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Best Fish Oil Supplements of 2021, According to Dietitians

Written by Ana Reisdorf, MS, RD

Reviewed by Anthony Dugarte, MD 

Last Updated on July 16, 2021

Fish oil supplements have many benefits related to keeping your heart healthy and managing inflammation. But how do you choose the best one for you?

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Best Fish Oil Supplements of 2021, According to Dietitians
Photo by WellnessVerge

Fish oil, or omega-3 supplements, are some of the most popular dietary supplements.

A 2020 survey by Consumer Lab found that Omega-3s rank within the top 5 most popular dietary supplements.

Data from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey found that 7.8% of U.S. adults use supplements containing fish oil.

Consumers are likely purchasing fish oil supplements for the cardiovascular and anti-inflammatory benefits.

If you are interested in purchasing a fish oil supplement for health benefits, what should you look for?

Summary of Our Picks

What Is Fish Oil?

Fish oil contains a type of essential fat called omega-3 fatty acids.

These fats are considered essential because they must come from the diet – the body cannot make them on its own, unlike other types of fat.

There are three main omega-3 fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

EPA and DHA are found in fish oil, whereas ALA is from plant oils.

While most of us get our EPA and DHA from eating fish, these essential fats are not made by the fish themselves.

They are synthesized by microalgae in the ocean. The microalgae are consumed by phytoplankton, which is in turn eaten by fish.

The food the fish eat is the reason why they are rich in omega-3 fats. This is also why farm-raised fish are not as high in omega-3s, as they are often fed a different diet.

The Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) by the National Institute of Health provide no recommended daily amount for omega-3 fatty acids. There is currently insufficient data to establish a daily requirement for omega-3s in total.

The Adequate Intake (AI) is for ALA only. This is 1.6 g for men and 1.1 g for women.

The reason there is no recommendation for omega-3 intake is that ALA can be converted into DHA and EPA.

But this conversion can be very inefficient, particularly when the diet is also high in omega-6 fats like the western diet.

Therefore, many people choose to take a fish oil supplement to help increase their intake of these essential fats.

Other health organizations do have recommendations for how much omega-3 is needed.

The European Food Safety Authority and the World Health Organization recommend 250–500 mg/day of EPA and DHA for heart health. Doses of up to 3000 mg per day are considered safe.

How We Made Our Selections

When looking for a fish oil supplement, you might get overwhelmed. Omega-3 supplements can be sourced from:

  • Coldwater fish
  • Krill oil
  • Cod liver oil
  • Algal oil (vegetarian)

They are also found as:

  • Re-esterified triglycerides
  • Natural triglycerides
  • Free fatty acids
  • Phospholipids
  • Ethyl esters

There is mixed evidence about which of these forms is best. There is some indication that ethyl esters may not be as well absorbed, but the data is unclear.

Krill oil can sometimes be extracted with hexane, which can cause nerve damage.

For this review, I selected the best omega-3 supplements based on:

  • Type of omega-3 – must contain EPA and DHA.
  • Amount of omega-3, not just total fish oil. Products needed to contain at least 250 mg of combined EPA and DHA.
  • Uses fish oil as free fatty acids, triglycerides, or re-esterified triglycerides (if noted).

To select the best products, in addition to looking at the nutrient composition, I also evaluated the brand based on the following factors:

  • Brand reputation: Does the brand have a good reputation in the industry? Are the products made in a certified Good Manufacturing Practices facility?
  • Purity: Is the fish oil tested for purity and heavy metals?
  • Professional Involvement: Are there healthcare professionals involved with the brand? 
  • Supported by Research: Is the brand committed to research? 
  • Price. Is the price comparable to other similar products? 

Based on these criteria, I selected the fish oil supplements you might want to consider the next time you are in the market.

Best Overall

Nordic Naturals Omega-3

Best Overall
Rating Breakdown
  • Support for Claims:5.0
  • Ingredient Safety:4.0
  • Value for the Price:5.0
  • Brand Transparency:5.0

Overall Rating:

4.8

Pros

  • Reputable brand for omega-3 supplements
  • Sustainably-sourced
  • Third-party tested

Cons

  • Strict return policy
  • Website has a lot of omega-3 supplements to choose from, it can be challenging to select one

Nordic Naturals is an established brand in the fish oil market. While they currently carry multiple products beyond just simple fish oil, their Omega-3 product meets all of the criteria for a good supplement.

The fish oil is in the triglyceride form and is third-party tested for purity and freshness.

They also provide Certificates of Analysis for every product, so you can be sure you know everything that is in your bottle of fish oil.

Their fish oils are sustainably sourced from wild-caught anchovies and sardines.

The omega-3 soft gels have 690 mg of omega-3s, 330 mg of EPA, and 220 mg of DHA.

It has a lemon flavor added to prevent the “fish burps” common when taking a fish oil supplement.

