Fish Oil Versus Eating Fish: Which Is Better For Heart Health?

Our heart is one of the most important parts of our bodies. It is vital to keep our heart healthy in as many ways as possible, including making dietary choices that benefit the muscle. Fish oil has long been known for its heart health benefits, but new research suggests that it might not be as helpful as we thought. A large research study recently found that fish oil supplements had little to no effect on preventing heart disease (via Jean Hailes). "The message, over and over again in this meta-analysis, was that omega-3 supplements show little to no effect on preventing death, heart attacks, or strokes," said accredited practicing dietitian Kim Menzies.

The study did not look at diets high in fish and the effect that such diets have on heart disease. That being said, it is unlikely that eating fish is worse for heart health than fish oil. Fish oil isn't bad for your heart, it just may not offer many direct benefits. Fish, on the other hand, is full of vitamins and minerals that help you stay healthy overall. "Fish is an important part of a heart-healthy diet, along with a variety of foods including vegetables, legumes, fruit, wholegrain cereals, lean protein, reduced-fat dairy, nuts, seeds, and other healthy fats such as olive oil," said Jean Hailes naturopath Sandra Villella. If you're focusing on heart health alone, fish is the better option.

Benefits of fish oil

Even if it isn't incredibly beneficial for heart health, there are other benefits to taking a fish oil supplement. These supplements contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for your overall health (via Healthline). Our bodies are not capable of producing omega-3s, so we are required to get them through our diets. However, it can be tough for some people to get enough fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids through food alone. "Food first is always recommended," Keri Gans, RDN, a nutrition consultant and the author of The Small Change Diet, told Byrdie. "However, in many instances the dose needed for a specific health benefit may be difficult to reach with food alone. Therefore, in some instances, supplementing is indeed needed."

Omega-3 fatty acids can provide relief from arthritis and offer neurological benefits. They can potentially help people with ADHD, depression, lupus, and dementia. Fish oil is also a natural coagulant and may offer some cardiovascular benefits by thinning your blood when you take it. Talk to your doctor before taking any new supplements.