With so many omega-3 supplements out there, I’m often asked which is the best source of omega-3s—fish, krill, or calamari oil? At the beginning of my career, I was partial to fish oil. That’s because it could deliver a concentrated source of omega-3s—one that’s far greater than you could get from eating fish.
But the newest research shows it’s not enough to just get omega-3s—you need the right type. There are two types of omega-3s that play major roles in good health: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). And studies show DHA omega-3s are the most important for your heart, brain, and eyes.
Yet, the average American gets only about 120 mg of DHA per day. In other countries, like Japan, the average DHA intake is 600 mg per day—which researchers theorize helps to contribute to the good heart health experienced by many people in Japan.
Why Your Body Need DHA Omega-3s
Studies show that DHA omega-3s are vital to every cell and system in your body.
- Blood Pressure Support: DHA fats have a more profound effect on normal blood pressure levels than EPA fats.1
- Arterial Health: In a study of postmenopausal women, those with the highest levels of DHA had better coronary artery health.2
- Circulation: In research, DHA did a better job than EPA in improving vasodilation and endothelial function.3
- Mental Processing: In a nine-year study, DHA was correlated with better brain function and cognitive health.4
- Eye Support: Your eyes need DHA, too. It makes up 30% to 40% of the fatty acids found in the photoreceptors in your eyes, so DHA is critical to your eye health. Plus, research shows omega-3 fatty acids help with natural tear production, keeping your eyes moist and hydrated.5
As essential as omega-3s are for your health, your body can’t manufacture them. So, you need to get them through foods or supplements that are high in DHA omega-3s. This is important because while your body can easily convert DHA to EPA, it has great difficulty converting EPA to DHA.
What Are the Best Sources of DHA Omega-3s?
Fatty fishes can be good sources of DHA omega-3s, including wild caught salmon, herring, small Atlantic halibut, and mackerel. Another good source is DHA enriched eggs. But it’s tough to get all of the omega-3s you need from food sources alone, so I recommend taking a good omega-3 supplement as well.
With any omega-3 supplement, you want to check the label to see how much DHA and EPA you’re getting. The amount of DHA vs. EPA in a supplement is dependent on the source of the omega-3s.
Fish, Krill, or Calamari: Which Is Higher in DHA?
- Fish Oil: In general, fish oil is a good source of omega-3s—but they generally contain twice as much EPA as DHA. Plus, many people experience “fishy burps” or “repeating” after taking fish oil. That’s because fish oil can be tough to digest. If you take fish oil, have it with a meal since food will make it less upsetting to your digestive system. It’s also important to make sure the fish oil you’re taking is in softgels, and not liquid, which can oxidize. Taking oxidized fish oil is as bad as eating trans-fatty acids—it can cause serious heart damage.
- Krill Oil: Krill oil, which comes from small shrimp-like crustaceans, contains a phospholipid form of omega-3s that doesn’t have the same “fishy burp” issue as fish oil. Yet, like fish oil, krill supplements tend to contain far more EPA than DHA and I haven’t been impressed with the bioavailability.
- Calamari Oil: A great source of omega-3s is from calamari (squid). It’s naturally high in DHA and is sustainably sourced from squid in deep ocean waters. Plus, the squid are harvested small and only live up to 450 days, so they are clean. Another benefit: Calamari oil doesn’t cause “fishy burps,” or “repeating,” like fish oil can.
How Many Omega-3s Do You Need?
I’ve always recommended 1-2 grams of natural omega-3 supplements a day to get the full benefits. And a recent study leads me to believe that up to 4 grams may be the best dosage to prevent heart attacks. You want to strive to get that amount through a combination of foods and supplements, preferably ones that are high in DHA omega-3s.
1 Mori TA et al. Hypertension 1999;34(2):253-60.
2 Erkkila A et al. J Lipid Res 2006;47:2814-9.
3 Mori TA et al. Circulation 2000;102(11):1264-9.
4 Schaefer EJ et al. Arch Neurol 2006;63:1545-50.
5 Miljanovic B et al. Am J Clin Nutr 2005 Oct;82(4):887-93.
6 Linda M Arterburn et. al. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Jun;83(6 Suppl):1467S-1476S.