It also comes in liquid form, which is more concentrated, providing 1560 mg omega-3, 745 mg EPA, and 500 mg DHA per teaspoon.

The Bottom Line: While I chose the simplest omega-3 product on the Nordic Naturals site for this review, any of their multiple fish oil products is a good choice.

Starting with a lower dose of omega-3s is a great place for those looking to get started with the benefits of these important fats.

Best for Your Budget

Nature Made Burp-Less Fish Oil 1000 mg Softgels

Best for Your Budget
Rating Breakdown
  • Support for Claims:5.0
  • Ingredient Safety:4.0
  • Value for the Price:5.0
  • Brand Transparency:5.0

Overall Rating:

4.8

Pros

  • Reputable brand for dietary supplements
  • Third-party tested
  • Cost effective

Cons

  • The form of fish oil is not clear
  • Consumers complain that the softgels are large
  • Return policy depends on where you purchase the product

Nature Made is a well-established dietary supplement company that makes a wide variety of quality products.

They have several fish oil products that contain different amounts of omega-3s.

Their Burp-Less Fish Oil 1000 mg Softgels contain 2,000 mg fish oil, 600 mg omega-3s, and 500 mg DHA and EPA combined.

While this product is not flavored, which some brands use to cover up the fishy taste, the burp-less technology is essential when looking for an omega-3 product. No one wants to burp up fish.

Their fish oil is sourced from wild-caught fish from Peru. The fish oil is tested for purity and potency. It is also purified to remove PCBs, dioxins, and mercury.

The Bottom Line: Nature Made’s Fish Oil 1000 mg Softgels is a good choice for those looking for a budget-friendly omega-3 supplement.

While it doesn’t have a Certificate of Analysis like Nordic Naturals, Nature Made is a reputable company that prides itself on purity and potency.

This product can also be easily found at most retailers, so most consumers can access it.

Best Liquid

Barlean’s Seriously Delicious Omega-3 Fish Oil

Best Liquid
Rating Breakdown
  • Support for Claims:5.0
  • Ingredient Safety:4.0
  • Value for the Price:5.0
  • Brand Transparency:5.0

Overall Rating:

4.8

Pros

  • Delicious flavor makes taking fish oil easy
  • Third-party tested for purity
  • Emulsification improves absorption

Cons

  • Does contain calories and carbs
  • Some consumers may not enjoy the flavor
  • Provides 100% of RD of vitamin D, which may be too much if taking other supplements

While many brands offer liquid fish oil, Barlean’s products are high quality and taste absolutely delicious.

With flavors like Lemon Crème, Pina Colada, and Mango Peach, who won’t want to take their fish oil?

Their Seriously Delicious Omega-3 Fish Oil contains 1080 mg combined EPA/DHA in a 1 tablespoon serving.

It also has 600 IU of vitamin D to meet your daily needs.

Due to the incredible flavor, it does have 60 calories and 6 grams of carbohydrates, mostly from sugar alcohols.

Barlean’s fish oil is emulsified, meaning the fats are broken down into smaller pieces for better absorption and no fish burps.

This process enhances absorption by 3x compared to other types of oils.

The oil is sourced from small-bodied fish from Iceland and Alaska.

Their products are third-party tested and free of mercury, PCBs, and other heavy metals.

The Bottom Line: Barlean’s Seriously Delicious Omega-3 Fish Oils are a great option for people who don’t like to swallow pills.

Since it does contain some calories and carbohydrates, those who need to watch their carb intake should be aware of this.

It shouldn’t raise blood sugar much since the carbs are mostly from sugar alcohols.

Best for Vegans and Vegetarians

Vegetology Opti3 Omega-3 EPA and DHA

Best for Vegans or Vegetarians
Rating Breakdown
  • Support for Claims:5.0
  • Ingredient Safety:4.0
  • Value for the Price:5.0
  • Brand Transparency:5.0

Overall Rating:

4.8

Pros

  • 100% vegan
  • Appropriate for those with fish allergies

Cons

  • Provides only a small amount of vitamin D, an important nutrient for vegans
  • Form of the omega-3 oil is unclear

While a vegan supplement won’t be made from fish oil, it can still be rich in omega-3s.

Omega-3 fats can be sourced from algae oil, which is the food the fish eat as a source of omega-3s.

Vegetology’s Opti3 Omega-3 EPA and DHA is 100% vegan and registered with the Vegan Society.

Opti3 is tested for potency and purity. In addition, their products are gluten-free and non-GMO.

Opti3 contains 912 mg of omega-3s, 500 mg DHA, and 300 mg EPA. It also contains 200 IU of vitamin D.

The Bottom Line: With the popularity of fish oil supplements and plant-based diets, it is great to have a vegan option for omega-3s.

It is also a great choice for people allergic to fish, a common allergen.

Additionally, omega-3 supplements made from algae may have a high level of carotenoids compared to fish oils, which are antioxidants that are important for reducing inflammation and oxidative stress.

