In the 19th century, cod liver oil was sometimes considered a miracle remedy. People in Northern Europe used it to treat ailments ranging from rickets (vitamin D deficiency) and skin wounds, to muscle and joint pain.
Today, cod liver oil is a popular supplement because it’s high in vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. Given its long history serving medicinal purposes, this is no surprise. This article covers the potential benefits of cod liver oil, if it’s worth trying, and the best cod liver oil supplements on the market.
Cod liver oil is extracted from the livers of Atlantic cod (yum). The oil is mostly sourced from Norway and Iceland, but you can find the supplement in virtually any health or grocery store.
Like any other fish oil supplement, people take cod liver oil because it is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. What may separate it are the high levels of vitamins A and D. In fact, just one serving of cod liver oil fulfills almost all of your required vitamin A and D intake.
There’s no specific dosage recommendation for cod liver oil. A typical serving size of cod liver oil is 1 teaspoon (5 ml) or 1,000 mg if taking a capsule-based supplement.
However, health experts recommend taking 250-500 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per day, including EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). So if you need to increase your fatty acid intake, a cod liver oil supplement can help.
In turn, this can help with everything from inflammation and heart health, to bone health and immune support.
If you live in an area far from the equator, cod liver oil can help ensure you’re getting enough vitamin D. All right, now let’s get into products, because we know that not all supplements are equal. Here’s our list of the best cod liver oil supplements on the market.
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Best Cod Liver Oil Softgel/Capsule: Carlson Labs Wild Norwegian Cod Liver Oil
Best Flavored Cod Liver Oil: Carlson Labs Wild Norweigian: Fruit Splash
Best Cod Liver Oil for Kids: Carlson Kid’s Wild Norweigian: Bubble Gum
Most Sustainable Cod Liver Oil: Both Nordic Naturals and Carlson Labs
250mg of omega-3 per softgel
400 IU of vitamin D3 per softgel
Friend of The Sea Certified for sustainability
Manufactured in FDA-approved facility
The #1 cod liver oil brand since 1965
Carlson Labs Wild Norwegian Cod Liver Oil stands out for a host of reasons. Each softgel contains 1,000 mg of cod liver oil, 250 mg of omega-3 fatty acids, and 400 IU of vitamin D3.
They even add a touch of vitamin E to their formula.
It comes in convenient capsules, but Carlson Labs has flavored and unflavored liquid options as well. What makes them stand out is their commitment to quality and sustainability.
The cod liver oil extract is sustainably sourced from fresh Arctic cod off the Norwegian coast. They only use wild-caught fish NEVER farmed, and are Friend of The Sea Certified for their sustainability efforts.
Next, their cod liver oil is made in an FDA-regulated facility. While every product on our list is third-party tested, this is another layer of quality control. This quality means fewer contaminants and heavy metals, which is something to always keep in mind with extracted oils from the sea.
It’s gluten-free with no artificial preservatives.
Carlson Labs has been THE brand for Cod Liver Oil for decades. In fact, this product has been around since 1965. This longevity alone speaks to the quality.
Each bottle contains 250 softgels. For its clear high-quality, Carlson Labs is our top pick.
Fruit splash flavor
1100mg of Omega-3s
Friend of The Sea Certified
Manufactured in an FDA-approved facility
We just talked about the quality of this brand, but they’ve spent decades perfecting the taste. They have cod liver oil available in fruit splash, lemon, and green apple flavors. If you want a higher dose, the liquid options like this are the way to go.
Personally, I think the fruit splash flavor is the best.
In addition to a hefty dose of omega-3s, this one has vitamin A, D3, and E.
It has all the other great features, like its non-GMO and Friend of The Sea certifications.
Flavored and unflavored options
1060mg of Omega-3s
Friend of The Sea Certified
1000 IU of Vitamin D
Artic-D from Nordic Naturals is another potent choice.
It’s sustainably sourced from Norway with 100% Arctic cod. This product is Friend of the Sea (FOS) certified and sustainably made in a zero-waste facility.
Just one serving contains over 1,000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids. This product is non-GMO verified. With strict testing, they have a certificate of analysis available.
It’s available in a lemon, strawberry, or orange flavor, as well as unflavored.
What stands out about this product is the higher dose of vitamin D, with 1000 IU compared to the standard 400 IU.
Another great feature is they’re Informed-Sport Certified, so if you’re an athlete competing, this once is competely banned-substance free.
Each bottle provides 48 servings if you take the recommended 1 teaspoon per day.
Garden of Life’s cod liver oil is a liquid-based supplement substantially sourced from Iceland. One serving or teaspoon contains 1,000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids in addition to vitamins A and D. It also has a nice lemon mint flavor. You can get about 47 servings if taking the recommended 1 teaspoon per day.
NOW Foods Cod Liver Oil is a capsule-based supplement at a great price point. It contains 1,000 mg of cod liver oil per capsule, 70 mg of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and 100 mg of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Each bottle contains 180 servings if taking the recommended 1 capsule per day. It is free of gluten, soy, and dairy.
