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It’s almost impossible to go a day without seeing a newspaper or magazine article, a TV commercial or a guest feature about the benefits of fish in the diet. Trending diets that emphasize fish include the Keto diet, the Paleo diet, the Plant Paradox diet, the Atkins diet, the South Beach diet, heart health diets, diabetic diets, and many more. For many Americans, eating fish may be a new concept. With the emphasis on the importance of diet to good health, knowing the healthiest fish to eat and how to incorporate fish into a healthy diet is a basic principle in today’s meal planning.
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1. What Makes Fish A Healthy Food Choice?
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As a broad food category, fish is an important source of protein, Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, and selenium. Every variety of fish has its own unique concentration of valuable nutrients. Fish is an excellent protein alternative to red meats, which have higher cholesterol and more fat than fish. Fish is also low in calories, making it ideal for diets aimed at promoting weight loss. It is also low in cholesterol, making it a good choice for heart health.
2. How Much Fish Should We Eat?
Most diets that include fish recommend serving portions of four to six ounces. Some fish are recommended for eating two to three times a week, while others that may have higher concentrations of mercury are recommended for much less frequent serving. Mercury levels are always a concern, and these levels vary in wild fish depending on where they are caught. The presence of mercury can affect your choice of the healthiest fish to eat.
Among the many food controversies circulating, there are differences of opinion on the merits of farmed fish versus wild caught. Despite the tremendous nutritional value of fish, concerns over mercury concentrations and the possible presence of antibiotics in farmed fish lead nutritionists to recommend no more than two to three servings a week.
3. Where Can You Buy Fish?
Canned fish, including tuna, salmon, sardines, anchovies, and oysters are readily available in all supermarkets. Most supermarkets also have fresh and frozen fish and seafood departments that offer a variety of wild and farm-raised products. Some of the more expensive fish may only be available in retail stores with a fish department where fresh fish and seafood are kept under glass.
4. How Should Fish Be Prepared?
The healthiest fish to eat will depend not only on the selection of the fish itself, but also on the technique and other ingredients used in preparing the fish. Choices for cooking fish include grilling, broiling, poaching, baking, and sauteing. Pan frying and deep frying preparations are delicious but not recommended for some special diets.
Fish may not seem as filling as the large portions of land meat that have become common in the American diet. Making a fish meal appetizing is important. Overcooking fish can produce a rubbery, unappetizing meal as well as reduce some of the nutritional value of the product. Finding interesting recipes and serving fish with attractive, satisfying, and nutritional side dishes is an excellent way to assure acceptance of more fish and seafood in a family’s diet.
How We Reviewed The Top 10 Healthiest Fish To Eat
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The ten fish we reviewed were chosen based on their nutritional value, availability, and how easy they are to incorporate into one’s diet.
Overall Price Range Of The 10 Healthiest Fish To Eat
One reason many people have not included much fish and seafood in their diets is price. Although fish may seem pricy, there is almost no waste when quality fish is prepared correctly. Canned fish products offer excellent options at very reasonable prices, with canned tuna starting at well under a dollar a can.
Some of the fish in our list may range as high as $20 a pound, but prices are also affected by how close or how far you live from the sea. Affordability is an important consideration in identifying the healthiest fish to eat because you fish need to fit the family’s food budget to be practical.
We Reviewed These 10 Healthiest Fish To Eat
- Flounder and Sole
Salmon seems to be at the top of almost every list of foods for healthy eating. It is definitely one of the healthiest fish to eat. Salmon is an excellent source of Omega 3 fatty acids and a great food for heart healthy diets. This versatile fish is easy to prepare, and a four-ounce serving can provide a satisfying entrée and lends itself to any number of elegant preparations.
Prices for salmon vary considerably from the very reasonably priced canned salmon to a variety of farmed salmons and wild caught salmon. Canned salmon is ideal for making such appetizing dishes as salmon salad sandwiches, salmon cakes, and salmon loaf. It’s also good to eat by itself or just sprinkled with a lemon juice and pepper and served with crackers, bread or vegetable crudites.
