Friday, May 10, 2013
Superfood: Cod Liver Oil
I have always taken regular fish oil growing up. But I didn't know there is such thing as cod liver oil until about a year ago when I started learning about health and nutrition. This amazing stuff is called the number one superfood and its history goes way back longer than we know. The ancient Vikings kept barrels of fermented cod liver oil in their homes and they were strong and healthy people. What is so special about cod liver oil?
Cod Liver Oil is Rich in:
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids DHA and EPA, the long-chain fatty acids critical to neurological health and many other processes in the body and considered essential to the body.
- Vitamin A, a naturally occurring fat-soluble vitamin that is needed for many bodily functions including the growth and repair of body tissues, building strong bones, teeth and good eyesight, and contributes to the health of the immune system. Vitamin-A deficiency in pregnant mothers results in birth defects and abnormalities. Unlike synthetic vitamin-A supplements, there is no associated risk of birth defects with naturally occurring, fat-soluble vitamin A. It is also almost impossible to get vitamin-A toxicity unless you are consuming in very large amount. The only source of true vitamin A is animal fats and much to our surprise, plant foods are a very poor source of vitamin A for humans.
- Vitamin D, another fat-soluble vitamin that is important for calcium and phosphorus absorption and metabolism, ensuring bone strength and prevent osteoporosis. It's important get enough Vitamin D especially for people living in colder weather. For those living in warmer weather and spend a lot of time in the sun, you may already get enough vitamin D and may not need to supplement, although it's still important to consume adequate vitamin A. Read here if you are worried about the possibility of getting too much vitamin D.
"Cod liver oil contains more vitamin A and more vitamin D per unit weight than any other common food. One hundred grams of regular cod liver oil provides 100,000 IU of vitamin A, almost three times more than beef liver, the next richest source; and 10,000 IU vitamin D, almost four times more than lard, the next richest source. Of course, cod liver oil is only consumed in small amounts, but even a tablespoon (about 15 grams) provides well over the recommended daily allowance for both nutrients." (source)
The very unsaturated fatty acids in cod liver oil work synergistically with saturated fats, therefore to get the maximum benefits of cod liver oil, your diet should contain ample saturated fats from butter, coconut oil, and other sources. And we don't have to be concerned about mercury content in cod liver oil because mercury is water-soluble and resides in the flesh of fish, not in the oil.
Which Cod Liver Oil to Get?
Many brands of cod liver oil have been processed using high temperature heat with synthetic vitamins added back in, because the vitamins were lost during processing. Pure cod liver oil is naturally fishy and hard to take for most people. If you find a brand that is "easy" to take, most likely it's not the real thing or the cod liver oil content is little (mixed with many other things). The best would be if you can find fermented cod liver oil. Lacto-fermenting cod liver oil (without heat) preserve and even enhance all of the nutrients. My family consumes Green Pasture fermented cod liver oil. You can check here for brand and dosage recommendation by Weston A. Price Foundation (it's a website I trust and respect for their research on health and nutrition).
Everyone will benefit from taking cod liver oil, particularly pregnant and nursing mothers. It will ensure the optimal development of the child and prevent birth defects. My family generally doesn't eat enough fish, so we take cod liver oil every day to make up for the lack in our diet. We gave our daughter her first dose of cod liver oil when she was nine months old. She didn't like it at first, but bribing her with her favorite snack works.
You can buy Green Pasture fermented cod liver oil in Singapore here.
Update: I've since done an in-depth study on cod liver oil. Click here if you missed the series.
If you've tried cod liver oil before, do you feel a difference in your health? And what is your best way to get this magic oil down?