In order to receive the maximum health benefits from eating fish with the minimum amount of health risks, choose the right fish to eat. Not all fish are equally healthful, and some fish, are not that healthy at all.
Some fish are known to be lower in mercury than others, but unless you have a list on you when you go to the grocers, this is not placed on the label. Among the healthiest types of fish to eat are fresh unprocessed fish and shellfish. These also happen to be among the most versatile fish to cook.
Regardless of the type of fish you eat, always note its freshness to determine how good it may be for you. Smell any fish before you cook it or, if cooked by another person, after it is served. Fish should never have a “fishy” smell, but rather smell clean and briny. To maximize the health benefits from eating fish, always avoid overcooking or undercooking it and always eat it with other nutritious foods and side dishes. Many of the healthiest fish to eat also happen to be among the more sustainable fish to harvest, making it better for the environment as well.
Albacore tuna from the U.S. or Canada is particularly healthy for us to eat, as it contains low levels of mercury and other contaminants. The process for catching this fish is typically good for the environment as well, as long as it is troll or pole caught. Much of the other albacore coming from elsewhere in the U.S. and Canada is also more healthful as it is farm-raised in accordance with mercury toxicity protection guidelines. Being raised in a controlled environment, this tuna is also free of other harmful potential contaminants. Other lower-mercury forms of tuna include light tuna and skipjack tuna. By contrast, avoid high quantities of ahi tuna and yellowfin.
Atlantic mackerel is among the healthiest form of mackerel for having a low content of environmental contaminants and a high content of omega-3 fatty acids. It is also a rich protein source, with a three-ounce filet of Atlantic mackerel providing 20 grams of protein. Purse seine fished Atlantic Mackerel caught in Canada or the U.S. is among the healthiest of all Atlantic mackerel. Due to the protection this fishing method affords the habitat for Atlantic mackerel, the fish bred in these waters tend to grow up bigger, stronger and healthier than their kind elsewhere. Mackerel can be high in mercury, so be sure to opt of Spanish mackerel or smaller sized types of mackerel.
Cod is a white fish high in vitamin B-12, niacin and phosphorus. It is a low-fat food containing only a single gram of fat and under 90 calories per three-ounce portion. Yet it is also a high-protein food containing 15-20 grams of protein in that same-sized portion. Another healthy fish, commonly referred to as “black cod” despite not being a kind of cod at all, is stablefish. Stablefish is high in both vitamin A and D as well as essential fatty acids.
Sardines are considered a superfood, in part for offering the perfect combination of being low in mercury and high in omega-3 essential fatty acids. In fact, sardines contain more omega-3 fatty acids per serving than the same amount of tuna, salmon and nearly all other foods. Moreover, sardines are one of the only foods high in naturally-occurring vitamin D. Wild-caught Pacific sardines are among the healthiest sardines to eat. Be aware when purchasing sardines that you are actually purchasing real sardines, as many small fish in the herring family are mislabeled as sardines. While herring and anchovies are similarly healthy to sardines, they can also be served smoked, which heightens the sodium content.
Like sardines, salmon in general is low in mercury and high in omega-3 fatty acids. The Environmental Defense Fund suggests that the best salmon to eat is wild Alaskan salmon, whether fresh, frozen or canned, as it also contains little other environmental contaminants including lead. Wild Alaskan salmon sold in canned form is usually Alaskan pink or sockeye salmon, both of which are recommended. Also particularly beneficial among types of salmon is Coho salmon farmed in the U.S. in freshwater tanks.
Other farmed salmon may be high in parasites due to overcrowding of fish and could, consequently, contain large amounts of antibiotics used to combat those parasites. If a sign at the fish counter reads “tank-based” or “land-based” freshwater Coho salmon, you can feel confident that it is low in such environmental hazards. Conversely, salmon to avoid is Atlantic salmon farmed in pens, as they can be replete with diseases and parasites. Chinook salmon can be among the healthier varieties as well, so long as it is not New Zealand Chinook salmon farmed in net pens.
Wild Alaskan Pollock is high in protein and low in fat, containing only about 81 calories in a 100-gram serving. In addition to containing high quantities of B-12 and omega-3s, Pollock is also high in vitamin B-6. This is also a very versatile fish to cook with.
Trout in general has a low-mercury and high-omega-3 content. Among the healthiest trout to eat is farmed-raised rainbow trout. Since trout farming is so highly regulated in the U.S., the amount of wild-caught trout that can be introduced into the ponds and raceways is restricted, as are the amounts of chemicals that can be used in the farming process. As such, U.S. farmed-raised freshwater rainbow trout also contains less environmental contaminants.
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