Salmon or anchovies, farmed or wild – what is the best natural source of omega-3? We all know that omega-3s are essential fatty acids that are vital for our health and well-being, but where do we get them from and what is the best source of omega-3?
We are bombarded with articles about how to change and how to be our best self. Here at Omega 3 of Norway we want to accompany you in your journey towards your healthiest self, but also promote critical thinking and science-backed discussions about food and nutrition. Not everything that we read from the experts out there is true. Take the example of the Times, that published an article (https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/the-science-diet-your-guide-to-living-a-healthier-life-sqnkqnm2q) with a famous German nutritionist just a few weeks ago, where he wrote about the benefits of omega-3 and what the best source of omega-3 is in his opinion.
An excerpt from The Times, “The science diet – your guide to living a healthier life”, Anna Maxted, 05.01.21
While we wholeheartedly agree that “The omega-3 fatty acids – EPA, DPA and DHA – are greatly helpful to brain function and eyesight.” And that “Omega-3 has been shown to curb inflammation in the hippocampus, meaning that it can slow the ageing process, thereby lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease and other age-related conditions.”
We do not agree with the statement that the best source of omega-3 is farmed salmon “Salmon is one of the richest sources – especially farmed because it’s fattier than wild (100g of farmed salmon contains 15g of fat; 100g of wild salmon has 1g of fat).”
We talked to our top scientists about this question and will explain, why the source of your omega-3 is so important and why your best choice is not ”farmed salmon”, which can be recommended!
Let’s start at the beginning, what is omega-3 and why do we need it?
The basics: what are omega-3´s and why do we need them?
Omega-3 are fats. But the good kind! They are unsaturated fats that are vital for our health and well-being but that we cannot produce ourselves. This makes them so-called essential fatty acids, because we rely on consuming them through our diet. There are several types of omega-3 fatty acids, but we will start with the two most important ones: Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA). These two fulfil important roles not only in our metabolism, but also support our immune system, brain health and are beneficial for our heart and can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/17-health-benefits-of-omega-3). Sounds too good to be true? It is not. They are a natural anti-inflammatory and can even contribute to regulating your blood pressure, heart rhythm and cholesterol levels. So, it is quite obvious, that they are important. But where do we get them from if our body can’t produce them itself?
So, let’s get back to the question about what is the best source of omega-3? Now that we know that it is more efficient to consume EPA and DHA directly, we will only look at marine sources of these two fats.
Wild vs farmed Salmon – Which one is better?
Fatty cold-water fish like salmon have long been hyped as “the” source of omega-3 fatty acids. However, when you find yourself buying fish, you often see that there is wild salmon as well as farmed salmon. What does that mean and which one is better for you?
Farmed salmon overall contain more fats, but they also contain more omega-6, which is a fatty acid that can have a negative impact on our health when we consume too much of it. Considering this, it is the healthier choice to buy wild salmon, which has less fat in total, and far less omega-6! Let’s look into that in more detail:
While they are the same species of fish, farmed and wild salmon differ considerably in their nutritional values because of the food they eat.
Farmed salmon and fish stock are maintained in netted pens in the ocean or circular pools and are artificially fed and provided pellet food made from chicken fat, fish oil and GM yeast, along with often being given antibiotics to accelerate their growth.
Wild salmon however live freely and eat prey such as such as Capelin, Barracudina, Krill and Shrimp which give it their warm red colour. They eat a wide variety of marine life, which influences the amount of omega-3 and omega-6 their body contains.
Salmon fish farm. Northern Europe
Jumping salmon in a river at Alaska
But what is omega-6?
Omega-6 are another kind of polyunsaturated fatty acid, just like omega-3´s. But they vary in their molecular structure, which in turn influences the impact and effect they have on our body. They are found in vegetable oils, nuts and seeds. When eaten in moderation they can be beneficial for our heart and overall well-being. (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/expert-answers/omega-6/faq-20058172) However, if the balance between omega-3 and omega-6 is off, this can lead to a pro-inflammatory environment in our body among other potential health issues. So as long as we eat a balanced diet, we need not worry too much about this. But the truth is, that most people consuming a regular Western diet have a ratio that is out of balance in favour of omega-6. We wrote a whole article about this topic here (https://norwayomega.com/blog/is-omega-6-good-or-bad-for-us/) if you want to find out more. But let’s just sum it up and say, that you really don’t want to be eating any more omega-6 fatty acids than you may already do.