Salmon filets may be cooked on the stove top, grill, or in the oven, or a by combination of searing in a saute pan and finishing in the oven. It’s important not to overcook salmon or it will become dry. Well-cooked, it will be delicate, delicious and easy to eat. Brushed with a simple basting of honey and soy sauce or simply prepared with olive oil and lemon juice, salmon is a dish that can be cooked quickly. Combined with a salad and good bread it will make a wonderful meal for family and guests alike.
Crab is a fish in the shellfish group. Varieties include king crab, blue crab, and snow crab, among many others. Crab is a good source of protein, vitamin B12 and vitamin 3. With only 82 calories in a three-ounce serving, this is a very diet-friendly food. Three ounces might not seem like much, but there is a richness to crab that can make a portion of that size seem like a real treat.
Crab is available at seafood counters or as a canned or frozen product. There may be a lot of sodium in the canned product, so those on low-salt diets should check the label. Eating crab out of its shell may require some special tools and can seem like quite a project, but it can also be a fun social experience that enhances a crab feast.
In addition to simply steaming and eating crab directly, crab is an excellent ingredient in such dishes as crab cakes and crab bisque. It can be part of a substantial entrée when used as the protein in a tossed vegetable and greens salad.
Cod is probably one of the most familiar fish even to people who haven’t been big fish consumers. This is a fish that is readily available throughout the country. While it may be sold under glass at some fresh fish markets, it is most often sold as a frozen product. Atlantic and Pacific cod are the two species caught commercially in U.S. waters. The Pacific species primarily comes from Alaska and is more abundant than the Atlantic.
Cod is often the fish used in the popular fish and chips offerings on many restaurant menus. Cod not only makes great battered and fried fish, but also works well in fish chowder. When served with drawn butter, it has been nick-named Poor Man’s Lobster.
Trout is a fresh water fish related to salmon. There are several varieties of trout which offer interesting options for preparation. Rainbow trout, steel head trout, and Arctic char are all popular trout. The steelhead trout may spend a few years at sea before returning to fresh water. Both the steel head and Arctic char resemble salmon. These fish are typically found under glass in well-stocked fresh fish departments and are not usually available as a frozen product.
Smoked trout is a popular preparation. Trout is a somewhat oily fish and is well-suited to a variety of recipes. This is an excellent choice for serving to guests when you want to create an impressive yet heart-healthy dish. Trout is often sold and prepared as a whole fish, another elegant choice for a special occasion. It can be baked, fried, or grilled, and is delicious with a little lemon.
Most of us grew up enjoying tuna sandwiches and even tuna casseroles. Canned tuna is a very budget-friendly food that comes packed in either water or oil. The water-packed variety is recommended for health-conscious diets, but the varieties packed in olive oil also get high marks. Mercury is always a concern with fish, and there is some controversy over the best varieties of tuna for a minimum exposure to mercury. Most nutritionists seems to recommend eating canned tuna two or three times a week while suggesting limiting yellow fin and other fresh varieties to no more than once a week.
Fresh tuna such as yellow fin is a hearty fish that makes an excellent and upscale dinner entree. Tuna steaks usually are served from rare to medium rare. Canned tuna can be used in casseroles, salads, and sandwiches, and raw tuna is a popular ingredient in sushi.
The tiny, inexpensive sardine is found on many lists of superfoods, and for good reasons. With 1,950 mg of Omega-3’s per three-ounce serving, sardines have more Omega-3’s per ounce than salmon, tuna, or just about any other food. It’s also one of the very few foods that is naturally high in vitamin D. Many fish in the herring family are commonly called sardines. Sardines are always available as a canned product in virtually every grocery and in a variety of preparations including being packed in water, in oil, and in both tomato and mustard sauces.
Sardines make a delicious accompaniment to cheese and crackers or in sandwiches. Fresh sardines are not nearly as common but are an interesting fish that is served as a whole, minus the head but complete with the bones, which are usually soft enough to be edible. Sardines are recommended for people who have bone density issues as part of a diet that helps to address this problem while reducing dependence on drugs. This very affordable fish is one of the healthiest fish to eat. It is a fun food and excellent for meals or snacks.
