Cod Liver Oil: Fermented or Fresh? What did the Vikings prefer?
With an increasing trend towards fermented food from people seeking a more traditional diet, naturally there has been a lot of debate recently about fermented versus fresh cod liver oil.
To properly understand the context of this issue, we need to go back in time to the days of the Ancient Vikings. Cod livers were tossed into empty barrels with seawater, and cod flesh was set aside and dried as a jerky. The cod liver oil would float to the top of the barrel. The Vikings preferred this oil and knew even back then that this first oil was the freshest and of superior quality, referring it to as "Gold of the Ocean" or “raw medicinal oils”.
As time went on and the cod livers began to rot and decay (read: ferment), so they were then cooked over an open flame in an iron cauldron, extracting any remaining oils from the cod livers to see the Vikings through the winter months. Remember there were no refrigeration methods available to them at this time.
While fermentation can indeed be a beneficial process, it is imperative to distinguish between foods that improve with fermentation and foods that can dangerously deteriorate without proper preservation. Fermenting turns carbohydrates into alcohol, and the microbial populations that initiate this change are what we now refer to as pre and probiotics. In some cases, this consumption of live cultures can make a previously indigestible food palatable: however, cod liver oil is NOT one of those foods.
Fats and oils are particularly sensitive to oxygen, and exposure to air weakens the double bonds which give EPA and DHA their unique properties.
Today we have the technology available to keep the cod liver in its safest and freshest state and enable the extraction of only the purest, freshest oil in its "raw medicinal" state.
While fermentation is awesome for things like kombuchas and kefirs, the delicate nature of oils is prone to rancidity – and rancid oils can cause oxidative stress in the body. Another change since the days of the Vikings is widespread oceanic pollution – for this reason, we recommend an oil that’s been purified - ask for a certificate of analysis from your supplier to prove it.
Even back then, the Vikings preferred the initial extraction of cod liver oil intrinsically knowing that its potency, purity and freshness was unmatched.
And just like the Vikings knew, your nose knows best. If your olive or coconut oil had a strong and strange smell, you wouldn't cook with it knowing that it had probably gone rancid. Do the same with your cod liver oil - it shouldn't smell or taste unpleasant.
Getting your omega-3 from Fish oil is safe but some fish oil is purer than others – not to mention fresher, better tasting and sourced with greater respect for the environment. Learn how to identify good quality sources.
While fish oil is a ‘natural’ product this doesn’t necessarily mean you should go crazy and take massive amounts of it! Keep informed about what is fact and what is fiction.
This might come as a surprise, but fish oil is made from fish!? Ok, so maybe that didn’t come as a completely new concept but what is amazing is that somewhere along the way, between catching the fish and the lovely labelled and artfully marketed product found on the shelf of your health shop or pharmacy that basic fact seems to get lost along the way.