Fish is an essential part of a healthy diet. Experts recommend two servings of four ounces or one serving of 8 ounces of fish per week. UnityPoint Health dietitian Miriam Troutner explains the health benefits of eating fish, the importance of omega-3 fats and some recipe ideas to keep your dinner plans fresh.
Health Benefits of Fish
Eating fish is associated with several health benefits, including lowering triglycerides (type of fat), blood pressure and inflammation, improving eye health, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke, protecting brain health and reducing Alzheimer’s progression. Fish are rich in minerals such as calcium, zinc and magnesium, and it’s a key source of omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon, sardines, tuna, herring and trout are fish high in omega-3s. Haddock, pollock, catfish, flounder and halibut are leaner fish containing less omega-3 fats.
Omega-3s are called essential fatty acids because they're necessary for health, but your body can’t make the good fat on its own — you must ingest it. Although omega-3 fats can be found in some grains, plant-based oils and certain algae and seaweed, the best source is fish.
Fish has more omega-3s per serving, and it’s in a form our bodies absorb best called EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). The omega-3 fats found in grains and plant fats are called ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). Your body can convert ALA to EPA/DHA, but you’ll benefit most by getting EPA straight from fish.
While it’s best to eat fish for healthy omega-3 fats, make sure to get other healthy ALA fats from foods such as ground flaxseed, avocados, walnuts and olive oil. For individuals who choose not to or cannot consume fish due to allergies, getting a good amount of ALA fats is important.
How to Choose a Healthy Fish to Eat
You might think certain fish may have too strong of a flavor or are difficult to cook. Troutner recommends trying different species to find something you like. If you’re able, buy fish that’s responsibly sourced, which you can learn about from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) or from seafoodwatch.org.
Is Flounder Healthy?
Flounder is a healthy saltwater fish. It’s a mild, white fish with a similar texture to tilapia and high in vitamin B12. Unlike tilapia, flounder has omega-3 fats. Next time you’re making a recipe that calls for tilapia, try swapping in flounder instead.
On the other hand, if you’re trying to pick from flounder vs. salmon, consider the source of the fish. According to the NOAA, “summer flounder” from the United States is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested under U.S. regulations. Flounder is a leaner fish, which means it’ll have fewer calories but also less omega-3s than salmon.
Is Salmon Healthy?
Salmon is often a top protein pick by dietitians and other health experts. It’s low in saturated fat and high in omega-3s. It’s also a good source of vitamin B12, potassium and vitamin D. Salmon is versatile and easy to prepare. The higher fat content (compared to flounder) makes it a more satisfying and filling meal.
Is Haddock Healthy?
Like flounder, haddock is a very lean fish with less than 1 gram of fat per fillet, so choosing this fish can be a great way to add more protein without additional calories. The saltwater fish is considered to have stronger flavors and more texture than its closest relative — cod. Unlike cod, haddock contains good amounts of omega-3 fats.
What’s the Leanest Fish to Eat?
Most fish are generally considered a lean source of protein. This technically means it contains less than 3 grams of fat per ounce or less than 10 grams of fat in 100 grams portion. Beware, because fish is such a lean source of protein, many recipes add additional fat in cooking or serving to enhance the flavor. Save fried fish for special occasions and limit creamy sauces if you eat fish routinely.
What’s the Best Fish for Weight Loss?
There’s no right or wrong fish to select for weight loss, specifically. Even fish that contain good amounts of omega-3 fats are still lower in calories compared to other proteins but provide the additional benefit of the essential omega-3 fats.
The preparation is what can derail your weight loss efforts. Because fish is lean, be careful not to overcook it, and opt to use citrus juice or broth for cooking or serving to keep fish moist and appealing. Avoid fried fish or fish topped or served with mayo/sour cream sauces.
Adding more fish to your diet can help toward your weight-loss goals. But the bigger benefit to eating fish regularly is the heart-healthy omega-3 fats.
Which Fish has the Most Protein?
