Where Should You Get Omega-3: Fish or Fish Oil Supplements?
It should be a top priority of responsible pregnant women to take good care of their baby’s development. For that matter, they ought to put emphasis on eating a healthy diet, and by that, we not only mean one that will keep them in optimum health during pregnancy, but will also promote the development of the child in their womb. Such diet should be rich in Omega-3, as it is great for pregnant women with its benefits extending to those who are already nursing, or even those who are still planning their pregnancy.
It is well known that Omega-3 fatty acids can give a boost to the development of babies while in the womb or are already nursing. The best Omega-3 fatty acids – docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) – are found in fish and shellfish meat and fish oil supplements. Either is a good source of these fatty acids, and this makes us wonder which of these is better.
While artificially extracted out of fish meat and shellfishes, one can easily argue out of common sense that fish oil has a far better concentration of Omega-3 than fish meat or shellfish in the same amount. This is likely to be true, but one thing for certain is that dietary experts recommend eating a whole fish over taking an equivalent amount of fish oil supplements. Why, you ask? Well, eating fish can simply get you more than just Omega-3. Most commercial species are excellent sources of Vitamin D, iodine, lean protein, selenium, and other essential nutrients as well.
Some studies also suggest that fish can provide benefits more consistently than fish oil supplements could. To achieve this, doctors and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have recommended that women who are planning to be pregnant, pregnant, and are already nursing their child should eat a diet that includes somewhere from 8 to 12 oz. of seafood per week, which is equal to an average amount of 250 mg. of Omega-3 daily.
It is also known, however, that certain species of fish contain high levels of the toxic element mercury. Now mercury does the exact opposite of what Omega-3 does, in that it inhibits brain development, which in turn would reflect to the overall development of the child. The Environment Working Group (EWG), in fact, has published a report that shows how FDA’s guidelines may expose babies to mercury more than it would give them their daily Omega-3 allowance.
In this regard, the EWG recommends that pregnant and nursing women should go for a smaller weekly serving of fish than what was advised by the FDA: 1 to 4 oz. of fish, but that will have to be a species that’s low in mercury and other contaminants and have high levels of Omega-3, like the Atlantic mackerel, rainbow trout, and wild salmon.
What’s more unfortunate than the fact that fish may contain mercury and other contaminants is the fact that not everyone can have fish for dinner. Many worry about the contaminants in fish and eschew the idea of eating fish altogether. Others worry over ocean sustainability. There is also that part of the populace who simply can’t eat fish due to a strict vegetarian diet or religious restrictions. The more unfortunate ones simply can’t afford to have seafood, mainly due to the scarcity thereof in their area, making it hard and expensive to acquire seafood. For these people, fish oil supplements is an excellent source of Omega-3.
Fish oil supplements, however, are an addition to one’s diet rather than a part of it, making it far less cost-effective than simply having fish in your dining table. This can prove to be expensive in the long run. For this matter, some people look for cheaper alternative sources of Omega-3 like nuts, vegetables, and certain plant-based oils like canola and soybean oil. These sources, however, contain the fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is not as effective as seafood when it comes to pregnant women.
As such, we can conclude that fish oil supplements remain the best alternative source of Omega-3 fatty acids for pregnant and nursing women who, for some reason, cannot have fish or other seafood for their weekly diet. However, fish oil should not be confused with fish liver oil. Fish liver oil is known to contain large amounts of Vitamin A; this particular vitamin is known to cause birth defects when taken in excessive amounts during pregnancy.
To conclude, fish is the best source of Omega-3 fatty acids that are essential for pregnant women, especially since fish meat can provide other important vitamins and minerals. The downside is that you will need to carefully choose the type of fish to add to your diet, as some fish species are known to contain high levels of mercury and other contaminants. You can avoid this hassle with fish oil supplements, however, but gain less health benefits from it. Despite this, fish oil supplements is the perfect alternative source of Omega-3 for those who can’t have fish for their meal.