T Nation

Flax or Fish?

Walmart sells flax seeds and fish oil for nearly the same price. Are there any benefits one has over the other. I don’t mind grinding the seeds up if they’re better, but if there’s no difference the pills are the easy choice.

Actually, it’s not a matter of either/or. You should be taking both flax oil and fish oil, as they are different. In a nutshell, and without getting too technical, fish oil is primarily composed of EPA and DHA, both of which are essential fatty acids. They are great brain food (the brain is comprised mostly of EPA), they have proven to reduce inflamation, reduce body fat, lower LDL cholesterol - the list goes on.

Flax oil is comprised of primarily of ALA, which also has a host of benefits such as inhibiting breast and prostate cancer, reducing risk of heart disease - and again, the list goes on.

In a normally healthy, active person, the body converts some of the ALA in flax oil into EPA and DHA in amounts that suprpass the typical dose of EPA and DHA found in fish oil.

Flax oil is much less expensive to process than fish oil, and is therefore cheaper to take. And beware of cheap fish oil from discount retailers - you get what you pay for. Cheap fish oil will probably have more impurities, and it will cause “fishy” burps. Pay a little more and get it from GNC, or buy it online from T-Nation or Life Extension Foundation (probably the best you can buy, and at a reasonable price).

You will have to eat a lot of flax seed or meal to get the same dosage of ALA as flax oil. And make sure you grind the seeds, as your body cannot break them down and they will pass right through with no absorption.

I take a tablespoon of flax oil in my morning shake; I regularly mix flax meal into other foods throughout the day, such as yogurt and cottage cheese; and I take a fish oil capsule with every meal (6 per day).

Hope this helps. I could write a small book on fish oil and flax (maybe I’ll submit an article in the near future), and I’m sure JB has forgotten more about this subject than most of us will ever know.

  • ST

Good post Stanis!

I agree that it’s not an or/or. Both are very recommended in a regular diet.
I use flax seeds as a good fiber source, like Stanis says in salads, cottage cheese etc.

Another benefit of flax seeds (indeed grind them first!) are the lingans in them: those are linked to be beneficial in preventing various forms of cancer, especially breast cancer (woman).

Take fish oil, and don’t bother buying flax oil. Just grind flax seeds.

The ALA in flax oil is extremely poorly converted by your body into useful DHA. Fish oil is much, much better. BUT flax seed does also have fiber and lignans, plus it’s tasty and much cheaper than paying for flax oil.

So if you want to get the other benefits of flax but pay much less, and also get a fresher product, go with whole flax seed and grind it yourself before using it.

If you buy milled flax seeds you don’t have to grind anything. Much easier.

And Wal-mart fish oil? Flameout is far superior.