All fish contain protein. The amount of protein in a piece of fish will depend on the fat content. In general, a 4 oz piece of cooked fish will contain between 22-28 grams of protein. If you're buying fresh fish at the grocery store, look for 4-5 oz fillets. This is a more standard serving that will provide adequate omega-3s and save room on your plate for vegetables, fruits and whole grains
If fish isn’t something you enjoy, don’t worry! Focus on adding more vegetables, beans, lentils, high fiber fruits, nuts, seeds and unheated oils to your daily diet.
Fish Oil Pills vs. Eating Fish
A growing number of studies found actual fish consumption provided greater benefits than taking fish oil supplements alone. However, other studies found taking a supplement can be beneficial, especially if you’re someone who doesn’t eat fish.
If you choose a fish oil supplement, be careful of what you pick. Most supplements won't contain enough of the essential omega-3 fats. Instead, look for a supplement with about 1 gram of EPA/DHA and make sure to watch portion size. Some supplements may require you to take several pills daily to reach the 1-gram amount.
Taken in pill form, there are fish oil side effects like upset stomach and diarrhea. It can also interfere with allergies, blood thinners or provide excessive omega-6 and omega-9 fats that aren’t healthy.
Above all, if you’re considering taking a fish oil supplement, talk to your UnityPoint Health primary care provider.
Risks of Eating Fish
Fish can contain salmonella and bacterium, which cooking will kill when the temperature reaches 145 degrees, and the fish is opaque (not shiny and see through) and separates as flakes. Shellfish will open when cooked properly. If your shellfish doesn’t open, don't eat it. Food borne illness may occur if fish is kept too long after preparation, stored improperly or undercooked.
When it comes to the risk of eating raw fish, like sushi, there are some precautions. The source sushi comes from is extremely important. You’ll want to make sure it’s fresh and it’s been handled properly, or there's a risk of food poisoning. The fish used in sushi shouldn’t have any obvious odors and shouldn’t fall apart.
Fish to Avoid When Pregnant
Anyone who's pregnant, has a depressed immune system, or the very young or old should generally not eat sushi because of the bacteria raw fish may carry. Freezing the raw fish before preparing it can prevent some problems, but not all.
Pregnant individuals should also avoid shark, King Mackerel, swordfish and tilefish due to higher mercury content. Albacore tuna does have some mercury, but 8 ounces of albacore tuna per week is generally safe for anyone who's pregnant. Troutner says the source of the fish is important in picking safe seafood. Pregnant individuals can check with local health departments before eating local fish to determine if mercury is in the area’s fish supply.
If you're pregnant and have questions, talk with your care team to discuss what's best for you.
Introducing Kids to Fish
Early introductions are key for all flavors with kids — fish is no different. Having kids try fish at an early age (generally by the age of 1) can set kids them up to enjoy this flavor for years to come. Like other foods, it may take several attempts for little ones to accept the taste, but consistency is key. Once you introduce fish to your child, make sure you serve it routinely.
Although fish sticks are commonly considered “kid friendly,” make sure you check the type of fish in the product and watch for sodium and added fat in the breading. Check the food label to understand the serving size. It’s a good idea to avoid product with more than 400 mg of sodium per serving or more than 3 grams of saturated fat per serving.
If you have questions about your child’s diet, check-in with their primary care doctor.
Healthy Fish Recipes:
- Lemon Pepper Salmon with Couscous
- Maple-mustard Marinated Salmon
- Salmon and Corn Relish
- Zesty Fish Tacos
Eat up to 12 ounces (two average meals) a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury. Shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish are low-mercury fish. Albacore (“white”) tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna. So limit your intake of albacore tuna to once a week.What is the healthiest fish to eat regularly? ›
- Salmon. Salmon is versatile and one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acid, which is essential as the body cannot make it on its own so it must be obtained through food. ...
- Mackerel. ...
- Cod. ...
- Trout. ...
- Sardines. ...
- Crab. ...
- Haddock. ...
