Omega 3 oils are essential fatty acids, needed by our brains and bodies to grow, function and thrive. They’re particularly important for the health of your heart, blood vessels, lungs, immune system and hormone system, and are essential for the development of infants’ brains and eyes. But not everyone finds it easy to get the full daily dose of omega 3 from food alone, especially if you’re veggie or vegan, so the best omega 3 supplements play a crucial role in keeping you fit and healthy.
People living in countries such as Japan and Greenland are a vivid living illustration of the power of omega 3s. Their diet is naturally rich in omega 3-packed foods such as oily fish, and this has been linked to their much lower than average risk of heart disease. They boast lengthy typical lifespans, too. So it’s no surprise that the NHS and other bodies recommend that we all eat more foods containing omega 3. But what if you can’t? That’s where a convenient, inexpensive omega 3 supplement comes in.
Skip down the page to discover which omega 3 capsules and oils we rate most highly, including vegan and pregnancy-safe supplements. For more advice on choosing the best omega 3 supplement for you, read on.
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Best omega 3 supplement: At a glance
- Best high-strength omega 3: Simply Supplements OmegaMax , Buy now
- Best value omega 3 for pregnancy: Just Vitamins EPA & DHA , Buy now
- Best vegan omega 3: Together Health Algae Vegan Source , Buy now
- Best liquid omega 3: Simply Supplements Super Strength Liquid , Buy now
- Best omega 3 for kids: Holland & Barrett Kids Omega 3 , Buy now
- Best value vegan omega 3: Complete Elements Algae Oil Capsules , Buy now
How to choose the best omega 3 supplement for you
What is omega 3?
Omega 3 fats are actually a family of dietary fats that are essential for our health. At the top of the family tree is ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), which creates the all-important EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) fats.
EPAs and DHAs are both long-chain (LCN-3) fats, essential nutrients that are found in many different cells throughout the human body. They’re especially important for your heart, lungs and hormone system, but they play vital roles in maintaining health from tip to toe, including:
- Playing a key role in the development of infants’ brains, and the retinas in their eyes
- Reducing cholesterol levels, and possibly also high blood pressure
- Maintaining healthy joints and limiting the pain of arthritis, thanks to the anti-inflammatory effects of EPAs
- Reducing the risk of stroke by promoting healthy blood circulation, reducing the build-up of plaque and blood clots
- Helping to limit symptoms of skin conditions including psoriasis and eczema
- Reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, according to numerous studies
- Helping to regulate hormone production and offer relief from menstrual cramps and menopausal symptoms
- Improving the ability of the brain’s nerve cells to communicate with each other effectively. Not for nothing is oily fish called “brain food”.
Why do I need omega 3 supplements?
Omega 3 fatty acids are essential for the body, but they have to come from external sources because your body can’t make them by itself. “The best way of ensuring we are getting enough omega 3 is to eat foods rich in these fats,” says the British Dietetic Association (BDA). And yes, in an ideal world we’d all be feasting on fresh mackerel, salmon and sardines, all very high in easily-absorbed omega 3 fats as well as vitamins D and B12.
But not everyone wants to eat fish, including for personal and environmental reasons, and it’s not exactly the cheapest of foods. Canned fish is cheaper and easier to prepare, but its omega 3 levels can be reduced by the canning process.
The good news for vegans and other non-fish eaters is that walnuts, flaxseeds and soya (aka soy) beans are also high in omega 3. Flaxseeds are an especially rich source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
Despite this, an estimated two-thirds of the UK population does not consume the weekly recommended amount of omega 3. This is unlikely to change any time soon, given that food such as fish and walnuts are hardly the cheapest to buy from the supermarket. So an omega 3 supplement is an easy and cost-effective way to get the omega 3s your body needs.
What’s more, an omega 3 supplement is much less likely to be full of contaminants than fresh fish, due to the distillation process that filters out toxins and pollutants.
Can I buy vegan or vegetarian omega 3 supplements?
Yes, and we’ve included a couple in our round-up below. Most omega 3 supplements are derived from oily fish, but you can get vegan and vegetarian capsules based on flaxseed and/or algae oil, which is fish-free and full of DHA and EPA essential omega 3 oils.
How much omega 3 should I take?
Fit and healthy adults under the age of 40 are advised to take around 1,000mg of omega 3 every day. Many omega 3 supplements are a lower dose than this, and the capsules can be pretty big (2.5 centimeters or more!), so look for high-strength capsules to avoid having to knock back a fistful of them.
If you’re over 40, or you have a higher risk of heart disease or arthritis, you’re advised to take even more: around 2,000mg per day.
You can’t really overdose on omega 3, but you may have some rather fishy burps and other emissions to look forward to. So if you need a high dose, it may be worth trying a non-fish-based omega 3 supplement, or one that’s specially formulated to avoid fishy reminders.
In pregnancy, omega 3 can be very helpful for the health and development of your unborn baby. But make sure to avoid supplements that may contain cod liver oil, whose high vitamin A content can be dangerous for unborn babies.
Children between five and 14 years can definitely benefit from an omega 3 supplement, but their needs are lower than adults: aim for 500mg maximum.
