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Best Types of Fish to Eat and Avoid

Fish is a great source of heart-healthy lean protein. Dining on one or two servings of fish as your protein every week can lower the risk of heart attack by almost one-third. That’s because it contains heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which lower triglyceride levels as well as help reduce inflammation throughout the body and support brain health.

The omega-3 you get from fish – also known as long-chain omega-3s, EPA and DHA — are extremely beneficial. But that doesn’t mean including fish in your diet doesn’t have a downside. Many fish species carry high levels of metal mercury — a dangerous contaminant that can affect the nervous system. Pollution has only raised mercury levels in our oceans, lakes and streams, and this mercury is consumed by fish and converted to a toxin known as methylmercury.

Fish that are high on the food chain consume other contaminated fish, thus compounding their mercury levels, which is why it’s best to choose smaller fish, lower on the food chain, to eat. Farmed fish, which you think would be safer, are also fed the same diet of growth hormones, antibiotics and other foods that are not found in their natural habitat and therefore should be avoided.

The primary concern with fish and mercury is in infants and young children, as their developing nervous systems are particularly vulnerable to mercury’s effects. That’s why pregnant women and that nursing are advised to be extremely careful about choosing the types of fish to eat. Experts recommend pregnant women avoid sea-water fishes like swordfish (myli meen), tuna and shark and choose fish that are found in local ponds like rohu, hilsa, surmai (kingfish) etc instead.

Adults who have high exposure levels (which is an unlikely outcome of eating a few servings of fish) can experience significant central nervous system damage as well.

Methylmercury poisoning is just one concern; fish can also contain a toxicant called polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a manmade chemical disposed of in water bodies.

Several organizations keep track of which fish are low in mercury and other toxicants, aren’t endangered and still manage to benefit your heart and brain health. Bangada (mackarel), hilsa, tilapia and pomfret (butterfish) are your best picks. Here’s a list:

Fish Low in Mercury

Anchovies (Nethili in Malayalam)

Nutrients per Serving

A three-ounce serving of anchovies contains:

Calories: 111Protein: 17 gramsFat: 4 gramsCarbohydrates: 0 gramsFiber: 0 gramsSugar:0 grams

Anchovies are small, slender, fish that live near coastal areas of all major oceans and seas of the world. Despite their small size, anchovies and their products offer great health benefits.

They are loaded with essential fatty acids, protein, minerals and vitamins like A and D and are a unique source of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids.

Butterfish (Pomfret)

Pomfret has a light texture and sweet, rich flavour. They are also called butterfish owing to their high good fat content. They are a great source of calcium, vitamins A and D, and B, vital for the nervous system.

They also offer iodine, critical for the thyroid gland. A useful brain food, pomfrets are good for eyesight and promote healthy hair and skin. It is high in protein and omega 3 acid which is good for cardiovascular health and low in omega 6 acid, commonly called ‘bad fat’.

Catfish (Singhara)

Nutrition facts

This common fish has a terrific nutritional profile.

A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of fresh catfish provides (Trusted Source):

Calories: 105Fat: 2.9 gramsProtein: 18 gramsSodium: 50 mgVitamin B12: 121% of the Daily Value (DV)Selenium: 26% of the DVPhosphorus: 24% of the DVThiamine: 15% of the DVPotassium: 19% of the DVCholesterol: 24% of the DVOmega-3 fatty acids: 237 mgOmega-6 fatty acids: 337 mg

Catfish can live in both freshwater and saltwater. It’s a potent source of omega 3 fatty acids that are good for the brain, heart, immune system and eyes. Catfish is a good source of vitamin B12, which helps your body make DNA and keeps your blood cells functioning properly. 

Wild catfish, is an excellent source of vitamin D, which isn’t found in too many foods naturally. This nutrient is important for your bones as it helps your body absorb calcium and regulates cellular growth throughout your body.

Clam

Nutritional Powerhouses

Shellfish are low in calories and rich sources of lean protein, healthy fats, and many micronutrients.

Here’s a nutrition comparison of 3-ounce (85-gram) servings of different types of shellfish (Trusted Source):

TypeCaloriesProteinFatShrimp7217 grams0.43 gramsCrayfish6514 grams0.81 gramsCrab7415 grams0.92 gramsLobster6414 grams0.64 gramsClams7312 grams0.82 gramsScallops5910 grams0.42 gramsOysters698 grams2 gramsMussels7310 grams1.9 grams

Clams are shellfish with a soft, chewy, and almost buttery texture. They come in various sizes that can range from palm-size to weighing 500 kgs.