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends: At least 8 ounces of seafood (less for children§) per week based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Those who are pregnant or breastfeeding consume between 8 and 12 ounces per week of a variety of seafood from choices that are lower in mercury.What fish is best for gut health? ›
Fatty fish (like salmon, mackerel, and tuna) is one of the very few sources of dietary vitamin D in our modern food supply, and this nutrient plays a fascinating and complex role in maintaining a healthy gut! The link between vitamin D and the gut microbiome may actually be a two-way street.What is the NHS advice on eating fish? ›
How much fish should we eat? A healthy, balanced diet should include at least 2 portions of fish a week, including 1 of oily fish. Most of us aren't eating this much. A portion is around 140g (4.9oz).Can I eat salmon everyday? ›
The FDA recommends eating 8 ounces of salmon per week. So you *can* eat it every day but in smaller servings. If you're pregnant, the FDA recommends eating 8 to 12 ounces of seafood per week from sources that have lower mercury levels — including salmon!Is any fish safe to eat daily? ›
“For most individuals it's fine to eat fish every day,” says Eric Rimm, professor of epidemiology and nutrition, in an August 30, 2015 article on Today.com, adding that “it's certainly better to eat fish every day than to eat beef every day.”Which fish has the most mercury? ›
- orange roughy.
- southern bluefin tuna.
King mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, tilefish, ahi tuna, and bigeye tuna all contain high levels of mercury. Women who are pregnant or nursing or who plan to become pregnant within a year should avoid eating these fish.Is tilapia a healthy fish to eat? ›
Tilapia is a nutritious food, and it can be part of a healthy and balanced diet. It is a good source of protein and is relatively low in fat. Tilapia is also lower in sodium, calories, and total fat than bacon and other processed meats. However, unlike salmon, tilapia is not particularly high in omega-3 fatty acids.
Salmon is an easy to digest fish. Mackerel, tuna and cod are other good options. Baked or grilled fish is rich in protein and omega 3 fatty acids that are anti-inflammatory. Avoid breaded or fried fish until your stomach feels better.What is the easiest fish to digest? ›
Salmon. Salmon is one of the most popular types of fish and there's good reason for this—it's also one of the lightest, making it incredibly easy to digest. White, flaky fish are also easy to digest.What fish is low in mercury? ›
Choose fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury such as salmon, trout, tilapia, cod, sole, sardines, shrimp, oysters, and other shellfish. For the most health benefits, choose fatty fish such as salmon, trout, herring, chub mackerel, and sardines. o These fish have healthy omega-3 fatty acids.What is the most ethical way to eat fish? ›
You'll often see this information on packaging or written on the menu of good restaurants (a good fishmonger should also be able to tell you). Generally, pole-and-line and rod-and-reel (sometimes also known as 'line-caught') are more sustainable and less damaging.Which fish should you avoid eating very much of if you want to limit your intake of HG? ›
Choose lower-mercury fish and seafood, such as salmon, shrimp, cod, and sardines. Avoid higher-mercury fish, such as tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, shark, swordfish, and king mackerel.Which is better for you salmon or chicken? ›
While they are both excellent sources of protein and add to your nutrient profile, the benefits of fish tend to be slightly higher than chicken, especially when it comes to the Omega-3 content in it.Can I eat salmon 3 times a week? ›
Fish and shellfish in this category, such as salmon, catfish, tilapia, lobster and scallops, are safe to eat two to three times a week, or 8 to 12 ounces per week, according to the FDA.Can I eat shrimp everyday? ›
Is it okay to eat shrimp every day? A. Doctors now consider it safe for most people to consume shrimp daily, irrespective of their cholesterol levels. In moderation, shrimp consumption can provide many essential nutrients.Is it OK to eat tilapia everyday? ›
Few foods are as controversial as tilapia. One day the flaky white fish is a high-quality protein source, the next we're told it may not be as virtuous as we think. It's hard to know where the truth lies. Here's the good news: There's no reason to avoid eating a moderate amount of tilapia.Are shrimp healthy to eat? ›
Is Shrimp Good for You? The short answer to this question is yes! Shrimp is good for you. Shrimp is full of nutrients and supports brain health and thyroid function while also serving as a source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Five of the most commonly eaten fish that are low in mercury are shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish. Another commonly eaten fish, albacore ("white") tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna.How do you get rid of mercury in your body naturally? ›
Eating more fiber.
