Nutrition Articles

Best and Worst Fish Choices

A Guide for a Healthy Body & Planet


Word is spreading that fish is good for your health, but like many matters of health and nutrition, there’s nothing simple about simply eating fish. Even though many varieties can be good for your health, contaminants such as mercury and polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), found in many types of fish, may be detrimental to your health.

But it gets even more complicated. Beyond choosing fish based on healthfulness (considering things like abundance of healthy omega-3 fatty acids and low concentrations of mercury and contaminants), consuming fish also has an environmental impact. Many environmental advocates have reported that the mismanagement of many large-scale fishing operations has resulted in overfishing (and the plummeting of some wild fish populations). Fish farming, one alternative to wild fish, may help protect these populations, but other groups claim that fish farming has led to other problems, like the overuse of antibiotics to control disease.

Trying to keep track of which types of fish are healthy and safe—not only for you, but also for the environment—can be daunting, to say the least. And here’s why: Making the right choice when it comes to fish means looking for fish that have the highest nutritional content, lowest levels of contaminants, and, for those concerned with the environment, the lightest impact on the planet. Let's explore how to make the best choices to meet all of these tricky requirements.

Nutrition and Omega-3s
Nutrients found in foods are usually straightforward.  When choosing fish, people generally want to know which types are highest in omega-3 fatty acids. Concerning omega-3s alone, the following chart ranks the omega-3s in fish from highest content to lowest.

3 oz edible portion
Mackerel, Atlantic 2.6
Chub 2.6
Herring 2.5
King Mackerel 2.2
Chub Mackerel 2.2
Trout, lean lake 2.1
Spiny Dogfish 2.0
Trout, lake 2.0
Salmon, Atlantic, farmed 1.9
Herring, pacific 1.8
Whitefish 1.8
Herring, Atlantic 1.7
Bluefin Tuna 1.6
Chinook Salmon 1.5
Sablefish 1.5
Albacore Tuna 1.5
Whitefish, lake 1.5
Sturgeon, Atlantic 1.5
Canned Sardines 1.4
Pink Salmon 1.0
Smelt 1.0
Striped Bass 0.8
Pollock 0.5
Catfish 0.5
Halibut, Pacific 0.5
Catfish or Cod 0.3
Flounder or Perch 0.2
Snapper or Grouper 0.2
Sole 0.1

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About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

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