Clams are one of the few rich sources of vitamin B12, essential for maintaining healthy nerve and blood cells and preventing of megaloblastic anaemia. Clam proteins include a variety of important amino acids. Managing growth, the breakdown of foods, and repair of tissues are the main functions of amino acids

Crab

Crabs are delightfully salty with a slight hint of mineral sweetness. Crabs are one of the greatest protein sources accessible in the human diet. It has about the same amount of protein per 100 grams as meat minus the saturated fat. Selenium is abundant in all shellfish, but crab flesh is particularly high in it.

Selenium is an essential component of the human antioxidant defence system, which protects cells and tissues from injury. Copper, zinc and selenium, found in crab, are said to help enhance the immune system. These nutrients are essential for boosting overall health.

Herring (Hilsa)

Found in freshwaters of eastern India, Hilsa is famous for its incredibly soft meat. Rich source of proteins. It provides calcium that strengthens the bones and with the goodness of protein.

It is rich in omega-3 acid that keeps the heart healthy and prevents coronary heart diseases. It provides vitamin A and is a rare source of vitamin D, a key element in fighting cancer and developing overall health. Consuming Hilsa fish leaves you with health-looking skin.

Mackerel (Bangada)

Mackerel, one of the country’s most consumed fish, is called by many names from the highly popular Bangada to Aiyla, Meen, Bangude, etc. The Indian mackerel fish has a slightly shorter body and comes with dark, thin horizontal bands across the upper portion of its body. It’s not only rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids but also is low in saturated fats.

Hence eating this fish lowers your risk of heart complications like stroke, atherosclerosis, heart attacks and arrhythmia. It regulates blood sugar levels in the body and lowers visceral fat, thereby lowering your risk of diabetes. Mackerel contains anti-inflammatory compounds which help in decreasing joint pain and stiffness of muscles in people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.

Oyster

Oysters are a high source of protein and are relatively low in calories, meaning they help people feel fuller and help reduce weight. Zinc in oysters takes care of immunity, wound healing, growth and development and even plays a role in sexual functions.

Vitamin B12 supports nerve tissue health, brain function, and the production of red blood cells. It is also rich in iron, magnesium, potassium and selenium.

Salmon (Indian salmon is Rawas)

Since salmon is rich in minerals, especially magnesium, it greatly increases our immunity. Research has shown that eating oily fish rich in omega 2 fatty acids reduces the risk of heart diseases significantly.

Omega 3 fatty acids present in salmons prevent osteoporosis, brain diseases and depression. It improves brain function and bone density. Salmon is rich in protein and low in calories and thus induces weight loss whilst taking care of your cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Sardine

Due to their abundance in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Mediterranean oceans, sardines are thought to have been named after Sardinia, an Italian island. Sardines are oily fish high in omega-3 fatty acids. Protein, vitamins, selenium, and calcium are all abundant in this fish. Sardines are high in vitamin B-12 which is good for your heart and gives you energy.

This fish also has a great quantity of vitamin D needed for good bone health. Sardines are great in calcium content and include a number of essential minerals and a variety of vitamins such as potassium, niacin, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc. Small sardines are high in necessary nutrients linked to the prevention of heart disease.

Scallop

Scallops are tender shellfish with a creamy texture and succulent flavour. Scallops can help increase your daily intake of PUFAs (polyunsaturated fats), which decreases the risk of cardiovascular mortality.

Scallops contain taurine, which is involved in important functions such as the regulation and modulation of calcium, bile acid production, membrane stabilization, and proper immune function. They provide calcium, magnesium, and selenium, and are an excellent source of protein supporting bone health and controlling hunger-inducing hormones.

Shrimp

Shrimp are very rich in proteins yet very low in fats and calories making them an ideal food for those who want to lose weight. They are high in good cholesterol and bring down the bad cholesterol.

Shrimps are a rich source of selenium which helps to prevent the growth of cancer cells in the body. The abundance of Vitamin E in shrimps makes them a panacea for skin ailments. They are rich in vitamin B12 which is good for both your brain and your heart.

Sole

Soles have a sweet, delicate flavour. It is a rich source of vitamin D primarily required to aid in the absorption of other nutrients and to maintain general health.

Omega-3 fatty acids found in this fish are said to help lower cholesterol. It is particularly high in selenium, phosphorus, and vitamin B12, as well as a variety of other essential vitamins and minerals.

Squid

Squid contains a decent amount of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids, with their anti-inflammatory properties, play many important roles in the human body, especially in reducing the risks of cardiovascular and other chronic diseases.

Squid is a complete protein which means that it contains adequate amounts of all nine essential amino acids required for building the tissues and muscles of our body. Choline is an essential trace nutrient that is crucial for brain and liver health. It also helps prevent spinal abnormalities in developing fetuses.