Your body naturally gets rid of mercury and other potentially toxic substances through feces. Eating more fiber helps to move things more regularly through your gastrointestinal tract, resulting in more bowel movements. Try adding these high-fiber foods to your diet.
It's also possible to develop mercury poisoning from eating too much seafood, even if the varieties have lower levels of mercury. The FDA states that in small amounts, certain types of fish with lower mercury levels may be okay for adults to eat once or twice per week.What fish is low vs high mercury? ›
The fish with the highest mercury levels include King mackerel, shark, swordfish, tuna, and tilefish and the five fish with the lowest mercury levels include sardines, salmon, cod, catfish, and tilapia.How do you remove mercury from fish? ›
There is no method of cooking or cleaning fish that will reduce the amount of mercury in a meal. Methylmercury accumulates as you move up the food chain: Methylmercury in the water and sediment is taken up by tiny animals and plants known as plankton. Small fishes eat large quantities of plankton over time.Is tilapia high in mercury? ›
A “Best Choice” rating by the EPA and FDA means that tilapia does not contain unsafe levels of mercury. U.S. farmed tilapia is also rated as a “Best Choice” seafood option by Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch for consumers looking for sustainably sourced seafood.Is cod or tilapia better for you? ›
Cod and Tilapia are quite comparable in nutrition. Cod ranks only slightly higher on the nutrition scale than Tilapia, providing a few percentages more of vitamins and minerals including B6, thiamin, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium and zinc.
Mahi mahi is a rich source of protein as well as vitamins B3, B6, and B12. Among minerals, it contains some magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus as well as good amounts of sodium and selenium. Eating just a 3-ounce portion of mahi fish will give you about 72% of the recommended selenium amount in your daily diet.Is Costco tilapia safe to eat? ›
Tilapia from Indonesia are the first farmed fish to meet the Aquaculture Stewardship Council certification standard. This means the fish are responsibly farmed, no bad diets are antibiotics and enviornmental impacts are minimized. The Costco tilapia loins are lake grown and raised without the use of antibiotics.What is the hardest food to digest? ›
Fatty foods, such as chips, burgers and fried foods, are harder to digest and can cause stomach pain and heartburn. Cut back on greasy fried foods to ease your stomach's workload. Try to eat more lean meat and fish, drink skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, and grill rather than fry foods.
Pufferfish, like this one, lost its digestive stomach. That organ has a new purpose now: holding food and scaring predators.What fish has suction on belly? ›
Meet the lumpsucker, the tiny fish that sucks at swimming but is great at suctioning.How often should you eat fish? ›
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends at least 8 ounces of fish per week (based on a 2,000 calorie diet) and less for children. Those who might become or are pregnant or breastfeeding should eat between 8 and 12 ounces of a variety of fish per week, from choices that are lower in mercury.Can you eat too much salmon? ›
Well, it is possible to consume too much salmon. Salmon is a fatty fish, and just like any other food, consuming too much of it can lead to weight gain and other health problems. While comparatively lower than other types of seafood, salmon also contains mercury, which can be harmful in large amounts.Why is it OK to eat fish but not meat? ›
Some pescatarians believe a meat-based diet is bad for the environment. They feel that land animals raised for food use too many natural resources and add to pollution. Many people, though, choose this fish-based plan for their health.Why do people choose not to eat fish? ›
Still others may avoid seafood because they worry that they—or their children—will be harmed by mercury, pesticide residues, or other possible toxins that are in some types of fish.What is the argument against eating fish? ›
Eating Fish Is Not Healthy
Fish contains saturated fat and cholesterol, as well as several toxins including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, and mercury.
