The answer to all the questions or myths you’ve heard about fermented cod liver oil is probably “Yes.”
- Does it smell awful?
- Can you taste it in other things?
- Is it hard to swallow?
- Do you burp it later?
The answers to all, an unqualified Yes. On the burps, there’s usually a two-hour window or so, although once, in the parking lot at the grocery store, I had an unprecedented 4-hours-later CLO burp. It just reminds me how healthy I am!
I kept reading that the benefits of fermented cod liver oil were huge and that it was just about the only supplement worth taking. It’s so important that any time you read about Dr. Weston A. Price’s findings, cod liver oil and Activator X from high-vitamin butter oil are his star players.
Putting it off was easier than facing the issue head on.
Plus, I was so scared!
After my research on sunscreen and cancer and Vitamin D this summer, I realized it was time to face my fears and make sure my family had a source of Vitamin D this winter. Did you know fermented cod liver oil has over twice the recommended daily amount of Vitamin D in just a half teaspoon? The next closest food is Atlantic herring – raw! – and you have to eat ten times as much to get the same benefit! I’m thinking a little spoonful of CLO would taste much, much better than raw herring, wouldn’t you?
Cod liver oil is also an excellent source of Vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids, two other nutrients Americans really need to beef up on. Reading an article like vitamin d deficiency and infertility quickly gives one more reason to work hard to get the right nutrients in our bodies.
Quite simply, fermenting the cod liver oil is not only the most traditional way to consume it, but it increases the nutrients ever more. I had originally set out to compare various cod liver oils for swallowability, among other things. As I tried to find other reputable sources, I kept being sent back to Green Pasture as the only fermented cod liver oil and the best stuff around. I never ended up bothering with anything else.
We tested both straight “FLCO” (fermented cod liver oil), which is a liquid oil, thick and oily, much like taking olive oil from a spoon, and Green Pasture’s unique blend of 2/3 fermented cod liver oil and 1/3 X-factor high vitamin butter oil. Blending butter oil with cod liver oil makes it thick enough to stand up on the spoon, so taking it is more like eating butter or solid coconut oil than drinking oil.
What is Activator X?
Activator X, discovered and coined by Dr. Weston A. Price, is now thought to be Vitamin K2, and is found in very few foods. Butter from cows on fast-growing spring/fall grass is one of them, and Green Pasture has captivated it. A friend of mine tells me her naturopath has been pushing her to get some good activator X supplements for years, and she just recently took the plunge. I wasn’t surprised to find that she was told to order Green Pasture’s blend.
Green Pasture also does a darn good job of offering flavors to make the cod liver oil swallowing experience more pleasant, and I was surprised that my poor friend hadn’t been offered the flavors! She was pretty excited to hear about the ones we’d been trying. There’s really something for everyone.
I always assumed I’d like “Cinnamon Tingle” the best, and I was right. If I’ve learned anything by testing them all, it’s “go with your gut.” Dave Wetzel, the head of Green Pasture, says that his daughters like the Mediterranean flavor best, but my kids won’t touch it and I think it’s wickedly bitter. Luckily for them, mom is going to have to be the one to take one for the team and finish that bottle! There’s garlic oil in it, so I’m hoping that’s a little added immunity boost. Right?
The 5-year-old boy decided he likes the Arctic Mint flavor, which I hated, so that works out well! We also tested Chocolate Cream, which has an almost pasty, chalky texture and is on the “least favorite” list. My 2-year-old has trouble taking her cod liver oil, but chocolate was the only flavor she actually spit out (yes, that was gross). It’s an insult to chocolate in my book, but if our other experiences tell us anything, it’s that everyone likes something different.
You’ll notice I didn’t mention my husband’s favorite flavor. As head of household, he quickly commandeered the capsule form of FCLO. I’ll try not to pick on his weak palate too much! He says he doesn’t even like opening the other kinds because the smell sticks to his fingers, but the capsules are no problem. Thanks for testing those out for us, honey…
UPDATE: Some readers have great ways that actually DO hide the FCLO in the comments. I surely don’t know it all!
And a laugh for you: actual video of me and the kids taking our cod liver oil!
How to Take Cod Liver Oil
Seriously, if you have little ones, you may want to offer an incentive like chocolate chips for taking their cod liver oil. (Thanks, Kelly, for the suggestion!) My 5-year-old takes it like a champ. He recommends the syringe that comes with the straight FCLO and likes to take it right out of the “shooter” because it passes over your tongue that way. Just make sure your child closes their mouth around the tip before you shoot it, or it sprays all over. Yes, we test everything, just for you!
The little one and I generally take the blended oil from a spoon. I used to think a big spoonful all at once was the way to go, but I found it was just too big to swallow. Now I take about three little bites and swallow it with milk like a pill. We all chase the FCLO with a drink!
The Smell: Not Something to Take Lightly
I’ve finally learned not to let the 2-year-old take her FCLO at the beginning of the meal, because once she takes one sip out of a glass after it’s on her lips, that glass is done forever. She won’t drink any more, and I get it: anything that touches the oil smells like it, so your entire drink is contaminated, no matter where you put your lips for the next drink! I’ve learned to use my teeth to slide the cod liver oil off the spoon and avoid contaminating the edge of my drinking glass, but that’s a little complicated for a 2-year-old.