Tilapia

The term Tilapia actually refers to several related fish species that originated in the Middle East and Africa but are now farmed all over the world. Nicknamed “aquatic chicken” this fast-growing fish is lauded as an excellent source of protein that’s vital for building muscle. Along with benefiting your heart, omega-3 fatty acids present in tilapia are also good for the brain.

They have been connected to increased neurological function and may play a role in protecting the mind from degenerative mental conditions such as dementia. Tilapia is also a rich source of potassium. Potassium is an electrolyte that helps your body maintain a healthy balance of fluids.

Your body also needs it for proper nerve and muscle function including brain function. Tilapia is high in the antioxidant selenium and potassium.

Trout

Trouts are a member of the Salmonidae family and are closely related to salmon and char. They are an excellent source of protein, niacin, vitamin B12, and omega 3 fatty acids. Protein is the building block of our body.

Niacin is important in converting the food we eat into energy as well as assisting with digestive, skin, and nerve functions within the body. Vitamin B12 is required to form red blood cells which deliver oxygen throughout the body. B12 is also essential in supporting brain health and in creating DNA which holds our genetic material.

Whitefish

The term Whitefish refers to any type of fish that has flaky white meat. Whitefish is a good source of phosphorus that helps maintain bone structure and density, as well as helping bones heal.

Apart from being rich in vitamin B12 and B6, whitefish is also an excellent source of Vitamin B3. Vitamin B3 is known to help boost the immune system by helping recover from infections faster. Whitefish is also rich in protein and omega-3 acid.

Moderate mercury (Eat six servings or fewer per month; pregnant women and small children should avoid these)

Bass

Among the list of health benefits, bass provides immune system support, prevents B12 deficiency, and combats anxiety and depression.

Bass is a complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids and is an excellent source of leucine, the amino acid responsible for building and preserving muscle. Bass is rich in selenium-a trace mineral that helps develop a barrier against infections and illnesses, like the cold and flu.

Carp (Rohu)

The presence of a high amount of Vitamin C in rohu fish helps prevent cough, cold and nausea type diseases. No fat, but high protein is a fantastic combination for people into bodybuilding, fitness and diet.

The antioxidants found in rohu help fight cancer. Rohu acts as an anti-ageing factor and keeps your skin healthy and nourished. It also plays like a vital shield against sun rays that makes your skin dull. Rohu also plays a significant role in developing eyesight and preventing night blindness.

Cod (Gobro)

Cod is a good source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. It is also rich in vitamins B12 and B6, niacin, as well as vitamins E, A, and C. It is a good source of phosphorus, potassium, selenium, and other trace minerals.

Lobster

Lobster, long considered a luxury food item, can make for a healthy and delicious meal when eaten in moderation. Lobster contains large amounts of phosphorous, magnesium, potassium and zinc.

These minerals aid in bone health, cell functions, glucose regulation, energy production and neurological health. However, excessive dietary cholesterol and sodium intake can contribute to the risks of heart disease and stroke while sodium might cause elevate blood pressure.

Snapper

You may have heard of snappers as “Tambusa” in Hindi, “Pahari” in Malayalam, “Korameenu” or “Thundava” or “Rangu” in Telugu, and “Chempalli” in Kerala. Known for its appealing taste, Red Snapper got its name because of its red and pink metallic scales.

Red snapper is a low-calorie, lean source of protein that is rich in selenium, vitamin A, potassium and omega-3 fatty acids. Selenium supports white blood cell function and is required for the thyroid gland to work properly. It is an antioxidant that may be able to prevent free radical compounds from causing DNA damage that can lead to rheumatoid arthritis, cancer and heart disease.

Selenium’s antioxidant power is enhanced when it is combined with a source of vitamin E. Vital for the immune system, the production and maintenance of bones and the health of the skin and eyes, vitamin A also plays a role in cell reproduction and differentiation. Despite the potential health benefits, red snapper may contain mercury levels that make it unsafe for pregnant women and young children to eat more than a few times a month. However, if it’s safe for you to eat in moderation, it can provide nutrients.

Tuna (Canned Chunk light)

Tuna, also known as Kera or Choora in India, is the most widely consumed fish around the world. Canned tuna is a lean protein, so it’s low in fat. The combination of potassium element with omega-3 fats brings an anti-inflammatory effect to the cardiovascular system.

The meat of this fish is rich in manganese, zinc, vitamin C, and selenium – the antioxidants that are known as major boosters of the immune system. Furthermore, potassium helps with the fluid balance and regular functioning of the kidneys. Tuna is enriched with selenium that handles appetite mood in humans. Research shows that a lack of selenium in the body will cause anxiety.

