Types of Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplements and How to Take Them


Although certain types of fish are the best sources of beneficial Omega-3 fatty acids, not everyone likes eating fish. Even though other foods contain Omega-3s, such as dark green leafy vegetables or nuts, many people don’t eat healthy diets but may wish to boost their Omega-3 levels. Some people may take supplements to ensure that they’re getting enough Omega-3 fatty acids in their diets to benefit their health.

Breakdown of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3s are essential fats the body cannot make on its own so you have to eat foods containing them or take supplements. There are three types of Omega-3 fatty acids:

  • EPA – Eicosapentaenoic Acid
  • DHA – Docosahexaenoic Acid
  • ALA – Alpha-linolenic Acid

DHA is the type of fatty acid found in fish such as salmon, herring, and sardines, which are fatty and oily fish. It is also found in seafood such as oysters, mussels, clams, and lobster. ALA fatty acid is contained mainly in seeds such as flax, hemp, and chia; in flax oil and canola oil; and in nuts such as walnuts and pecans. It is also found in tofu and soybeans. EPA is also contained in fish and fish oils.

Omega-3 Supplements

For people who do not like fish and cannot eat shellfish, Omega-3 fatty acid supplements can allow them to get these important fats in their diets. Most doctors recommend fish oil capsules to their patients because fish oil is the best source of Omega-3 fatty acids. They contain both EPA and DHA acids, but be sure these fats make up at least 50% of each capsule’s ingredients.

It’s important to note that less-expensive fish oil capsules do not remove most heavy metals including mercury, which is found in many fish containing high levels of Omega-3s. Tuna, king mackerel, and swordfish are all good sources of Omega-3 fatty acids but these fish can also contain high levels of mercury, so read the labels on supplements carefully before buying them.

Another important Omega-3 supplement is krill oil. Krill are tiny crustaceans measuring one to six cm in length. They are an extremely important part of the aquatic food chain and are eaten by whales, small fish, and seabirds. Like other fish oils, oil made from krill is high in Omega-3s and you should read the labels on bottles to make sure EPAs and DHAs are at least 50% of the ingredients in each capsule.

Doses of Fish Oils

If your doctor has recommended fish oil capsules to you, he or she will usually tell you what dosage to take. Most krill oil and fish oil capsules are available in 250mg, 500mg, or 1000mg capsules. However, when you take a 1000mg capsule, it doesn’t equate to 1000mg of Omega-3s. Instead, it contains approximately 300mg.

Most doctors will recommend 500mg of Omega-3s per day so you would need to take two 1000mg capsules or four 500mg capsules to meet the recommendation and reap the benefits of Omega-3s.