Medical professionals worldwide hail flaxseed oil and fish oil – two well-known sources of omega-3 fatty acids – for their positive impacts on the human body. But which is better for you and your needs?

Let’s break down both to better understand their profiles, sources and recommend dosages, benefits, and potential side effects to help you understand how each can help you feel and perform your best:

Chart Showing Flaxseed vs Fish Oil

Flaxseed Oil

What is flaxseed oil good for?

Let’s get to know this popular, omega 3-laden supplement – sometimes referred to as linseed or flax oil:

The Basics

Flaxseed oil derives from flax, an ancient crop grown by humans for more than 30,000 years. While ancient civilizations often used flax to create fabric for textiles, it primarily serves nutritive purposes today. 

To create flaxseed oil, manufacturers “cold press” ripe, dry flax seeds using a hydraulic press that triggers the release of natural, nutrient-laden oil.

The supplement is arguably most famous for its concentration of the “third” omega-3 fatty acid: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)

Dosing and Sources

There is no recommended daily amount (RDA) of flaxseed oil. Instead, the amount suggested for consumption depends on the manufacturer’s recommendation – typically 720-1650 mg/day.

Most people ingest flaxseed oil as a daily supplement – usually in the form of a pill. However, it is also possible to utilize it in your kitchen.

In addition to being a solid alternative to butter, flaxseed oil can taste delicious in a range of salads, smoothies, baked goods, and even snacks like popcorn, granola bars, and chips. 

The Benefits

The potential health benefits of flaxseed oil supplements are numerous and diverse:

Lower Blood Pressure 

Research by the National Institute of Health (NIH) finds the effects of flaxseed oil “reduce the systolic and diastolic pressures significantly in patients with high normal and mild hypertension,” aka high blood pressure.

Improved Cardiovascular Health

According to the Cleveland Clinic, Healthline, and the Mayo Clinic, supplementation with flaxseed oil can boost heart health by regulating blood pressure levels, improving arterial elasticity, reducing cholesterol levels, increasing ingestion of omega-3 fatty acids, and fighting inflammation. 

Enhanced Digestive Health

Proper digestion ensures maximum absorption of nutrients from food. Without it, your body cannot function effectively, and your physical, mental, and even emotional health can suffer.

According to the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic, flaxseed oil can benefit digestion by fighting gut inflammation, reducing cholesterol levels that contribute to gastritis, and raising the level of critical nutrients like protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and fiber in your diet.

Potential Side Effects

Consuming flaxseed oil in excess can lead to several undesirable outcomes.

A surplus of flaxseed oil in your system can lead to gastrointestinal distress – namely constipation and diarrhea – making it difficult for you to absorb nutrients properly.

Irresponsible consumption can also lead to low blood sugar – a particular risk for diabetics – and low blood pressure – a concern for those with cardiovascular issues and hormone-related diseases.

Lastly, ingesting a surplus of flax can increase the possibility of dangerous bleeding – especially for patients taking blood thinners.

Fish Oil

Fish oil is perhaps the most famous omega-3 supplement on the market today.

Let’s get to know it a little better:

The Basics

The consumption of fish stretches back to the beginning of humanity itself. Among many other factors, a seafood-heavy diet helped the human brain evolve and expand into the powerful force it is today.

For those looking to avoid or supplement their fish consumption, fish oil distills seafood’s plentiful stock of the two primary omega-3 fatty acidsdocosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) – into a highly bioavailable form with remarkable potency. 

Dosing and Sources

Thanks to “wet pressing” – the most popular method of extracting fish oil – an increasingly-wide range of species like salmon, mackerel, anchovies, tuna, and herring account for today’s fish oil products. These fish typically yield supplements in the form of soft gel capsules, pills, or liquids.

Like flaxseed oil, there is no official recommended daily amount (RDA) of fish oil. However, there are RDAs for combined consumption of EPA and DHA, fish oil’s leading omega-3 fatty acids.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends 250-500 mg of combined EPA and DHA for maximum efficacy.

The Benefits

The many benefits of fish oil can have remarkably positive impacts on your body, including:

Improved Cardiovascular Health

A plethora of research published by the National Institute of Health (NIH) finds fish oil an excellent ally to a healthy, happy heart.

Regular consumption of this seafood-derived supplement supports cardiovascular function by improving cholesterol levels, lowering triglycerides, reducing inflammation, regulating blood pressure, and fighting plaque buildup in arteries.

Boosted Brain Function

Fish oil’s primary omega-3 fatty acids – DHA and EPA – can work wonders in the human brain.

Reputable resources like the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the Alzheimer’s Society repeatedly cite and tout research claiming the consumption of omega-3-laden fish and fish oil supplements fights declines in brain function associated with age.

Reduced Inflammation

Research utilized by the Mayo Clinic finds that fish oil can decrease inflammation levels throughout the body.

Thanks to its abundant supplies of DHA and EPA, the supplement can potentially lessen a patient’s need for anti-inflammatory medication by fighting inflammation and its dangerous effects, like damaged blood vessels, diminished immune function, painful arthritis, and more. 

Potential Side Effects

Consuming fish oil in excess can lead to a variety of less-than-desirable outcomes, including heartburn, gastrointestinal distress, nosebleeds, and even fishy breath.

In addition to ensuring you consume your supplement in the quantity recommended by its manufacturer, taking fish oil with meals can reduce the incidence of these side effects.

Fish Oil vs. Flaxseed Oil: Which is Right for You?

The best fish oil and flaxseed oil supplements provide your body with nourishing, vitalizing omega-3 fatty acids, supporting your healthy, active lifestyle. Which you choose to consume will depend directly on your personal goals, medical history, dietary needs, and more.

Fish oil is rich in the two most potent omega-3s, making it the more popular option. 

However, flaxseed oil’s abundance of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) also provides a unique set of benefits. The supplement is also popular among vegans and vegetarians seeking omega-3 fatty acids without compromising their diets.

For more information on proactively boosting your nutrition and well-being, check out Ultimate Nutrition’s other lifestyle and nutrition-centric articles and explore our wide range of products designed to boost your energy levels, performance, recovery, and more.

UN Editorial Team
Tagged: Nutrition