Consumer’s Guide to Buying the Best Cod Liver Oil

store shelf showing different types of the best cod liver oil products

Are you looking for the best cod liver?

Here you’ll learn how to choose these products based on omega 3 concentrations, soft gels or liquids, purity and prices.

Cod liver oil is an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids and a natural source of vitamins A & D. It was actually one of the first healthy oils used in households dating back to the 1930’s. So If you want to add this nutritional supplement to your diet, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting the best one that’ll meet your needs.

I’ve used it for a number of years and have tried a lot of different kinds. If you want the best cod liver oil, I think the most important factors are finding out what type of fish that was used to make the oil, how much omega 3’s you’re getting, and most importantly, how pure the product is.  Here’s a breakdown of these factors:

Five Steps to Choosing the Best Cod Liver Oil

1. Fresh Fish Source

I think the best cod liver oils are made from fish that thrive in clear, unpolluted waters as this may help reduce fish exposure to pollution.  Historically, the best spot for fishing cod is off the Norway coastline where they’ve been catching for arctic cod for hundreds of years.

2. High Omega-3 Concentrations

The best cod liver oil will usually provide a high concentration of omega 3 fatty acids. Due to the lack of regulation in the fish oil industry, the only way to check the amount of EPA and DHA is looking at the ingredient label. I found some cod liver that provide very low levels of omega 3’s and I think this is due to the type of fish that were used to make the oil.

3. Is there a Certificate of Analysis?

Good quality products will usually be certified by a third-party lab to help give you the assurance that what’s listed on the ingredient label is actually in the bottle? Another thing I like about certified products is they also verify if there are any traces of contaminants in the oil. I found that some cod liver oil companies actually provide these test results on their products website.

4. Buy Direct from the Source

I prefer to buy oils only from companies that specialize in making cod liver oil. If you’re looking for the best cod liver oil, you’ll definitely find a large number of brand names to choose from.  However, these products are actually only made a small handful of companies that allow other companies or brands to put their own label on the bottle.

5. Watch your Prices and Check the  Quality

While price may play a part in your decision, remember that low quality products may provide low quality results. I like to make sure that the company provides some sort of proof that they follow strict guidelines for quality control and testing.

If you buy a low quality product, you may increase your risk for side effects from fish oils – and I believe that the main reason for these types of side effects is due to ingesting a low quality fish oil. I’ve found that most premium, higher-end products may cost more, but the extra cost usually ensures you’re getting a higher-quality product.

Cod Liver Oil Soft Gels vs Bottled Oils

Just like other fish oils, you can get cod liver oil in liquid and soft gels.

The type you choose will really depend on your personal tastes and specific health needs.

However, there are certain advantages and disadvantages to using either form:

1. Liquid Form

pouring bottle of Carlson cod liver oil onto a spoon Bottled liquids are usually the most common form.  I like to make sure that these types of products are packaged in opaque or dark bottles; this is to help prevent light exposure as cod liver oil is light-sensitive.

If you want to avoid possible exposure to BPA’s from plastic bottles, then you may to opt for the glass bottles..

I found that the average omega 3 concentration in a tablespoon of cod liver oil is about 500 – 600 mg. of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Most liquids will come bottled in 2 standard sizes:

  • 250 ml
  • 500 ml

I like the 500 ml. sizes because I usually get a better price per milliliter compared to the smaller bottles. I found that prices for 500 ml. bottles can average around $40 and average price ranges for the 250 ml bottles are about $20 to $25.

You can also get these oils in different flavors. One of the most popular is lemon flavored cod liver oil. I’ve also seen them come in orange and strawberry flavors.

I’ve tried Carlson Cod Liver Oil in both lemon and orange flavor. I didn’t notice any fishy after-taste and I find the flavoring helps make the product go down easier. The flavorings are a great idea and may make it easier to give your children fish oils.

2. Soft Gel Capsules

spoonful of cod liver oil soft gelsI think cod liver oil capsules are a convenient because you usually don’t need to refrigerate the bottle after opening it.  The soft gels may also make it easier for you to use if you’re away from home; you can simply pack a few soft gels in your backpack or handbag to take later in the day.

The majority of soft gels are available in 1000 mg. and you may even find some mixed with Vitamin A, D and E.

I think that the main disadvantage with using soft gels is that you may need to take more of them to get the same amount of ingredients you might get in a teaspoon of the liquid form.

Review of Three Most Popular, Best Cod Liver Oil Products

You can find these popular marine oils at your local health food store and various on-line retailers.

For your convenience, I’ve provided this list of what I think are some of the best cod liver oil supplements currently available:

  • Carlson Labs Norwegian Cod Liver Oil

    I did an extensive review of Carlson Cod Liver Oil and I think this is one of the most popular products currently available in North America. It comes in 250 & 500 ml bottles.

    A single teaspoon provides DHA – 250 mg and EPA – 200 mg, Vitamin A – 425 iu and Vitamin D – 200 iu. The company claims it contains 100% pure Norwegian oil. I found it has a pleasant lemon-flavor and I didn’t experience any after-taste or fish burps from it.

    Suggested Retail Price for a 500 ml bottle is $46.90, however, you can get it at a discount on most major on-line retailers and I’ve actually seen prices for just over $30.

    This particular product happens to be one of the biggest sellers on with currently over 87% of customers giving it a 5 Star rating.

    store shelf with different bottles of Carlson cod liver oil products

    Carlson Cod Liver Oil

  • Garden of Life Cod Liver Oil

    Garden of Life produces a wide range of nutritional supplements. I haven’t used this particular product, but I have seen it at my local health food store.  It contains Icelandic oil and comes in a lemon-mint flavor.

    bottle of Garden of Life cod liver oil

    Garden of Life Cod Liver Oil

    One teaspoon provides DHA – 453 mg, EPA – 320 mg, Vitamin A – 5000 iu and Vitamin D – 200 iu.

    With such a high amount of Vitamin A per dose I’m wondering if they’ve added additional Vitamin A to the oil because it’s unlikely you’d get such a high standardized amount from every fish used to make the oil.

     Nevertheless, this is another popular product with about 77% of shoppers giving it 5 out of 5 stars.  Many reviewers commented on how great it tasted with a very mild flavor and the affordable price. I found on-line prices averaged about $17 for an 8 oz. bottle which provides about 44 single tablespoon servings.

  • Nordic Naturals Arctic Cod Liver Oil

    This is another big seller in the cod liver oil arena. Nordic Naturals is actually a genuine Norwegian fish oil as they claim to use only fish from the Norwegian Sea.

    With this product you can get it in a 16 oz bottled liquid oil or 180 soft gels of 1000 mg. size.

    If you get the soft gels, the ingredient label suggests a daily serving of 3 soft gels per day which provides 246 mg of EPA and 375 mg of DHA. At 180 soft gels per bottle, this means it should last you about 60 days at 3 soft gels a day.

    bottle of Nordic Naturals Arctic-D cod liver oil

    Nordic Natural Cod Liver Oil

    The 16 oz (473 ml) bottled liquid oil suggested serving size is 1 teaspoon (5 ml) which means it should provide just over 94 servings.  Each teaspoon will provide about 1060 mg of Omega-3 with 340 mg EPA and 510 mg DHA.

    I’ve used this product and found the soft gels fairly easy to swallow and I didn’t experience any fishy after-taste or burps. I found that average prices for the soft gels is about $35 a bottle and about $40 for the bottled liquids.

    The customer reviews from online retailers, such as, appear encouraging with over 80% of shoppers giving both versions 5 stars.  Many people commented on the excellent purity, mild flavor and lack of any side effects.

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