The 8 Best Cod Liver Oils
A Brief History of Cod Liver Oil
Möller also pioneered the removal of any pollutants in the mixture, leaving only clear, relatively tasteless juice behind.
When you think about what kind of person would be the first to take a fish liver and drain the juice inside in order to drink it, what kind of person do you imagine?
That's right — it was a Viking.
Since fish were such a huge part of the Norse diet, it's understandable that they'd try to utilize every part of the animal possible. They used to set fish livers on branches above a pot of boiling water, which would steam the oil inside into the container below. They would then drink the mixture (once it cooled, presumably, but these were Vikings, so you never know).
The Vikings soon developed a process to extract the oil without using heat or pressure, so that it would stay stable longer. This oil, which they called "the gold of the ocean," was prized for its ability to heal and provide energy.
The rest of the world would learn to love cod liver oil by the Industrial Revolution. There were more than enough cod to go around, and so the oil was used in everything from leather tanning to soap making. Because this stuff wasn't intended for human consumption, there was little thought given to the extraction process, and spoiled oil was often used.
In 1782, a doctor in England "discovered" what the Vikings already knew — that the oil was fantastic for joint pain. This revelation started a boom in cod liver oil popularity, as it was soon prescribed for gout, rickets, and just about anything else that might ail you.
This led to a need for better extraction processes, and a chemist named Peter Möller soon realized that it was imperative to remove the oil while the liver was still fresh. Möller also pioneered the removal of any pollutants in the mixture, leaving only clear, relatively tasteless juice behind.
By this point, a spoonful of oil was seen as both a cure-all and a preventative measure, and people worldwide kept a bottle in their pantry. In the early 20th century, scientists began to study what, exactly, made it so powerful, and they learned about the high levels of vitamins A and D. Previously, doctors believed that it was so beneficial due to high iodine levels, but researchers soon learned that there was little, if any, iodine in the stuff.
Cod liver oil had waned in popularity by the 1960s, but the discovery of the importance of Omega-3 fatty acids in the 1970s led to a new boom. Today, cod liver oil is one of the most popular health supplements on the market, and it's easier than ever to incorporate it into your diet — all it takes is a pill or two a day.
Or you could boil a fish liver on a branch before pillaging up and down the British coast. It's up to you.
Benefits Of Cod Liver Oil
While cod liver oil is not quite a cure-all, it's still fantastic for your body in a variety of ways.
Its anti-inflammatory properties are probably the most ballyhooed benefit, as they can help reduce chronic inflammation in your heart and joints. This can, in turn, lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease, as well as soothe some of the discomfort associated with conditions like arthritis.
Regardless of the outcome of these studies, the overall usefulness of the oil is more than enough to encourage your consumption.
Cod liver oil is also jam-packed with vitamins A and D, the latter of which is especially important since most people spend their days inside, away from the sun (but if you do venture outside, wear sunscreen). A single teaspoon of oil provides 90 percent of your recommended daily intake of vitamin A, and 113 percent of vitamin D.
Your eyes will also love you for adding more oil to your diet (cod liver oil, that is — this is not an excuse to start frying all your food). Glaucoma and macular degeneration are believed to be caused by both inflammation and vitamin A deficiency, so if you value your sight, you need to make sure you get plenty of Omega-3s.
There are a variety of other potential benefits that are just now being studied, like improved bone health, reduction in symptoms of depression, and the suppression of stomach ulcers. Regardless of the outcome of these studies, the overall usefulness of the oil is more than enough to encourage your consumption.
After all, being skeptical about cod liver oil is tantamount to arguing with a Viking — and that is certainly hazardous to your health.
Other Ways To Boost Your Omega Intake
While adding a supplement to your diet is a great start, it's unfortunately just that — a start. There are other actions you'll need to take if you truly want to make an impact on your health.
Eating more fish is a good idea, especially if it replaces beef or pork in your diet. Mackerel, salmon, and herring are ideal, provided you can find sources that aren't riddled with pollutants.
Eating more fish is a good idea, especially if it replaces beef or pork in your diet.
Regardless of what type of meat you put on your plate, though, you should counterbalance it with a massive helping of dark green, leafy vegetables. Model yourself after Popeye and start slamming the spinach, and stop turning your nose up at kale. Seaweeds are great too, so you can kill two birds (err, fish) with one stone and start eating more sushi.
Some nuts, like flax seeds and walnuts, are also excellent sources of antioxidants. Keeping a can of almonds or cashews on your desk can boost your intake while also curbing cravings (or splurge and treat yourself to a nut basket). Beans are another smart choice, especially lentils.
Improving your antioxidant consumption doesn't need to be hard, and the payoff is tremendous. There are plenty of delicious foods that are filled with Omega-3s, so regardless of your tastes or dietary restrictions, you should be able to find something to munch on.
In fact, you may just find that being good to your heart doesn't require you to be cruel to your taste buds.