Fish is a healthy, high-protein food that has a rightful place in a well-balanced diet. Fish is especially important for its omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential “good” fats that humans don’t produce on their own.
Research has demonstrated that omega-3 fatty acids play an essential role in brain and heart health. Specifically, they have been shown to decrease inflammation, reduce the risk of heart disease, and be beneficial for pre- and post-natal development. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish, particularly fatty fish like salmon, lake trout, sardines, and albacore tuna, which are high in omega-3s, at least two times a week.
There are minor risks associated with eating fish, however, because of potential contaminants from waste, like mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Children and pregnant women should be especially cognizant of these risks. The United States Food and Drug Association says these groups should avoid eating fish with the highest level of mercury contamination – shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish.
The organization also recommends that pregnant women eat 8 to 12 ounces per week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury (canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, catfish). Children should eat two to three servings a week in the appropriate portions.
For everyone else, the benefits of fish consumption outweigh the risks. Try these 11 types of fish that are not only nutritious, but tasty.
1. Alaskan salmon
There’s a debate about whether wild salmon or farmed salmon is the better option. Farmed salmon is significantly cheaper, but it contains fewer vitamins and minerals, and more saturated fat and calories per serving. Salmon is a great option for your diet overall, but if your budget allows, opt for the wild variety.
Try this grilled salmon recipe with a sweet-tangy glaze from Chowhound for an entree that’s easy to prepare.
This flaky white fish is a great source of phosphorus, niacin, and vitamin B-12. A 3-ounce cooked portion has 1 gram of fat, 15 to 20 grams of protein, and clocks in at less than 90 calories.
Try a piccata on top of cod for a nice complement, like this recipe from Paleo Grubs.
A fatty fish similar to sardines, herring is especially good smoked. Smoked fish is packed with sodium though, so consume it in moderation.
Jamie Oliver’s Mediterranean-style herring linguine uses the fresh version in this recipe.
4. Mahi mahi
A tropical, firm fish, mahi mahi can hold up to almost any preparation. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, this fish has less than 1 gram of fat but 20 grams of protein per 3.5-ounce serving.
The blackened mahi mahi tacos with a chipotle mayo in this recipe make for a great dinner.
As opposed to leaner white fish, this type of oily fish is rich in healthy fats. Specifically, it has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce buildup in the arteries.
Try this slew of recipes from Delishably for meal ideas.
Another white fish, perch has a medium texture and can come from the ocean or fresh water.
With a mild taste, a flavorful panko breading pairs well with it, like in this recipe.
7. Rainbow trout
Farmed rainbow trout is actually a safer option than wild, as it’s raised protected from contaminants. And, according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium seafood watch, it’s one of the best types of fish you can eat in terms of environmental impact.
Try baking in foil with some lemon and dill in this recipe.
Also an oily fish, sardines are rich in many vitamins. The canned version is easy to find, and actually more nutritious because you’re consuming the entire fish, including bones and skin.
Try topping a salad with a can for a nice addition.
9. Striped bass
In either the farmed or wild varieties, striped bass is another sustainable fish, according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium seafood watch. It has a firm yet flaky texture and is full of flavor.
Try this Pioneer Woman’s bronzed sea bass with lemon shallot butter.
Tilapia is a mild white fish with great nutritional stats. It’s among the lowest-fat fish available, clocking in at 2 grams of fat and a whopping 26 grams of protein for a 3.5-ounch serving.
Try this roasted red chili tilapia for a twist on Thai curry.
Whether fresh or canned, tuna is a favorite option. When picking fresh tuna, choose a piece that’s glossy and smells ocean-fresh. It’s easy to prepare, too – all it needs is a quick sear over high heat.
Consuming a variety of fish several times a week will provide many nutrients that are needed for a well-balanced diet. If you’re pregnant, breast-feeding, or have a health condition, check with your doctor before incorporating fish that contains mercury.