Q: Is it okay to take a flaxseed oil pill and a fish oil pill (omega 3 fatty acid) both at the same time? Or is one a better supplement than the other?
A: Great question!
We need to first talk about fats. There are 3 kinds of fats for our discussion: saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated.
Saturated fats: Generally bad for our health, we want to limit these kind. They are found generally in animal products and solid fats, like butter, whole milk, meat.
Monounsaturated fats: Generally good for our health. They are found in olive oil and avocados, among other foods.
Polyunsaturated fats: There are several kinds of polyunsaturated fats. These are generally good for our health as well, but we want to have the right “mix”. In our diets, we mainly talk about omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. As Americans, we eat too much omega-6 fats, which are found in vegetable oils. Omega-3 fatty acids also have several types, including ALA, DHA, and EPA. These are also found in some vegetable oils and fish.
Now, how much do we need to eat each day?
Saturated fat intake should be kept to less than 7-10% of calories. For an 1800-200 calorie diet, that would be 14-22 gm per day.
There aren’t specific recommendations for monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat intake. However, total fat intake should be 25-35% of calories. If you account for saturated fat intake as above, that leaves 15-25% of calories for unsaturated fats.
The World Health Organization has recommend some daily amounts of omega-3’s. They recommend 0.3-0.5 grams of EPA and DHA and 0.8-1.1 grams of ALA daily for general health. For specific conditions, you can read more information here.
With all that information, back to the original question.
First, it is probably fine to take both supplements at the same time. However, I don’t know that it is entirely necessary. I’d compare the amounts in each one with the above recommendations.
I might say the fish oil is better DEPENDING on the composition. Flaxseed oil is high in ALA, but not EPA and DHA. Fish oil should have EPA and DHA as well as ALA. To truly compare them, I’d look at the labels and see the total amount of omega-3’s and types in each one.
AND, I would feel remiss if I didn’t say you don’t HAVE to take a supplement. The American Heart Association recommends eating fatty fish at least twice weekly as well as other food sources of omega-3’s, such as tofu, walnuts, and canola oil.
Hope that helps!
Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!