21st Century Cod Liver Oil is another good capsule-based option. It contains 400 mg of cod liver, 20 mg of EPA, and 24 mg of DHA (so about 80 mg of total fatty acids). Each bottle contains 110 servings if taking the recommended 1 capsule per day. It is also free of preservatives, gluten, and artificial flavors and colors.
Oslomega Norwegian Cod Liver Oil is a potent supplement sourced from Norway. It contains 4500 mg of cod liver oil and 960 mg of total omega-3 fatty acids. It also has a natural lemon flavor like the other liquid-based supplements on our list. Each bottle provides 40 servings if you take 1 teaspoon per day.
Looking for a convenient way for your kids to get all the health benefits of cod liver oil? Carlson Labs has you covered in this respect. This formulation for kids has all the same strict quality standards, a more appropriate dose for children, and a delicious bubble gum flavor.
Cod liver oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids which can provide an array of health benefits.
Omega-3 fatty acids might help reduce chronic inflammation, which has been linked to increased blood pressure, heart disease, and other chronic health conditions.
By reducing inflammation it may also support brain health. This is one of the leading mechanistic theories for how omega-3s show so much promise for brain and cognitive support.
In addition, cod liver oil contains high amounts of vitamin A. Because of this, studies suggest that cod liver oil might fight against certain eye conditions. One study showed, for example, that vitamin A reduced the chances of developing glaucoma, a group of eye conditions that can lead to blindness.
And similarly to omega-3 fatty acids, studies show that vitamin A can reduce inflammation. Simply, vitamin A is a key antioxidant, and cod liver oil provides a natural source of it.
Cod liver oil also contains vitamin D, a key factor for strong bones since it helps regulate calcium levles. Studies show that vitamin D can strengthen bones and prevent age-related bone loss.
Supplements containing vitamin D might especially benefit those who live far from the equator and can’t get their required amounts of vitamin D from sunlight.
We know that omega-3 fatty acids can support heart health. One meta-analysis suggested that omega-3 supplementation may lower risk of various heart problems.
It may reduce triglycerides and support healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Truly, omega-3s are a Super Fat.
Cod liver oil may also support your immune system. This is due to its abundance of vitamins D and A. Look, you already know how important vitamins are, so this shouldn’t come as a shock.
Omega-3s also play a role in this immune support.
When it comes to supporting overall wellness, cod liver oil is a great choice.
Cod liver oil is considered safe when taking the recommended doses. Mild side effects include an upset stomach, heartburn, and nausea.
In high doses, cod liver oil might be unsafe. It may prevent blood from clotting, which can lead to increased bleeding. High cod liver oil consumption may also lead to an excess of vitamins A and D in the body. This can cause nausea, vomiting, and weakness, among other symptoms.
Experiences vary from person to person. If you want a supplement that can help you get more omega-3 fatty acids or vitamins in your diet, cod liver oil might be a good option for you.
Yes, for sure. In fact, omega-3s are key for your diet. With that said, follow the directions on the bottle and stick to the recommended dose.
Cod Liver Oil has the advantage of vitamin D3 and vitamin A, and can often come from a cleaner, more sustainable source than mass-market fish oil. With that said, there are lots of high-quality fish oil supplements out there. Some people make the case for krill oil, saying it has a higher bioavailability.
It’s less important when you take it, as it is that you take it. Because it’s an oil, if you take it on an empty stomach it might cause some discomfort. With this in mind, you may find it’s best to take it with a meal.
Well, it’s fish, so yes. The products that have a lemon flavor typically have a less strong fishy taste. Typically the highest quality companies use fresh, sustainably sourced fish which can limit the fishy aftertaste. You may also get some burps.
You probably shouldn’t take your cod liver oil and then immediately go make out with someone. But hey, live your life.
No. It comes from codfish. However, there are plenty of vegan omega-3 sources. For that, check out our list of the best vegan omega-3 options. If you’re a vegan looking for vitamin D options, we have some on our list of the best vitamin D3 & K2 supplements.
Algae oil is your best bet! You can read more about in this article on algae oil vs fish oil.
Yes. It’s all sourced from places like Scandinavia and the Arctic.
Often, softgels and capsules refer to different things. Softgels are supplements coated in a simple fatty acid, so they look like gels. In contrast, capsules made from a gelatin or veggie gelatin substance. In this case, the terms are often used in products interchangably. Since it’s an oil, the softgels make the most sense and that’s why most products use softgels.
The benefit of the liquid is that it’s easier to get a higher dose. A spoonful might contain just as much as two, three, or four capsules. The gels might be more convenient, though.
An Awesome Disclaimer: We are not your healthcare provider. We are strangers on the internet. If your mamma taught you anything, it should have been to not fully trust strangers on the internet. Talk to your healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement.