Fish oil and omega-3 are terms that have become increasingly familiar. You have likely seen the words “fish oil” and “omega-3” in health talks and printed on vitamin bottles. These terms often get recognized for the impressive health benefits they provide. 

However, it sometimes needs to be clarified what they stand for. While they might seem synonymous, they are indeed unique in their ways. This article will shed light on the nuances of fish oil and omega-3, presenting the information you need to decide whether to take them.  

Fish Oil vs. Omega-3: Benefits

Fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids are popular topics in health and wellness conversations, and rightly so, given the extensive list of benefits. It is crucial, however, to understand that while these terms often get used interchangeably, they are different. 

Fish oil is an abundant source of omega-3, specifically the eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) types [1]

These two essential fatty acids are the stars and have been the focus of extensive scientific research. Omega-3 fatty acids are the true magic behind fish oil.

They are the ones that give a helping hand to various bodily functions, including heart health, brain function, and inflammation reduction. These fatty acids have been found to improve cardiovascular health by reducing both cholesterol and blood pressure levels, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease [2]

Besides heart health, these fatty acids also improve mental health, aiding in mood stabilization, reducing depression, and enhancing cognition [3]

Fish oil, a significant source of EPA and DHA, also brings these benefits. However, it is essential to recognize that the nutrient is the star, not the vehicle delivering it. Consuming fish oil for its omega-3 is much like eating an orange for its vitamin C content – the nutrient is what we are ultimately after.

Fish Oil vs. Omega-3: Differences

Fish Oil Vs. Omega-3
Source: Canva

What differentiates the two if fish oil and omega-3 aren’t the same? The easiest way to understand this is to consider fish oil as a carrier or a package. This package holds the precious goodies – the omega-3s inside. Additionally, fish oil can contain other vitamins and nutrients, like vitamins A and D, which can benefit health [4].

Omega-3s, on the other hand, aren’t exclusive to fish oil. These fatty acids are found in various other dietary sources, such as flaxseeds, walnuts, and chia seeds. However, it is essential to note that the type of omega-3 present in these plant-based sources is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). 

This ALA must be converted to EPA and DHA in the body to be effective, a process that is only sometimes efficient [5]

Thus, while fish oil is a more direct source of EPA and DHA, plant-based sources can also contribute to omega-3 intake.

Fish Oil vs. Omega-3: Side Effects

Fish Oil vs. Omega-3
Source: Canva

Both fish oil and omega-3 supplements are considered safe for most people when taken in recommended dosages. But, like anything, too much of a good thing can lead to complications. 

High doses of these supplements can result in unpleasant side effects, such as bad breath, heartburn, nausea, and diarrhea. There are also certain potential risks tied to these supplements; they may increase the likelihood of bleeding, especially in people who are on blood-thinning medications or anticoagulants [6].

It is essential to keep track of how many of these supplements you are taking and stick to the suggested amounts. Before diving into a new supplement routine, checking in with your doctor is a good idea, especially if you manage ongoing health issues or take prescribed medications. 

Fish Oil vs. Omega-3: Dosage

As far as the dosage of fish oil or omega-3s is concerned, it varies depending on a person’s health status and goals. According to the American Heart Association, an omega-3 dosage of 1 gram daily is recommended for individuals with heart disease under a physician’s guidance [7]

The recommended dosage is more complex for those without pre-existing heart conditions. In these instances, it is generally recommended to consume two servings of fatty fish (a rich source of fish oil) per week. It is important to remember that the goal is to ensure adequate omega-3 intake, whether from direct food sources or supplements.

Fish Oil vs. Omega-3: Which Is Better?

Fish Oil vs. Omega-3
Source: Canva

When picking between fish oil and other omega-3 supplements, it comes down to what you like to eat and what your body needs. If you maintain a balanced diet rich in fatty fish, you might already be getting enough omega-3 fatty acids and may not require additional supplementation. 

However, for vegetarians, vegans, or individuals with specific dietary restrictions or health concerns, omega-3 supplements could be beneficial to ensure they are getting these vital fatty acids [8].

Remember that your doctor or healthcare professional will give you the best advice about dietary supplements. They can help you make an intelligent choice that fits your needs. 

The Bottomline

Fish oil and omega-3 are inseparably linked. Omega-3s are the beneficial fatty acids our bodies need, and fish oil is their primary source. Whether you choose to get your omega-3s from fish oil or another omega-3 supplement will largely depend on your dietary habits, lifestyle, and health concerns.


No, fish oil is a source of omega-3. Think of it like an orange (fish oil) and vitamin C (omega-3) – the orange contains vitamin C.
Yes, other sources of omega-3 include flaxseeds, walnuts, and chia seeds. However, the type of omega-3 in these sources is less readily used by the body than the type present in fish oil.
The American Heart Association suggests 1 gram of omega-3 per day for those with heart disease under a doctor’s supervision. Healthy individuals should aim for two servings of fatty fish per week.

Disclaimer: This article is only a guide. It does not substitute the advice given by your healthcare professional. Before making any health-related decision, consult your healthcare professional.


  • Farah Jassawalla

    Farah is a veteran writer, season journalist, and copywriting expert with over six years of professional experience in the content creation field. Her forte lies in translating medical jargon and complicated health terms into easy-to-understand language for readers who may not have a medical background. LinkedIn

  • Kim Monasterial, BSN

    Kim is a Registered Nurse and has been a medical freelance writer for more than six years. Starting off as a writer, Kim moved to proofreading and editing all the articles posted on HealthPlugged. She’s an enthusiast for health and wellness, being one to keep herself fit and adventurous for outdoor activities. LinkedIn


Farah is a veteran writer, season journalist, and copywriting expert with over six years of professional experience in the content creation field. Her forte lies in translating medical jargon and complicated health terms into easy-to-understand language for readers who may not have a medical background. LinkedIn