Cod liver oil

Taking cod oil for health benefits isn’t a new idea. Ancient Vikings and other Norse people traditionally consumed cod liver oil during the winter months, and it appears they were on to something. Cod liver oil is high in vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin. It is also high in vitamin A and omega-3s, two other nutrients essential for good health.

If you’re looking for the best one to buy, we recommend Nordic Naturals Arctic Cod Liver Oil for its high potency, purity and orange flavor that makes it pleasant to consume. However, if you have questions about why to take cod liver oil and what factors to consider when buying, keep reading.

Cod liver oil benefits

Cod liver oil is high in omega-3s, vitamin A and vitamin D, three nutrients that are essential for our health, but are often lacking in the modern Western diet. 

Studies show that omega-3s provide many benefits for the body, including improved eye and brain health and giving the skin a more youthful appearance. It has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering blood pressure and triglyceride levels, while also boosting HDL cholesterol. Additionally, omega-3s are linked to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease and mental decline from age.

Vitamin A helps to preserve eyesight and supports a healthy immune system. It is also an essential nutrient in maintaining healthy bones and a healthy reproductive system for both men and women. It should be noted that most experts recommend getting our daily requirements of vitamin A from natural sources, such as cod liver oil, as it is not clear if synthetic supplements offer the same benefits.

The body produces vitamin D in response to sunlight, but for most people, the modern lifestyle keeps them indoors for much of the day. This is unfortunate as vitamin D helps regulate the absorption of phosphorus and calcium, two minerals that aid in the healthy development of bones and teeth. Vitamin D also plays a role in facilitating normal immune system function, which can help increase resistance to certain diseases.

Cod liver oil features


Cod liver oil supplements come in two forms: liquid and capsules. Liquid options usually provide more omega-3s and vitamin A and D per serving. However, the fishy taste can be off-putting, which is why many people choose to mix it into a strongly flavored beverage. Liquid cod oils also need to be stored in the refrigerator after opening. Conversely, capsules don’t require refrigeration, which can make them more convenient to store. 


Even when mixed into a flavored beverage, the taste of cod liver oil is often noticeable. To combat, this many manufacturers now offer flavored cod oil supplements. Mint, lemon, orange and other fruits and herbs help mask the taste and make taking cod liver oil more palatable. Another option is to opt for capsules, which are less likely to leave a fishy taste in the mouth.


If you can afford the slightly increased price, it is generally best to choose cod liver oils manufactured following sustainable practices. Most companies that do this will have a certification from the Marine Stewardship Council or similar organizations.


Some manufacturers sell fermented cod liver oil. They claim that the standard distillation process removes many of the vital nutrients, which companies then have to add back in a synthetic form. Other manufacturers claim that fermented cod liver oil reduces its health benefits by damaging the omega-3s containing fatty acids and also causes it to turn rancid quicker. Currently, it is difficult to know which group is correct until more concrete studies occur. 

How much can you expect to spend on cod liver oil

Cod liver oil capsules range from $0.20 to $1 per serving, and liquids usually cost 30-60 cents per serving. Often, liquids will have more servings per bottle, which results in a higher overall purchase price.

Cod liver oil FAQs

What is the difference between cod liver oil and fish oil?

A. Cod liver oil and fish oil both come from fish, however different parts of them. Cod liver oil only comes from cod, more specifically from their liver, while fish oil comes from the flesh of several varieties of fish, including tuna, herring, mackerel and salmon. Regarding the nutrient profile, fish oil only contains omega-3s, whereas cod liver oil contains omega-3s and vitamins A and D.

Are there side effects from cod liver oil?

A. For most people, the side effects of taking cod liver oil are limited to gastrointestinal symptoms like fishy burps, nausea, loose stool and indigestion. However, it can act as a blood thinner, so anyone already taking prescription blood thinners or with high blood pressure should speak to their doctor before taking cod oil. It is also not recommended for pregnant women and can interact with weight-loss drugs containing orlistat and some contraceptive medicines.

What is the best cod liver oil to buy?

Top cod liver oil

Nordic Naturals Arctic Cod Liver Oil

Nordic Naturals Arctic Cod Liver Oil

What you need to know: A single teaspoon of this orange-flavored cod oil contains more than 1,000 milligrams of omega-3s.

What you’ll love: It’s made from wild-caught, sustainably sourced cod, making it a planet-friendly option, and it doesn’t have a fishy aftertaste.

What you should consider: This option has a high per-ounce price compared to many others.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and iHerb

Top cod liver oil for the money

Now Foods Cod Liver Oil

Now Foods Cod Liver Oil

What you need to know: These Kosher-certified capsules come from a respected brand and are free of wheat, gluten, soy and other common allergens.

What you’ll love: It’s packaged in the United States and tested to ensure it’s free of harmful levels of mercury, dioxins and other contaminants.

What you should consider: These large soft gels can be difficult for some to swallow.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and iHerb

Worth checking out

Carlson Labs Wild Norwegian Cod Liver Oil

Carlson Labs Wild Norwegian Cod Liver Oil

What you need to know: Thanks to a lemon flavor, this liquid provides all your daily omega-3s without an unpleasant fishy taste or burps.

What you’ll love: It has an International Fish Oil Standards certification for purity and is packaged using a nitrogen flush for freshness. 

What you should consider: It contains some synthetic vitamins.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and iHerb


Brett Dvoretz is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.