Omega-3 Tutorial

Supplement or Food? How to choose the right source of Omega 3

Just about everyone has heard that omega-3 fatty acids are good for your heart – improving circulation, lowering fats in the bloodstream and perhaps even decreasing the risk of stroke or heart attack in some people. But because our bodies don’t produce them, we have to consume foods high in omega-3s, such as cold water fish, or take supplements.

Kate Mone, MEd, RD, CSSD, a registered dietitian at Cleveland Clinic, cautions that all omega-3 supplements are not the same. Be sure to choose one that includes EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), she says. “And, of course, everyone should consult with their physician before beginning to use supplements.”

The American Heart Association recommends that people with heart disease should consume one gram of EPA/DHA daily, but acknowledges that it may be difficult for some to eat fish every day. Ms. Mone suggests reading labels on omega-3 supplements to be sure they contain higher amounts of EPA and DHA. Many fish oil supplements contain only minimal amounts, with fillers of pure fish fat that do nothing for cardiovascular health. Two or three capsules a day should provide the recommended amount of one gram per day.

While people without heart disease don’t need quite that much, the AHA still recommends eating two servings, or 8 ounces, per week of cold water fish, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel or herring. Other sources of omega-3s include walnuts, flaxseed, canola oil and soy.

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