Farmed salmon contains slightly more omega-3 than wild salmon, but contains six times more omega-6. This is due to the fact that farmed salmon are often fed non-marine feed as well, whose vegetable components might contain ample amounts of omega-6, which then get built into the tissue of the fish we eat. We therefore don’t agree with the statement in the article in The Times, that farmed salmon is the best source of omega-3 for you.
Other factors of course are price, sustainability and environmental concerns. Both farmed and wild salmon are exposed to environmental pollutants, however it is generally believed that this exposure is lower for farmed salmon, as the water quality where their pens are kept is closely monitored. However, some studies have found that farmed salmon are more exposed to such contaminants than wild fish, so the conclusion is unclear. But since farmed salmon live in close proximity, they are more susceptible to diseases and are fed antibiotics and animal drugs to maintain their balance. All of these factors greatly influence the quality of the fish and you should be aware when you are deciding if you want to buy farmed or wild salmon.
School of Wild Anchovies
Wild Water Anchovies are our top – choice
It is clear, that wild salmon is the better option than farmed fish. But what about other marine sources of omega-3? Is salmon really the best option? Senior scientists in marine oils, say “No” and recommend: Anchovies.
As mentioned above, while farmed salmon has an average higher amount of unnecessary fats but slightly higher omega-3 content than wild salmon, it also contains a lot more omega-6.
However, the wild anchovies sustainably sourced at Omega 3 of Norway offer the richest source of omega-3 and omega-6 contents. While they contain a bit less fat overall than farmed salmon, they contain more omega-3 and less omega-6! They contain 2,8 % of omega-3 fatty acids and with this high number they easily beat the farmed and wild salmon. At the same time, they only contain very little omega-6 and therefore their O3/O6 ratio is even higher than wild salmon and the best amongst these three types of fish.
Wild Anchovies, what do they feed on? Recently hatched fish & plankton
So, let’s look some more at anchovies and why they are such a good source of omega-3. They contain up to 951 mg of omega-3 per serving. Next to abundant amounts of omega-3, they also contain the vitamin Niacin, calcium and are a good source of protein as well as other important vitamins and minerals. Niacin is a vitamin which has been shown to reduce unhealthy triglycerides and cholesterol, both of which are risk factors for heart disease. It is a water-soluble micronutrient that can also be used to treat other health conditions like high cholesterol or skin conditions. It really is a potent all-rounder and by eating anchovies, you get much more than just a healthy dose of omega-3!
This is why we use wild-caught anchovies are the select choice with Omega 3 of Norway to produce our premium omega-3 fish oil supplement.
Our advanced distillation method and wholesome food-culture
We use an advanced distillation and purification process with a total of 11x steps to achieve an unsurpassed level, for our purest and richest omega-3 supplement. Drawing on over 170 years of Norwegian expertise years in working with fish oils alongside a leading team of scientists who continuously research and strive to personify the finest quality marine omega-3 oils. High-quality ingredients are not just part of our fish oil, but an important part of the Nordic culture overall.
In Norway, eating fish and other seafood is part of the local cuisine. It is such a strong part of the culture, that the Nordic diet, named after the northern countries in Europe, is considered as one of the healthiest diets. It is not aimed at eliminating foods, but to eat consciously and with a focus on local and high-quality produce and fresh ingredients. This leads to a diet low in sugar and fat but twice the amount of fiber and seafood than the typical Western diet. Which also means less omega-6, which is so often found in vegetable oils and other processed foods. Here (https://norwayomega.com/blog/omega-3-the-nordic-diet/) you can read more about the Nordic diet and why you should give it a try! The Nordic diet is similar to the Mediterranean diet, known for being healthy and having a positive impact on heart health.
Conclusion – What is best?
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for our health and well-being and there are different foods we can consume, to make sure that we get enough unsaturated fats. But contrary to popular beliefs, salmon (especially farmed salmon) is not the best source of EPA and DHA. We recommend wild anchovies, a small but powerful fish, naturally rich in proteins, vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids. While farmed salmon contains more fat than wild salmon, it also contains more omega-6 fatty acids, which can have a negative impact on our body if we consume too much of them and the ratio with omega-3 is out of balance. Wild anchovies are the best choice with a high percentage of omega–3 and a good ratio to omega-6 are our recommended source for high-quality omega-3 fish oil supplements.
A high quality omega-3 supplement offers a formulated and specific amount of omega-3, which helps to manage the required quantity for your daily intake. Please have a look at our online store https://norwayomega.com/