Are Omega-3 Supplements as Good as Eating Fish?

Medically Reviewed on 5/5/2022
Are omega-3 supplements as good as eating fish?
Experts always recommended consuming foods for nutrition rather than solely depending on supplements.

Omega-3 supplements may not be as good as eating fish because fish contains several fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. By comparison, omega-3 supplements only contain eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

  • It is always recommended to eat foods for nutrition rather than depending on the supplements. So, consider eating fish and other seafood as a healthy strategy.
  • The benefits of eating seafood do not come entirely from omega-3 fats. So, ideally, fish oil pills should not be considered an alternative to eating fish.

Take omega-3 supplements only if your doctor has prescribed them because they have several health benefits. However, if you are taking them on your own, you may need to reconsider your decision.

Only if you do not eat fish or other seafood, you might benefit from omega-3 supplements.

What are the benefits of eating fish?

The American Heart Association suggests that eating at least two servings of fish (particularly the ones rich in unsaturated fats) a week could lower your odds of developing heart disease.

Omega-3 fatty acids are the unsaturated fats in fish, which with other nutrients (high-quality protein, vitamins D and B2, calcium, and phosphorus) in fish help improve heart health. The body cannot make omega-3 fatty acids. Hence, you should get them from foods only.

Omega-3 fatty acids can guard you against other illnesses, such as:

What kind of fish should you eat?

All seafood and fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, but fatty fish contain the highest amounts of this nutrient. Examples of fatty fish include:

  • Salmon
  • Sardine
  • Mackerel
  • Cod
  • Canned, light tuna
  • Herring
  • Lake trout

How much fish should you eat?

Most adults should aim to eat at least eight ounces or two servings (serving size of four ounces) of fatty fish per week.

If you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding, you can eat fish but look for the ones that are more likely to be lower in mercury. Examples include salmon and shrimp. Mercury can harm your baby.

Do not eat more than 12 ounces of fish and seafood per week. If you are eating tuna, avoid eating more than four ounces of albacore tuna per week.

Like pregnant women, young children should avoid fish with potentially high levels of mercury contamination. Children younger than two years should eat fish with a low-mercury content one or two times a week at a serving size of one ounce. The serving size can increase with age.


According to the USDA, there is no difference between a “portion” and a “serving.” See Answer

What about mercury contamination in fish?

Fish may contain mercury. This is due to the industrial pollution that results in mercury collecting in water bodies, such as lakes and rivers. Fish can eat this mercury, resulting in the accumulation of the element in their bodies.

The good news is that these amounts of mercury can be ignored in view of the benefits offered by consuming fish. However, it can harm unborn babies and young children.

So, while you buy fish, try avoiding the ones that are high in mercury, such as:

  • Shark
  • Tilefish
  • Swordfish
  • King mackerel

Where can you get your omega-3 fatty acids from besides fish?

Eating fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients seems to provide more benefits than using omega-3 fatty acid supplements. If you do not like fish, here are some options that contain some amount of omega-3 fatty acids.

  • Flaxseed and flaxseed oil
  • Chia seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Canola oil
  • Soybeans and soybean oil
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Cereals, pasta, dairy, and other food products fortified with omega-3 fatty acids

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Medically Reviewed on 5/5/2022
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LeWine HE. Fish oil: friend or foe? Harvard Health Publishing.