Making the “do not eat” list are King Mackerel, Shark, Swordfish and Tilefish. All fish advisories due to increased mercury levels should be taken seriously. This is especially important for vulnerable populations such as young children, pregnant or breastfeeding women, and older adults.What are 3 foods we should limit our intake of? ›
Takeaway foods, cakes, biscuits and soft drinks are examples of foods usually high in saturated fat, added salt or added sugars. They should be considered as extras to your usual diet and only eaten occasionally and in small amounts.What are the big four fish to avoid eating due to high mercury levels? ›
DON'T eat the “big four” fish with the highest levels of mercury: king mackerel, shark, swordfish, and tilefish.
What types of fish contain very low levels of mercury? Fish that tend to contain very low levels of mercury include shellfish (for example oysters, clams, scallops, mussels), salmon, crab, shrimp, trout, herring, haddock, pollock (Boston bluefish), sole, flounder, lobster, Atlantic mackerel and lake whitefish.Is cod or salmon healthier? ›
Salmon are more nutritious than cod, but their fillets are also filled with more fats and calories. Salmon is healthier because it has omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B, potassium, and many other vitamins and nutrients. Cod is leaner than salmon, and it is less calorie dense.What is the healthiest meat to eat? ›
- Chicken Breast. You probably guessed this one. ...
- Turkey Breast. It's not just for Thanksgiving. ...
- Beef. Though most doctors and nutritionists recommend limiting red meat consumption, it is still full of beneficial proteins and nutrients. ...
- Fish. ...
Species of fish that are long-lived and high on the food chain, such as marlin, tuna, shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish contain higher concentrations of mercury than others.What fish to avoid due to mercury? ›
Fish that contain high levels of mercury include shark, ray, swordfish, barramundi, gemfish, orange roughy, ling and southern bluefin tuna. Mercury is a naturally occurring element that is found in air, water and food.What fish is high in omega-3 but low in mercury? ›
Eat a variety of seafood that's low in mercury and high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as: Salmon. Anchovies. Herring.What fish should you avoid if you have high cholesterol? ›
People with high cholesterol should avoid any fish high in saturated fat and calories. Shrimps, trout, mackerel, tuna, and swordfish are some fishes you should avoid eating.Is tilapia good for you? ›
Fish is one of the healthiest sources of protein, and tilapia is no exception. Tilapia is packed with vitamins and minerals like choline, niacin, vitamin B12, vitamin D, selenium, and phosphorus. It is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are healthy fats that your body needs to function.What meat should I eat everyday? ›
A healthy balanced diet can include protein from meat, as well as from fish and eggs or non-animal sources such as beans and pulses. Meats such as chicken, pork, lamb and beef are all rich in protein. Red meat provides us with iron, zinc and B vitamins. Meat is one of the main sources of vitamin B12 in the diet.What is the unhealthiest meat to eat? ›
Finally, health experts say to stay away from processed meats, which are generally considered to be unhealthy. These include any meat that has been smoked, salted, cured, dried, or canned. Compared to fresh meat, processed meats are high in sodium and can have double the amount of nitrates.
- Seafood — fish and shellfish.
- Poultry — chicken or turkey breast without skin, or lean ground chicken or turkey (at least 93% lean)
- Lean meats — like pork shoulder, beef sirloin, or lean ground beef (at least 93% lean)
- Beans, peas, and lentils — like black beans and garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
- Guava. 4g protein per cup. Guava is number one on our list of high protein fruit. ...
- Avocado. 4g protein per cup. ...
- Apricots (dried) 2g protein per cup. ...
- Kiwifruit. 2g protein per cup. ...
- Grapefruit. 2g protein per cup. ...
- Blackberries. 2g protein per cup. ...
- Melon. 1.5g protein per cup. ...
- Peach. 1g protein per cup.
Tuna, salmon, trout, cod, haddock, grouper, tilapia, and bass are those that I recommend as lean protein fish.What is the best fish for weight loss and muscle gain? ›
Best: Lean Fish
For example, low-fat fish like tilapia, cod, flounder, and sole have fewer than 120 calories in a 3-ounce serving and give you plenty of protein. If you don't like fish but want to get more seafood into your diet, tilapia and cod can be a good starting point.