The Healthiest Fish to Eat

Most people should eat fish twice each week. These are the best choices.

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Fish and other seafood are healthy sources of protein and beneficial fats. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults eat two servings of fish or seafood each week. Pregnant or nursing people should get an extra serving, aiming for 12 ounces of fish in total.

Fish is an important source of vitamins and nutrients. It also helps support brain and cardiovascular health.

This article will discuss the best fish to eat, why fish is healthy, including fatty fish, and what types to avoid. 

Salmon on a serving plate on a table.

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What Makes Fish Healthy?

Fish is high in protein and relatively low in fat and calories. Eating fish regularly can decrease your risk of being overweight, heart disease, and stroke. Here's why:

Vitamin and Mineral Content

Fish is full of beneficial vitamins and minerals. These substances help our body function as it should, but oftentimes the body can't make them and you have to get them from the foods you eat. When you eat fish, you’ll get a dose of essential vitamins and minerals including:

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Fish are the best food source of omega-3 fatty acids. Your body can’t produce omega-3s, but they’re essential for overall health. Getting enough of these good fats keeps your brain and heart healthy. It’s particularly important for pregnant people and fetal development. In fact, omega-3s are so critical that they might help you live longer and lower your risk of dying from cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other causes combined.

A significant number of Americans aren't meeting current recommendations for omega-3 consumption.

Farm-raised Atlantic salmon is one of the best sources of omega-3s, but other fatty fish like mackerel and tuna also contain omega-3s.

Health Considerations 

While fish is very healthy overall, there are some things you should consider when choosing what fish to eat. 

Wild or Farmed

Globally, about half of the fish consumed is farmed and half is caught in the wild. When you’re choosing between wild or farmed fish, weigh these factors:

  • Nutritional value: Wild fish are generally lower in saturated fat (“bad” fat), while farmed fish has higher levels of omega-3s. 
  • Contaminants: Some studies show that farm-raised fish have more contaminants that could be harmful to your health, but wild fish can contain mercury, which is dangerous. 
  • Environmental impact: It’s more sustainable to farm some fish than catch them in the wild; for others, the opposite is true. 

Mercury Content

Mercury is an element that occurs naturally but can be harmful to humans in high concentrations. It’s especially important for pregnant people and children to avoid mercury. Being exposed to too much mercury can affect the central nervous system, kidneys, and liver.

Some fish contains high levels of mercury and should be avoided. This includes predatory fish, like swordfish, and also fish caught in bodies of water where mercury is present. If you’re eating fish that you’ve caught, be sure to follow any local warnings of mercury. 

Best Fish to Eat

The FDA recently released a list of the best fish to eat. Most of the fish you eat should come from the list of best choices. The list includes:

  • Anchovy
  • Atlantic mackerel
  • Black sea bass
  • Catfish
  • Clams, crabs, lobster, and other shellfish
  • Flounder
  • Haddock
  • Hake
  • Perch
  • Pickerel
  • Pollock
  • Salmon 
  • Sardines
  • Sole
  • Tilapia
  • Canned light tuna
  • Freshwater trout
  • Whitefish
  • Whiting

The list also highlights some good choices. These include:

  • Bluefish
  • Carp
  • Chilean sea bass
  • Grouper
  • Halibut
  • Mahi-mahi
  • Snapper
  • Striped bass
  • Canned albacore or white tuna
  • Yellowfin tuna

What Fish to Avoid

It's best to avoid the types of fish that have the highest mercury levels. While healthy adults can eat these fish occasionally, pregnant, nursing people, and children should avoid them entirely.

  • King mackerel
  • Marlin
  • Orange roughly
  • Hark
  • Swordfish
  • Tilefish
  • Bigeye tuna

Summary

Fish is very healthy because of its high concentration of vitamins, nutrients and omega-3 fatty acids. Most Americans should eat fish twice each week; while pregnant or breastfeeding people should eat three servings of fish each week. Doing so can reduce your risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease, and might help you maintain a healthy weight.

A Word From Verywell 

Fish is a vital part of a healthy diet, but cooking it can be intimidating. If you’re wary of cooking fish, start with something simple, like canned tuna, salmon, or shrimp. Experiment with new recipes until you’ve found healthy and nutritious fish meals that work for you. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the most unhealthy fish?

    Fish is generally very healthy, but some fish contain high levels of mercury and should be avoided. Swordfish and other predatory fish tend to have the highest levels of mercury. 

  • Do certain fish have more contaminants than others?

    Fish can contract contaminants from where they were raised. In some cases, farmed fish will have more contaminants because of the food they’re fed. However, some wild fish are exposed to mercury and should be avoided.

  • Is sushi healthy to eat?

    Sushi is healthy and can be a great way to get a serving of fish. Always get your sushi, and other fish, from a clean and reputable source. 

  • Will eating fish help with weight loss?

    Fish contains fewer calories than other “main course” items like chicken or red meat. Studies have shown that eating fish twice a week can reduce your risk of being overweight.

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7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Washington State Department of Health. Benefits of fish.

  3. American Heart Association. Fish and omega-3 fatty acids.

  4. Harris WS, Tintle NL, Imamura F, et al. Fatty Acids and Outcomes Research Consortium (FORCE). Blood n-3 fatty acid levels and total and cause-specific mortality from 17 prospective studiesNat Commun. 2021;12(1):2329. doi:10.1038/s41467-021-22370-2

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  6. Colorado State University. Wild caught versus farm raised seafood.

  7. EPA. Health effects of exposure to mercury.