I would also not recommend using the same spoon for FCLO and eating food. Sometimes I even make the dishwasher smell fishy with the spoons in there. Blech.
I’ve been trying in vain to figure out how to describe the smell of cod liver oil for you. It’s not like salmon or tuna, which some would already say is icky, but I appreciate those aromas. This is fermented CLO, so take your fishmonger smell from the wharf and let it rot. It smells a bit like garbage, laced with cinnamon, with fishy undertones coupled with an unidentified scent that I just can’t capture for you. Tempted yet?
Can You Hide It?
I’ve been told to mix the fermented cod liver oil in with various things to make it more palatable, such as:
- Homemade Yogurt
- Peanut butter
- Smoothies, frozen smoothies
In our experience, mixing the cod liver oil in with something just makes more bites of yuck you have to suffer through. It ends up wrecking the food. I tried it in yogurt and it was simply inedible. I can’t imagine wasting a whole smoothie trying to mix! Hiding cod liver oil is like trying to hide cinnamon, or garlic – it just doesn’t work.
A half spoon of applesauce with the Cinnamon Tingle, but I’d rather just chase it with raw milk. Swallowing more instead of less was more difficult for me.
The Bottom Line: Just Do It
I know I haven’t made this sound very appetizing, but I’m not really one to sugarcoat things (and sugar probably wouldn’t hide the FCLO anyway). I’m not going to tell you taking cod liver oil is fun. I will tell you I think it’s worth it.
When my daughter went two weeks refusing to take hers, she kept getting colds, and my 5-year-old would tell her, “Leah, I really want you to take your cod liver oil because I don’t want you to be sick anymore.” It was pretty darn cute, and now when she coughs or sneezes a lot she says, “I need to take my cod liver oil.”
(If you want to know the trick, there wasn’t one. We just offered it every day and didn’t make a big deal of it, and finally one day she wanted to take it to show off for Grandpa. Now she sucks it down every day and we joke together about how awful it tastes!)
Who wants to be a pansy? In a country where we exercise ourselves to death and profess “no pain, no gain” as a national mantra, I think we all need to just be tough and take a 5-second inconvenience to improve our health.
How many people dislike beer or coffee when they first taste it, but then proceed to force themselves to drink it to “get used to it?” Be tough, kids, you can do it!
Or, for the weak-palated among you, go with the capsules. Your pockets will just have to be a mite deeper.
Prices run between $40-50 average per bottle. Capsules cost around $30 for half as many servings, which is not quite twice as much. If you ask my husband, he’d say they’re worth it!
Even with capsules, you’re still getting two months worth (at normal dosing; some people take much, much more) for under $50. I remember pricing some other supplements and realizing they would cost about $30 a month for just the one item. If you can swallow the real thing, you’re looking at considerably less money than that, and if you buy in bulk you can save up to $10/bottle. Get together with like-minded, strong-palated friends and make a big order! The FCLO can stay on the shelf before you open it but must be refrigerated when opened.
Feel free to ask me questions about the fermented cod liver oil and Activator-X butter oil at this post, and visit Green Pasture to see all the flavors and prices.
UPDATE: Here is my interview with Dave Wetzel, owner of Green Pasture, who was happy to help us through the questions in the comments section. Bonus round up of the best swallow tips from the comments here!
UPDATE: Some answers to your questions are at two posts by Sarah of The Healthy Home Economist. She talks about babies, dosages, and the difference between fermented cod liver oil and the regular stuff at Should Babies Get Cod Liver Oil? and demonstrates what a typical adult dosage should be, updated to this fall’s recommendations (2010) in a cod liver oil 101 video.
- Article: Why cod liver oil? Dosage recommendations
- Cod Liver Oil Manufacturing: Why Fermented? Is that Traditional?
Coming Up: Germ Fighting Warriors and More Deals
Next week’s Monday Mission at Kitchen Stewardship will be to Fight Germs Naturally. It’s a topic I’ve explored little, but I’m turning to others (like Green Pasture) to help me on my journey as we enter cold and flu season. Look out for a giveaway and discount code Monday for Frugal Granola’s Herbal Nurturing: A Family Healing and Learning Guide eBook, and don’t forget to enter this week’s giveaway for Modern Alternative Mama’s In the Kitchen: Real Food Basics cookbook HERE. Buy some garlic to get ready for next week!
Also – your advance announcement – I’m having an end-of-season half off sale on the Family Camping Handbook! Look for a discount code on Monday, October 25th for only $2.50 for the first 250 books sold, good midnight Sunday to midnight Monday.
If you missed the last Monday Mission, click here.
Disclosure: Green Pasture provided products for my review at no cost, but, quite obviously, nothing could pay for my opinion or get me to be any less than 100% honest with you, my dear readers. See my full disclosure statement here.
I’m happy to enter Fight Back Friday with a bunch of other real food bloggers!