation ratio by reducing the amount of omega-6 fatty acids we put into our bodies. Eliminate junk food and sweets. Cook with coconut oil. Swap your peanut butter with almond butter. The list is endless and it’s easy to make small incremental changes – I encourage you to find one thing that you can eliminate immediately. Your health deserves it. The very first thing I eliminated when I started eating healthy were Hot Pockets. It broke my heart, but I survived and you will too.
Secondly, buy a better fish oil! Listing the amount of total fish oil on the front of the product is a scam – 1000mg, 1200mg, 2400 mg. Total fish oil is meaningless. What really matters is the total amount of omega-3 fatty acids. This is listed on the back as EPA and DHA. Add these numbers together. In a quality product, the combined amount of EPA and DHA will be at least half of the total fish oil. So, if there is 1000mg fish oil in a serving, you want at least 500mg EPA +DHA. Then, be sure to take enough! A good daily dose is 2-3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids. If one serving contains 500mg, then you would need 4-6 servings to get a meaningful dose. There are higher quality, concentrated products available that contain 900-1200 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per capsule. They are more expensive, but you will be taking far fewer capsules each day.
In closing, I must mention – please consult the physician who manages all of your medications before adding fish oil to your diet.