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The best omega 3 supplements you can buy now
1. Simply Supplements OmegaMax 1,000mg: Best high-strength omega 3 supplement
Price: £19 for 60 | Buy now from Simply Supplements
Each of these fish-based softgel capsules contains the recommended daily dose of 1,000mg of omega 3, but where they really beat the competition is in their unusually high levels of the all-important DHA and EPA essential fatty acids. Like most of the supplements in our rundown, these ones come as glycerin-coated softgel capsules. They’re a little on the chunky side at 2.6cm long, but the capsule is still much easier to swallow than a similarly-sized dry tablet, so don’t be too alarmed.
Simply Supplements normally delivers for free if you spend over £30, but at the time of writing you can get free next-day delivery if you enter the code FREEDEL at the checkout.
Key features – Size: 60; Format: Capsule (26mm long); Vegan: No; Omega 3 per capsule: 1,000mg; DHA: 250mg; EPA: 500mg
Buy now from Simply Supplements
2. Just Vitamins EPA & DHA omega 3 Capsules: Best value omega 3 supplement for pregnant mums
Price: From £6 for 90 | Buy now from Just Vitamins
Many expectant parents worry about the safety of fish-derived supplements. These purified, sustainably-sourced omega 3 capsules contain no cod liver oil, so they’re a great pregnancy-safe choice. Each capsule delivers the recommended daily 1,000mg of omega 3, although the DHA and EPA content is lower than in Simply Supplements’ OmegaMax. These are significantly cheaper, though, at less than £20 for up to a year’s supply. An excellent choice, whether you’re pregnant or not.
Key features – Sizes available: 90, 360; Format: Capsule (24x9mm); Vegan: No; Omega 3 per capsule: 1,000mg; DHA: 120mg; EPA: 180mg
Buy now from Just Vitamins
3. Together Health Algae Vegan Source Omega 3: Best vegan omega 3 supplement
Price: From £10.80 for 30 | Buy now from Amazon
Top nutritional supplement brand together uses 100% natural algae to source its omega 3, and the softgel capsule is made from coconut oil instead of the usual non-vegan glycerine. The overall omega 3 content of each capsule may not seem high (352mg), but the all-important DHA and EPA content is high and extremely bioavailable (easy for your body to process), and in the ideal ratio for optimum benefit. There are none of the contaminants you may find in fish oil, and the algae is farmed sustainably and extracted naturally, with no additives chucked into the mix. There’s no fishy aftertaste, either.
Key features – Sizes available: 30, 60, 90, 150; Format: Capsule; Vegan: Yes; Omega 3 per capsule: 352mg; DHA: 207mg; EPA: 123mg
4. Simply Supplements Super Strength Liquid Omega 3: Best liquid omega 3 supplement for over-40s
Price: £11 for 300ml | Buy now from Simply Supplements
A single teaspoon of this citrus-flavoured oil contains more omega 3 than any of the capsules we mention here: a whopping 1,600mg, including 825mg and 550mg of EPA and DHA respectively. It’s a seriously efficient way to get a big daily dose. The oil is also fortified with the powerful antioxidant vitamin E, making this oil a brilliant choice for older people and anyone who suffers from arthritis and painful joints.
There’s no getting away from the fact that this stuff is fish oil, but it goes down surprisingly easily thanks to the addition of citrus oils for flavour. Do be prepared for a slightly fishy aftertaste, though.
Key features – Size: 300ml; Format: Liquid oil; Vegan: No; Omega 3 per teaspoon: 1,000mg; DHA: 250mg; EPA: 500mg
Buy now from Simply Supplements
5. Holland and Barrett Kids Omega 3 Chewy Capsules: Best omega 3 supplement for children
Price: £8 for 60 | Buy now from Holland and Barrett
The omega 3 content of these delicious gummies isn’t up there with the high-strength supplements, but it’s higher than you get in some omega 3 chewies for kids, and comes accompanied by vitamins A, C, D and E for good measure. The chewies are based on fish oil, but the oil is purified to limit any aftertaste, and the berry flavor tastes delicious to grown-ups as well as kids.
Key features – Size: 60; Format: Chewy capsules; Vegan: No; Omega 3 per capsule: 240mg; DHA: 168mg; EPA: 36mg
Buy now from Holland and Barrett
6. Complete Elements Vegan Omega 3 Algae Oil Capsules: Best value vegan omega 3 supplement
Price: £11 for 90 | Buy now from Amazon
Vegan and vegetarian omega 3 supplements tend not to be the cheapest, so we were delighted to find this bargain on Amazon. Currently £11 for 60 softgel capsules, they’re closer to the usual price of non-vegan omega 3 supplements, but with no fish involved whatsoever. Overall omega 3 content of each capsule is not stated on the bottle, but at 200mg DHA per capsule these supplements are a great sustainable way to get your essential fatty acids, without the fishy burps.
Key features – Size: 90; Format: Capsule; Vegan: Yes; DHA: 200mg; EPA: 180mg
7. Nature’s Best Pet Nutrition Omega 3s for Cats and Dogs: Best omega 3 supplement for pets
Price: £6.50 for 120 | Buy now from Nature’s Best
Your four-legged family members need omega 3 essential fatty acids to stay healthy, too. They wear their health even more obviously than we do, with omega 3 supplements helping to add gloss to their coats. Omega 3 is also great for your pet’s joints, especially as they get older, so it’s no surprise that vets recommend supplementing these essential fatty acids. These capsules are really easy to use, because you can split them and sprinkle the oil into your pet’s food.
Key features – Size: 120; Format: Capsule; Vegan: No; DHA per capsule: 66mg; EPA: 99mg
Buy now from Nature’s Best