Flounder And Sole
Both flounder and sole are lean flatfish that live on the ocean floor, but flounder is found in the Atlantic while soles swim in the Pacific. Varieties to look for include starry flounder, Pacific sanddab, Dover sole, English sole, petrale sole, and rex sole. Dover sole is the most familiar variety because it has been popular in restaurants for many years and it is widely available. Commercially harvested sole in the U.S. are primarily trawled from the west coast. Both flounder and sole are lean, flaky fish with a firm texture and a mild, sweet taste.
While often best served sautéed, there are a variety of ways to incorporate these tasty fish into lunch or dinner menus. Many recipes are available at on-line recipe sites. Sole is a fish prized for its mild, delicate flavor. Either flounder or sole might be found on the menus of upscale restaurants or under the glass at gourmet markets or specialty fish markets. They are likely to be on the expensive side and are suitable for serving at elegant dinners when a fish option is desired.
Barramundi is a relatively new fish in the U.S. market, found in upscale restaurants and retail fish departments. It originated in Australia and significant farming operations are based there as well as in southeast Asia. Barramundi has pink flesh which becomes white when cooked. It has a moist, firm texture with large flakes.
This fish is noted for its sweet, buttery flavor which blends well with a variety of preparations for interesting dishes. Barramundi has enough oil to keep it moist through the cooking process. This makes it suitable for grilling, where it holds its shape easily. It is suitable for pan searing as well, and this technique produces a crisp, delicious, and edible skin.
Pollock is in the cod family. Primarily harvested in Alaska waters, this fish is exclusively wild caught and not farmed. It is very rich in vitamin B12, with a small serving of the fish providing 100% of the B12 daily requirement. It is also rich in vitamin B6 and selenium. It is relatively low in mercury levels and is fished in sustainable conditions. Pollock is a fish that most Americans are familiar with whether they realize it or no, as it is the ingredient in McDonald’s and other fast food fish sandwiches.
Pollock is used to make fish sticks and other processed fish products. It is used to make fake crab as well because it can take on the flavor and has a similar texture but at a very economical price. It is also suitable for cooking as filets and makes a healthy and affordable choice for family dinners.
Tilapia is a mild-tasting, economically priced fish that provides a third of the daily Vitamin D requirement. It is low in calories. This fish is primarily farmed, and there is some controversy about this fish because of the farming conditions in some places. It is lower in Omega-3 oil than some of the other fish. Although some food snobs disdain this fish, it actually rates very high in flavor in blind tests and as rated well by chefs. Price and versatility are the big reasons for its popularity.
Tilapia is a good choice for dishes like fish tacos and can be used to make a hearty and delicious fish cake with a milder flavor than the traditional crab cake.
What makes a fish the healthiest fish to eat is not just a matter of vitamins. For you, the healthiest fish to eat will be the one that you actually choose to eat or that your family will eat willingly. Just knowing a fish contains selenium is not enough to motivate changing a lifetime habit of Big Macs and bacon-wrapped steaks. Our list of ten of the healthiest fish to eat provides an excellent menu to provide the variety that will make it easy to incorporate fish in your menu plans.
Price will mean that some of these fish will be good choices for special occasions rather than on the menu every week. Educating ourselves and our families to appreciate fish may be a process that requires a commitment not only to purchasing fish, but also to learning the best and healthiest ways to bring that fish to the table. Ultimately the healthiest fish to eat will be the one that is well-prepared with healthy ingredients, attractively served, and enjoyed at the table. Over a year’s time, all ten of these fish may find themselves on your table at some point.
It is hard to argue with the advantages of the humble canned fish of tuna, salmon, and sardines, however. These are pantry items that will make it possible to serve an inexpensive meal or snack at a moment’s notice. These simple and familiar products offer the nutritional benefits of much more expensive fresh fish and can be served in a variety of ways.