Monday, August 15, 2011

Ovega-3: A paleo fish oil alternative

If you're pregnant, you've probably heard by now that the DHA (docosahexaenic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) provided by fish oil are essential for your baby's development. Most people on the paleo diet take fish oil anyway, so if you're pregnant and on the paleo diet you should (presumably) be all set in this department.

The thing is, fish oil is not for everyone. Including me. I do not take fish oil ... it is not my friend. We're talking heartburn, nausea and lots of other unpleasant symptoms. The same thing happens when I eat salmon, trout, tuna (although I seem to do OK with small amounts of tuna on occasion) and many other types of fish. I've never been tested, but I've always just called it an allergy.

So, what does this mean for my pregnancy? Well, it means I probably haven't been getting enough DHA and EPA. This isn't ideal, but I really didn't have a choice.  Until now, that is! I recently learned that there is an alternative. Yay!

The product is called Ovega-3, and technically it is a fish-oil alternative for vegans and vegetarians. However, it is also suitable for people like me. In fact, it might even be a good choice for those who do just fine on fish oil. Here's why ....

The DHA and EPA in this supplement come from algae. And guess where the fish get their DHA and EPA? That's right, algae. So, essentially, by taking a product like Ovega-3 you're cutting out the middleman. Some studies even suggest that algae is equal to (or maybe even better than) fish oil in terms of getting EPA and DHA into the diet. Is this true? According to nutritionist Elizabeth Somers, author of Nutrition for a Healthy Pregnancy (she also wrote a book called The Origin Diet, which discusses nutrition principles that bear similarities to paleo), the answer is yes!

"You get the same results from algae," she told me in a recent phone interview. "You are just going to directly to the source. And the (algae-based) supplements are safe for everybody."

I'm happy to report that I've been taking Ovega-3 for about two weeks now with absolutely zero side effects (not only that, but the Ovega-3 contains 500mgs of Omega-3 -- whereas Carl's fish oil only contains 434 mgs!). I'm totally sold.

There is one small thing some paleo folks might take issue with regarding these supplements, and while I don't personally consider it an issue at all I am going to do my due diligence and point it out (in part so I can explain why I think it is a non-issue). If you look at Ovega-3's nutrition facts, you'll see that the supplement contains a few non-paleo ingredients ... namely modified cornstarch and carrageenen. To this I say 'so what?' These items are needed to make the capsule. And the amount you wind up consuming is minuscule in comparison to the benefit you get from the Ovega-3 itself.

"It is so small that if it was on a plate, you wouldn’t be able to see it," Elizabeth points out. "You probably inhale more dust during the day."

I understand that some people might be sticklers about ingredients and that even a microscopic amount of cornstarch would rule this supplement out. I'm pretty particular myself most of the time (I searched far and wide to find a pre-natal vitamin that didn't contain anything questionable). But for me, the only other option would be to continue skipping DHA and EPA altogether. And now that I have an option, well, that isn't really an option anymore.

I should probably mentions that Ovega-3 comped me a bottle of their product to try and review. The fact that it was comped did not impact my opinion, however -- if I didn't like it or didn't find it beneficial, I would say so for sure! And yes, there are a couple of other brands of algae-based EPA and DHA on the market. Based on my quick search they all seem to be pretty similar in terms of price, ingredients and milligrams of DHA and EPA.


  1. I'm surprised you didn't go for Neptune Krill Oil instead. I recommend 1000 mg/day to my pregnant clients.

  2. Hi Sondra,
    I can't do krill oil ... no shellfish or pork in our household.

  3. The distillation process has a lot to do with whether people can take fish oil, even if they think they are allergic and can't take it. High quality sources, the formulation of the product, purity - these are all factors that can help anyone tolerate fish oil better and get all the benefits of this remarkable supplement.

    I use Shaklee's OmegaGuard that uses a molecular distillation process where the certified pharmaceutical grade fish oil is placed in a vacuum and boiled at a lower temperature than is found in other processes, and then distilled or allowed to vaporize, and impurities such as lead, mercury, or PCBs are removed.

    Personally, I hope that everyone finds a way to use this valuable supplement!



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