Nutrition Articles

Best and Worst Fish Choices

A Guide for a Healthy Body & Planet

2.8KSHARES
By Becky Hand, Licensed and Registered Dietitian         
Page 1 of 3

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.
 

Species
3 oz edible portion
Grams
Omega-3
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

Continued ›
Page 1 of 3   Next Page ›
Got a story idea? Give us a shout!
2.8KSHARES

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.

Member Comments

  • I live on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. So we eat, depending on the season, catfish, redfish, red snapper, grouper, lemonfish, flounder, shrimp, crawfish, and crabs. I buy my seafood from a local market, and it's always fresh. - 4/28/2016 10:31:08 AM
  • I eat Salmon & Talapia. It looks like it's ok to eat those two kind of fish. I'm not sure. I hope everyone has a Wonderful & Blessed Wednesday! - 4/27/2016 8:09:12 PM
  • Mullet? Seriously? We use it for bait. And regarding the farm-raised salmon, it tastes like Purina fish chow. I'll pay the extra for the wild-caught salmon, which is better for you and tastes a lot better, too. - 3/7/2016 4:20:12 PM
  • The food used to feed the fish is derived from wild caught herring. As a result, the herring fisheries are being over fished. It takes about three pounds of wild caught fish to produce a pound of salmon. It is more environmentally prudent to eat the herring. The Stanford evaluation can be found at:

    http://news.stanf
    ord.edu/pr/00
    /fishfarms628.html - 12/12/2015 8:41:39 AM
  • What about other fish types? - 11/3/2015 11:56:23 PM
  • This article and list fail to mention that while "lake trout" is high in omega-3's, if it comes from one of the Great Lakes or their tributaries, it is not safe to eat more than once a week and not at all for pregnant women and for children. Same for lake whitefish. Sadly, the big lakes are still very polluted and the fish have high PCB and mercury levels. Even though lakeshore industries and municipal sewage plants are not supposed to dump in the lakes, they still do. It's a crime against one of the most beautiful places in the US. - 7/25/2015 8:55:12 AM
  • I won't touch farmed anything with a 10 foot pole! The closest I will get to farmed is fish harvested from traditional Hawai'ian fishponds. I also try to get a lot of my fish from the local fisherman who sell their catch at the Farmer's Markets. I can often find Opah (Moonfish), Aku (Skipjack tuna), Uhu (parrot fish), and Weke (Goatfish). - 12/9/2014 5:11:05 PM
  • This is a very interesting and helpful article. I have recently introduced more fish in my diet as a protein source (I don't eat meat) and I was a bit worried as I have read articles on contaminants in many fish species. Here I have discovered that the fish I mostly choose (salmon, codfish, tuna, hake) are amont the least dangerous ones. Thanks! - 12/9/2014 10:05:17 AM
  • Small suggestion: expand on "light" tuna: CHUNK light, typically made from smaller tuna, has less mercury. Albacore has QUITE A BIT and is "light" in color... I think this is confusing for people. Especially pregnant women, petite people like myself, and children should not be using canned albacore as a staple!!! Larger people can get away with a can or so a week... - 6/6/2014 9:16:50 AM
  • Incredibly helpful article - I don't believe I've ever seen the statistics not only on omega-3 amounts, but also for the contaminants (especially mercury). Great report!!! - 6/6/2014 2:25:48 AM
  • DASHDIETER1
    I am told to eat fish 3 days a week, but cannot stand the fishy taste. Cod and canned tuna is about all I can handle but feel I am losing out on the benefits the other fish have to offer, Any tips to get me through? - 10/8/2013 11:08:52 AM
  • DAWN784
    I eat quite a bit of Tilapia and I didnt see it on the list of Omega-3;s. - 8/1/2013 11:04:15 AM
  • I love my fish but this was great info. - 6/30/2013 9:53:28 AM
  • The issue is that most fish is actually poisoned with mercury and other hard metals. Also, most of the fish you buy or get at a restaurant is not actually the fish you think it is.

    http://articles
    .latimes.com/
    2013/feb/21/b
    usiness/la-fi
    -mo-seafood-m
    islabeling-un
    ited-states-20130221 - 4/30/2013 12:24:06 PM
  • The problem isn't just overfishing of one species but the enormous amount of waste involved in the industry. With net fishing, massive amounts of marine life are killed and discarded for the sake of a relatively small amount of yield that makes it to the market. - 4/30/2013 11:28:04 AM

x Lose 10 Pounds by June 17! Sign up with Email Sign up with Facebook
By clicking one of the above buttons, you're indicating that you have read and agree to SparkPeople's Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy and that you're at least 18 years of age.