Both are packed with healthy omega-3 fats, but how do you know which oil is right for you? Here, we outline the benefits of fish oil and flaxseed oil, and the differences between the two, so you know which one to go for.
You’ve probably heard along the grapevine how great omega-3 fats are for you. Not only do they help to boost your brain health, they’ve also been known to help with heart health, improve your mood, reduce inflammation and joint pain, and encourage healthier skin and hair.
Fish oil and flaxseed oil are packed full of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, but do you know the difference between the two? How do you know which one is better for you?
Here’s everything you need to know.
Benefits of Flaxseed Oil
Flaxseed oil is extracted from the seeds of the flax plant. It’s been used historically to make fabric for textiles, but in its extracted form, it’s used for its nutritional health benefits. They extract the oil by cold pressing the seeds — that way the nutritional benefits of the oil are still retained in its natural form.
Unlike fish oil, flaxseed oil contains a source of polyunsaturated fatty acids called ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). The alpha-linolenic acid and related chemicals in flaxseed oil have been linked to decrease inflammation, which is why flaxseed oil is thought to be useful for rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory (swelling) diseases.
ALA is also found in natural food sources including walnuts and soy, which can help to reduce blood sugar levels in those with pre-diabetes. Recent studies have also linked flaxseed oil to lowering cholesterol, and improving dry eyes for people with the autoimmune disease, Sjögren's syndrome.
Flax also contains chemicals called lignans, with research indicating that lignans can potentially reduce breast cancer risk in women.
Benefits of Fish Oil
Fish oil is extracted from the tissue of fatty fish, most commonly this is from herring or tuna, both of which are high in these miracle omega-3 fatty acids. If you don’t eat sufficient amounts of fish in your regular diet, taking fish oil supplements are a great way of getting those essential omega-3s into your diet.
Unlike flaxseed oil, fish oil contains the omega-3s EPA and DHA. Your body only produces small amounts of EPA and DHA naturally, so to get more, you need to either eat more omega-3-rich foods, or take extra supplements to reach your required dose.
What does EPA and DHA do?
Studies have shown that EPA and DHA have assisted in lowering the symptoms of cardiovascular development, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and depression. Recent studies have also linked these omega-3s in assisting with foetal development.
Fish oil has also been effective in reducing triglyceride levels in those with high blood triglyceride levels. However, you should consult your doctor before taking, for further advice.
Which one is right for me?
The main point of difference is that if you’re vegan or vegetarian, you may not want to consume fish oil. That’s where algae-based omega-3s come in — these are the omega-3s you’ll find in flaxseed oil. Rich in EPA and DHA, this ‘vegan fish oil’ is great for those who still want their dose of omega-3s but do not want to consume fish.
Despite both containing omega-3 fatty acids, both flaxseed and fish oil contain different omega-3s, which in turn have different health benefits. Therefore, depending on what issue you’re trying to tackle, fish oil and flaxseed oil will each have benefits. Fish oil for example, primarily helps with heart health, inflammation, and mental health symptoms, whereas flaxseed oil is more beneficial for gastrointestinal health, reducing cholesterol and may also help reduce some of the symptoms of atopic dermatitis.
Flaxseeds are also a good way of boosting ALA omega-3 fatty acids for those with fish allergies or following a vegan diet.
Which ones should I buy?
Here’s our pick of the best fish oil and flaxseed oil supplements.
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