Sep 24, 2010

Cod Liver Oil: A Fishy Dilemma

One thing I like about following traditional dietary principles is that I don’t have to juggle a plethora of expensive supplements. My goal is to eat foods rich in vitamins and minerals rather than trying to get nutrients by taking pills.

The thing I don’t like so much is that the one supplement that is strongly promoted by the Weston A. Price Foundation is cod liver oil. Of all the shelves and shelves of tasty or flavorless supplements at the health food store, why cod liver oil?

Cod liver oil is a “traditional supplement” that has been used for the treatment of numerous health problems since ancient times. It is a source of vitamins A, D, K, and E, as well as DHA. Because of the synergistic interaction between various nutrients, cod liver oil should be taken in the context of a nutrient-dense traditional diet which includes butter from grass-fed cows. Not all brands of cod liver oil are equal, Green Pasture cod liver oil is fermented rather than industrially processed, so the natural vitamins are retained. You can read more about the benefits, recommended brands, and doses here.

As a teacher of struggling learners, I recommend a traditional diet along with supplemental cod liver oil regularly to my students and their families. As you can imagine, the cod liver oil suggestion makes me quite popular. People generally asked me first about taking capsules. The problem with capsules is that one serving of two capsules provides less than half the vitamin D in a half teaspoon of the oil. If I’m calculating correctly, you would need 4 capsules to almost equal ½ teaspoon of oil, if you want a dose equal a full teaspoon, that’s 8 or 9 pretty pricey capsules a day.
After explaining that capsules are really not the best option, the next question I get is about which flavor tastes good. At this point, I realize the asker has not come to grips with the concept of swallowing something simply for the health benefits. He or she is retaining a glimmer of hope that if orange, mint, or chocolate (yes, you read that right) is added or the oil is encased in a chewable gummy fish (I’m not making this up); somehow it won’t taste like fish liver. Green Pasture has come up with a number of flavors, but in the interest of honesty, I must say there just seems to be no way to truly mask the taste of fish liver. Perhaps we must let go of the fantasy that there is some means of making cod liver oil taste good and just hold our noses and swallow.

Personally, I don’t have much problem taking my cod liver oil. I know I need the vitamin A and D, and my brain certainly needs the omega-3s. I have tried various flavors, including chocolate (It was on clearance. Can you imagine?) I found that each flavor I tried tasted like (you guessed it) cod liver oil. This is why I have worked on perfecting a strategy to take my cod liver oil without tasting it.

I put a little water in a shot glass and float the oil on top of the water. Then I toss it back and swallow everything together. The key is to do this quickly. If you waste time staring at it, it will float to the edges of the glass and start sticking. If done correctly, very little of the cod liver oil will touch your tongue. No time should be spent swirling it around savoring the chocolaty-cod flavor.

I should mention that there is another way of taking cod liver oil without tasting it. This method is generally used for very young children and infants, but I’ve found you can threaten teenagers with it if their father is still big enough to hold them down. Cod liver oil can be absorbed through the skin. Usually this is done by applying it to the baby’s behind after a diaper change. This method probably will not do a lot to enhance the smell of your little one, but apparently it is an effective way to take a dose of cod liver oil.

I recently took a small survey of some of our readers to find out their experiences with different flavors of cod liver oil. Two generous readers actually offered to bring their cod liver oil gummy fish to my house so you could come by and taste them yourselves. They seemed very eager to donate the product. (Perhaps my moral dilemma over what to pass out to the neighbor kids on Halloween is solved.)

The suggestions I received for how to take cod liver oil and what flavors to try are below. If you’d like to participate in bulk orders for savings on Green Pasture cod liver oil, you can e-mail me at realfoodlisa AT gmail DOT com.

Our first choice is "salty cod" (sounds gross, but is pretty mild), second choice is "cinnamon tingle." The Orange flavor is nasty. The kids (including the 15-month old) take it straight from the syringe--just squirt it in their open mouths. Hubby and I have to put the CLO in our mouths along with a swig of beverage (usually water), slosh together, and swallow as quickly as possible. Holding your nose helps, too. Erin

This is so funny!!!! I just emailed you that exact question based on the previous email you sent out about reordering. I can tell you that the fermented, non-flavored is baaaaad. Jan

My family takes both the cinnamon and the orange. My husband has tasted both flavors and says hands down the cinnamon is the best tasting. However, it causes my son's mouth to break out in hives. For that reason, my son and I take the orange.

Here's how we all take it:Remember that oil floats on water? Use the syringe to pull measured amount out of bottle. Put a tiny swallow of water in mouth (do not swallow, yet). Squirt FCLO in mouth on top of water. Then swallow. Because the oil floats, it doesn't really reach my tongue. There is a *tiny* aftertaste BUT it's gone just a few swallows later.

I used to use a mint flavored gel, but they don’t make that exact product anymore. I don’t think I will ever enjoy cod liver oil, but everyone in my family was able to take the mint w/o too much complaint. We take it floating on top of a shot glass of water or juice. I think there is a mint liquid now. I haven’t tried that. The gel was nice because it stayed in a little lump floating in the glass and we could swallow it whole (didn’t stick to glass edges or end up needing to be licked off our lips). I also took the chocolate gel when it went on clearance due to discontinuing the item (a good decision on the part of GP). I currently take the plain, which made me gag right at first but I’ve gotten used to it. I’m trying the Mediterranean next. Lisa

I either chase it with OJ or I mix it with OJ. That is how I get it down. I have tried other ways but this is the best way I have found it to work. My son mixes his in Propel. (I know that is not preferred but how ever he will get it down is good for me.) Holly

It looks like the flavors have changed----we used to like cinnamon tingle but I didn't see it on the internet this time... so now trying some new flavors--orange and way for us to take is in a shot glass of kombucha or OJ with FCLO on top...Laura

I can't speak to flavor, because I've only bought cod liver oil once, Garden of Life brand from Whole Foods, and it was Lemon Mint. I gagged when I tried it straight. But I started adding it to a shot of Organic Blueberry Pomegranate juice, or the organic Dragonberry juice, and I was even able to get my kids to take it. My son preferred it when I swished it back and forth between glasses to get it mixed together so that the oil was more "hidden". He can't shoot it as fast as everyone else. But it really didn't taste too bad with the juice. I want to try the Oslo Orange from Green Pastures next. Missy


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  1. Funny! I put the dosage into my daily healthy shake and can't taste it at all.... and when I don't do the shake (the drink, not a dance move),
    I float it in Pure (not from concentrate) Blueberry or Cranberry Juice and your taste buds are so busy trying to get the tart juice down the hatch that your tongue never has time to detect au-de-liver-of-cod. Rita

  2. I've been talking CLO, but in capsuls and have noticed a change for the good in my hair and nails. However, I just had my Vit. D checked and it is low...26 (it should be between 30 and 100). So off to Whole Foods to get CLO and, low and behold the two helpers I talked to get their vit. D from lanolin. Both recommended that I NOT take the IU's my Dr. prescribed (5,000 daily) in the form of CLO because that would result in too much Vit. A. I got it in liquid form, to be placed under the tongue, and it has no flavor at all, just an oily feeling. So if you need more D, it's worth a try! AC



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