Best Subscription

Care/of Fish Oil

Best Subscription
Rating Breakdown
  • Support for Claims:5.0
  • Ingredient Safety:4.0
  • Value for the Price:5.0
  • Brand Transparency:4.0

Overall Rating:

4.5

Pros

  • Convenient to subscribe to a monthly service
  • Sustainably-sourced fish oil

Cons

  • No clear involvement of healthcare professionals with the brand
  • If you don't keep up on taking your products daily, you could end up with more than you need

Subscription vitamin services make it easy to be consistent with taking your supplements. Most will deliver your products monthly, and some even place them into convenient daily “packs.”

Of the products I evaluated, Care/of Fish Oil met my criteria. The fish oil is cold-pressed and comes from a sustainable source.

It contains 2,000 mg of Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil and 600 mg of omega-3s. In addition, the product has 220 mg DHA and 180 mg of EPA. 

Care/of also offers an extensive research library so you can learn more about the benefits of their products. 

The Bottom Line: Subscription services, like Care/of, are a great way to be consistent with taking supplements. While most Care/of products are recommended via an online quiz, you can always add fish oil to your order. They also offer vegan fish oil, if preferred.

Best Fish Oil Gummies

Amazon Brand - Solimo Fish Oil Gummies

Best Gummies
Rating Breakdown
  • Support for Claims:5.0
  • Ingredient Safety:4.0
  • Value for the Price:5.0
  • Brand Transparency:4.0

Overall Rating:

4.5

Pros

  • Gummy vitamins are tasty and easy to take
  • Amazon makes delivery simple

Cons

  • There is limited information about the product details available
  • Gummies contain sugar
  • Gummies do not have enough omega-3s for an effective dose

I was unable to locate a fish oil gummy that had the right amount of EPA/DHA. I believe this is likely because these products are designed for children who need a lower dosage.

Or maybe putting too much fish oil into a gummy makes it taste bad, so brands try to balance taste with quantity.

I was surprised to find that the Amazon brand of fish oil gummy had the most fish oil. Solimo Fish Oil Gummies have 303 mg fish oil from tuna with 67 mg DHA and 13 mg EPA.

This is well below what I would recommend for an effective dose, but it was the highest total I could find.

The product comes in three flavors: lemon, orange, and strawberry-banana. Note that since it is in a gummy form, it does have 3 grams of sugar.

The Bottom Line: If you truly want to see the benefits of omega-3s, I would not choose a gummy form of the supplement. The gummies do not provide enough omega-3s and have added sugar.

But if you absolutely want to take a gummy product, Solimo Fish Oil Gummies is a solid choice and is easy to order.

Frequently Asked Questions About Fish Oil

What are the benefits of fish oil?

EPA and DHA have been found to:

  • Help maintain healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels
  • Support heart health
  • Maintain normal blood pressure
  • Promote joint health
  • Support eye health
  • Increase mental focus
  • Support a healthy weight
  • Regulate mood
  • Improve immune function

Note that many of these possible benefits were discovered via observational studies. These types of studies can only determine a link between two variables.

It is also unclear if some of these benefits are from eating fish or from taking omega-3 supplements.

People who consume seafood 1–4 times a week are less likely to die from heart disease, but supplementation of omega-3s has not been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease.

Are there any safety concerns with omega-3s?

While omega-3s in dosages under 3000 mg is considered safe for most people, there are some safety concerns.

General side effects can include fishy burps, bad breath, bad-smelling sweat, digestive symptoms such as nausea and headaches.

Several studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids might increase the risk of prostate cancer. Omega-3s can also interact with blood clotting medications.

Fish oils should be avoided by people with allergies to fish.

Always speak to your doctor before taking any supplements, particularly if you have concerns regarding your heart health.

Do fish oils contain mercury?

High-quality fish oil should not contain mercury or any harmful heavy metals. Be sure to check the label for purity.

What is the best time to take a fish oil supplement?

You can take fish oil any time of the day. But it might go down better with a meal. Taking it on an empty stomach may cause nausea for some people.

The Bottom Line

Fish oil remains a popular dietary supplement due to its possible benefits. But be aware that no dietary supplement can replace a healthy diet.

It remains unclear if you get the most benefits of omega-3s from fish or supplements.

If you are concerned about your heart health, it is best to start by speaking with your doctor.

Trying to self-medicate with supplements can delay important medical needs that could be addressed earlier.

I always recommend opting for food over supplements. The recommended amount to meet your omega-3 intake is 2 servings of fatty fish per week.

The best choices for fish high in omega-3s but low in mercury are anchovies, herring, salmon, mackerel, sardines, and trout. You can find a complete list with amounts of omega-3s here.

Also, consider adding plant-based sources of omega-3s such as walnuts, flaxseeds, or chia seeds to your diet.

If you don’t like fish or don’t regularly have access to seafood, a fish oil supplement can help increase your intake. Always choose a high-quality brand that is tested for purity and potency.

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