What’s the Deal with Fish Oil?

One supplement that has been all the buzz for a little while now is fish oil – and for good reason, too. In fact, this is a supplement that I, as a certified health coach, recommend to most of my clients. I also take it daily and have gotten my family on the bandwagon, too. Fish oil, also known as Omega-3 fatty acids, is an interesting and multi-talented fat but most people don’t know all of its benefits. So, here is everything you need to know about fish oil.

What is Fish Oil?

Fish oil is the common name for Omega-3 fatty acid supplements because fish are the richest source of these essential oils (here, I mean literally essential, not “essence of”). Fish oil contains two forms of Omega-3s that our bodies can use, EPA and DHA. You don’t need to take a supplement to get your Omega-3s, though. Cold water fish, such as tuna and salmon, contain the greatest amounts of Omega-3s. However, unless you are eating fish regularly (and most of us are not), I strongly recommend you supplement to make sure you are consuming enough to reap the benefits.

Non-Fish Sources of Omega-3s

Flaxseeds, greens, and various other seeds also contain Omega-3s; however, they are in the form of ALA which the human body cannot use. Because of this, when we consume a plant source of Omega-3s, our bodies must convert the ALA into EPA and DHA, forms it can use. Unfortunately, once the ALA has been converted, our absorption of the Omega-3s from plants is less than 5% so you must consume much, much more plant sources than fish sources of Omega-3s to derive the same benefits and your body has to work harder for them. Therefore, unless you have an allergy or food sensitivity that prevents you from doing so, I strongly recommend opting for a fish source over plant sources of Omega-3s.

Benefits of Omega-3s

The more we learn about Omega-3 fatty acids, the more amazing things we learn they do for us. Studies have shown that Omega-3s may help lower your blood pressure, mitigate the effects of stress on your heart, act as anti-inflammatories and anti-coagulants, lower your cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and steady your heart rate. They may also diminish depression and may help protect against Alzheimer’s, dementia, and memory loss. For pregnant women, DHA (a form of Omega-3) has been found to be important for neurological and vision development in babies. Pretty amazing stuff, right?

What to Look for in a Fish Oil Supplement

When selecting a fish oil supplement, you want to make sure that you are purchasing one that is made with clean, quality ingredients. You may have heard people complain about the flavor of their fish oil supplements repeating on them throughout the day – this is common with low-quality fish oils. As with all supplements, it’s important that you do your research here. You want your fish oil to be sourced from wild-caught fish, not farmed fish. Often, you will find quality fish oils made from sardines. You also want to read the label to verify what the capsule’s coating is made out of. Gelatin is commonly what the coating is made out of; however, some poor quality capsules may actually use PVC or BPA materials (enteric coating) which have been linked to cancer and other health problems. Finally, you want to read the label to make sure that the supplement contains EPA and DHA – the forms of Omega-3s that can be readily absorbed and used by our bodies. Here is a link to the fish oil supplement that I have selected for myself and my family. 

 

Baked Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa

This recipe is so quick and easy but packed full of zesty, refreshing flavor. It makes a great summer dinner and you could also cook the fish on the grill wrapped in foil instead of baking it.

If you’re not a huge fan of fish, I really recommend that you give this recipe a try. Cod is a very light-flavored fish and the combo of the spicy fish seasoning and the sweet, tangy salsa is really delightful. Plus, this is such a ridiculously easy recipe, you have nothing to lose!

As a certified health coach, I am constantly urging people to eat more fish or, at the very least, take a fish oil supplement. When we think of fish, we typically think of the Omega-3 fatty acids found in them. However, there are a number of other important health benefits to consuming fish.

Health Benefits of Cod

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish and certain plant sources, are critical for a number of important health benefits, such as heart health, depression, and brain health to name just a few. Admittedly, cod is not the greatest source of Omega-3’s compared to other species of fish, like salmon. However, it does contain about 8% of your daily value of these critical fatty acids.

Beyond that, cod is very high in Vitamin B12 which is a key nutrient for cardiovascular health, DNA production, metabolism, and brain and nervous system health. B vitamins are a set of vitamins that need other vitamins present in order to be properly absorbed, so getting your B12 through a food source is the best way to ensure proper absorption. (Second best would be a B complex supplement rather than an isolated B vitamin supplement.)

Finally, cod is also a great source of lean protein in your diet.

Choosing Your Fish

When it comes to purchasing fish, the fresher the better, as is the case with pretty much all food. However, a large and increasing amount of fish on the market is farmed rather than wild caught. I strongly recommend that, as often as you possibly can, you buy wild caught fish.

Wild caught fish are more nutritious than farmed fish because they are able to consume more nutritious food sources, such as the phytoplankton that contains Omega-3s. You are also getting better quality meat from a fish that swam around in the vast ocean than a fish that was confined to a small pen and is, therefore, fattier. Farmed fish are often given antibiotics and treated with pesticides and have been found to have higher levels of toxic PCBs in their bodies. There are also many ethical considerations to be made when it comes to farmed fish.

Bottom line: wild caught > farmed.

OK that’s enough education. Let’s get to the recipe, shall we?

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Spicy Mango Salsa

Ingredients

  • 1/4 of a large red onion, finely diced
  • 1/8 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 jalapeño, deveined, deseeded, and diced
  • 2 cups mango, finely diced (I used frozen but fresh works as well as long as it’s ripe)
  • 1/2 orange or yellow bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 lb wild caught cod
  • Old Bay seasoning
  • Organic corn tortillas

For the Salsa

  • Combine the onion, bell pepper, jalapeño, cilantro, and mango in a large bowl. Pour the lime juice over it and mix to ensure all the ingredients are combined and coated with the lime juice.
  • Cover and place the salsa in the refrigerator while you prepare the fish. The acid in the lime juice will macerate the ingredients and help combine the flavors.

For the Cod

  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Place the cod on a foil or parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with the Old Bay seasoning until it’s coated.
  • Bake about 20 minutes until the fish flakes with a fork.

Serve the cod on the corn tortillas topped with the salsa and garnished with sliced avocado and fresh lettuce.

Serves 2 people 2-3 tacos each.

That’s it! Ridiculously easy, right?

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Fish tacos with mango salsa