Cod liver oil is a unique package of important nutrients which work together to prevent and even cure numerous modern diseases and conditions. Weston A. Price considered cod liver oil (especially combined with butter oil) to be one of the most important superfoods around, and for good reason:
Vitamin D. It's hard to ignore the striking evidence that vitamin D is indispensable for good health. Cod liver oil is the richest source of natural vitamin D - a single teaspoon of high-vitamin oil contains nearly 2000 IU.
Vitamin A. Cod liver oil is hand-down the richest natural source of bioavailable vitamin A, with about 10,000 IU per teaspoon of high-vitamin cod liver oil. This nutrient is vital for a healthy immune system and healthy vision, and is especially important for proper development in children. It also aids in protein utilization, testosterone production and prostate health.
For information about vitamin A, see below.
EPA and DHA. Cod liver oil supplies important omega-3 fatty acids EPA, which is anti-inflammatory and necessary for prostaglandin production, and DHA, a nutrient absolutely vital for a healthy brain and nervous system. Cod liver oil is a better source of these important nutrients than regular fish oil.
Specifically, cod liver oil has been used as an alternative health measure to improve general health while preventing and treating numerous modern illnesses:
Heart Disease. For protecting the heart, you can't beat cod liver oil. It can fight inflammation associated with heart disease, heal the lining of the arteries, reduce the size of atheromas clogging arteries, and improve blood vessel function. Cod liver oil can also lower blood pressure associated with high levels of stress. This makes cod liver oil a must both for preventing heart disease and for healing damage that has already been done.
Diabetes and Insulin Resistance. The high vitamin D in cod liver oil improves insulin function, while low levels of this vitamin are associated with high insulin levels. Getting plenty of natural vitamin D is important for balancing blood sugar. In addition, the vitamin A in cod liver oil aids vision health and injury recovery, which are often weakened by diabetes.
Cancer and Other Diseases. Studies have shown cod liver oil can protect against diseases like cancer and leukemia. It is a powerful component of alternative treatment for many chronic and degenerative conditions.
Children`s Health. From conception through adolescence, cod liver oil can provide developing children with what they need to thrive. Mothers who take cod liver oil during pregnancy and nursing protect their children from disease while providing them with important nutrients and fatty acids. For growing children, cod liver oil is important for healthy bones and teeth, as well as preventing common problems like ADHD.
Healthy Skin and Hair. The vitamins and essential fatty acids in cod liver oil can greatly improve the health of skin and hair. Cod liver oil can even be topically applied to speed wound healing.
Common Questions About Cod Liver Oil
If cod liver oil is so miraculous, why don't we hear more about it?
The answer to this question is simple: scientific research is no longer focused on the healing power of real food. For the most part, science today focuses on trying to prove the validity of pharmaceutical drugs which can be patented and sold for high profit. There is little interest in inexpensive natural treatments that can't be patented. When you look into communities which focus on healing through traditional, whole-food methods, you will find cod liver oil receives the attention it deserves.
What about vitamin A toxicity, especially regarding pregnant and nursing mothers?
There are two common misconceptions associated with vitamin A. One is that adequate levels of this vitamin can be obtained through fruits and vegetables, but these sources contain only carotenes which must be converted into retinol in the body. Many factors can interfere with this conversion, including diabetes, thyroid problems, stress, and infancy.
The second confusion results from studies indicating vitamin A is highly toxic. This only pertains to synthetic vitamin A; natural vitamin A consumed through natural foods like cod liver oil can be beneficial even at high doses. (This article contains a wealth of information about vitamin A.)
The vitamin A and D in cod liver oil are particularly important for pregnant women and developing babies. Vitamin A deficiency has been linked to birth defects. It's important for mother and baby that plenty of vitamin A is obtained through food. Cod liver oil is ideal because its vitamin A is in a highly usable form compared to the beta-carotene in produce. There have been studies that show that a maximum of 30,000 IU of vitamin A is safe during pregnancy, if the vitamin A is from natural food sources. Plus, the natural vitamin D in cod liver oil also works to prevent vitamin A toxicity. There's a reason nature packaged them together.
But doesn't fish oil contain heavy metal contaminants?
Heavy metals and other contaminants are a common concern when it comes to ocean fish, but cod liver sold in the United States is tested for these kinds of substances. A high-quality cod liver oil from a reputable manufacturer should cause no worries.
Are some cod liver oils better than others?
Absolutely. Like any other superfood, cod liver oil can be refined in a way that depletes it of valuable nutrients. Some manufacturers add inferior synthetic vitamins back in after processing (this information may not be on the label). Other manufacturers carefully preserve the vitamins in cod liver oil. It's important to find a good supplier of cod liver oil that takes pride in preserving the oil's natural goodness. Also, fermented cod liver oil is superior because its nutrients are highly bioavailable. See my resources page for the brand I personally recommend because of its superior quality.
Ick! How do you stand the taste?
Okay, I'm not one who spreads berry-flavored cod liver oil on toast. To me, this stuff doesn't taste good and it never will. I find the easiest way to take it is to down your dose and chase it with some milk, juice or lemon water (or tequila--I'm sure it will get rid of the taste but I doubt it's gonna do your health any good).
My kids abhorred cod liver oil at first, but honestly after a week or two they got used to taking it. They still put up a small fuss some mornings, but generally it's not a big deal anymore. Plus, I'm not too anal about it and some mornings we skip it. They typically end up taking a half-teaspoon of high vitamin cod liver oil about 3-5 times per week.
Update: New emulsified fermented cod liver oil flavors are now available through my resources page! Users report that these emulsified cod liver oils are much easier to take and taste a lot better, too.
This post is part of Fight Back Friday hosted by Food Renegade.