Another benefit of omega-3 acids is the mood improvement process that they trigger. However, canned tuna has a relatively high level of mercury a thus its overconsumption can pose health threats.

High mercury (Eat three servings or less per month; pregnant women and small children should avoid)

Bluefish

Bluefish are an excellent source of selenium, niacin, vitamin B12, and omega-3s, and a good source of magnesium and potassium.

There is a consumption advisory for bluefish due to contamination from mercury, PCBs, dioxin, and other chemicals. The State of Maine recommends that pregnant and nursing women, women who may get pregnant, nursing mothers and children under 8 not eat any striped bass or bluefish. Everyone else should eat no more than four meals per year.

Grouper (Kalava in Malayali)

Grouper is a species of fish that, when cooked, has a subtle and slightly sweet flavour, with a texture that works even when overcooked. It is a good source of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B, D and A and nutrients like omega-3 acid, magnesium, protein, iron, and potassium.

However, grouper is a predatory fish, this means they relatively have higher mercury or other heavy metal content and thus should be consumed in moderation.

Sea Bass (Asian seabass is bhekti)

Not only is bass a low-calorie food ideal for weight management, but it is also rich in quality protein that helps build and preserve muscle and increases satiety after a meal. Bass is one of the leanest protein sources available. A diet rich in omega-3-containing foods like bass has been shown to have several heart health benefits. These benefits include improvements in blood triglycerides, preventing LDL (bad cholesterol) levels from rising, and raising “good” HDL cholesterol.

Due to the high mercury content, pregnant people, nursing parents, and children may want to limit bass or select another type of fish. Bass is also high in potassium. Those with kidney disease should avoid bass or consult with a healthcare provider before including it in their diet.

Highest mercury (avoid eating)

Shark

Shark meat has been eaten by humans for centuries. However, shark meat is actually incredibly dangerous for your health. It contains heavy metals and chemicals that can cause a myriad of negative health effects and can actually be poisonous if consumed in large quantities. According to a CNN report, the mercury levels in sharks can cause coordination loss, blindness, and even death.

Swordfish

Swordfish contains some of the highest levels of mercury among fish, and keep in mind that mercury levels accumulate over time. Mercury has detrimental effects on brain health, especially on babies’ developing brains.

For this reason, children, pregnant and breastfeeding people should not eat swordfish at all. Adults too should avoid consuming any fish with high mercury content.

Tuna (Ahi)

Ahi tuna’s relatively high mercury content can pose a health risk, causing symptoms that can include insomnia, difficulty concentrating, nausea, vomitting and pain in your mouth. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. What is the healthiest fish ever?

A: From a nutritional standpoint, salmon is the healthiest fish. Since salmon is rich in minerals, especially magnesium, it greatly increases our immunity. Research also has shown that eating oily fish rich in omega 2 fatty acids reduces the risk of heart diseases significantly. Eating food high in omega 3 fatty acids is said to prevent osteoporosis, brain diseases and depression. It improves brain function and bone density if included in the diet regularly. Salmon is rich in protein and low in calories and thus induces weight loss whilst taking care of your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. 

Q. What fish should you not eat?

A: You should avoid eating fish with a high mercury content like shark, swordfish and ahi tuna. Consuming fish with high mercury can have adverse health effects like insomnia, difficulty concentrating, nausea, vomiting and pain in your mouth blindness, and even death.

Q. Can I eat fish every day?

A: Yes, you can consume limited quantities of fish daily when prepared in a healthful way.

Q. Which seafood is most delicious?

A: This depends on an individual’s taste buds and preference of his/ her flavours.

Q. Which fish is best for frying?

A: Red Snapper also known as Rane in Hindi is best for frying as it goes really well with Indian spices & flavours.

Q. Which fish has the most mercury?

A: Large and long-living fish have high mercury content some of which are shark, swordfish and ahi tuna.

Q.Is catfish a healthy fish to eat?

A: Being low in calories and one of the highest in lean protein, Catfish is a very healthy diet. Its packed with omega-3 acid, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals.

Q. Is canned tuna healthy?

A: Tuna, also known as Kera or Choora in India, is the most widely consumed fish around the world. The meat of this fish is rich in manganese, zinc, vitamin C, and selenium – the antioxidants that are known as major boosters of the immune system. The combination of potassium element with omega-3 fats brings anti-inflammatory to the cardiovascular system. Consumption of tuna also helps with anxiety and depression. However, canned tuna has relatively high level of mercury and thus its over consumption can pose health threats. 

Q. Is fish healthier than chicken?

A: Both fish and chicken are known to be consumed for their high protein value. They both are nutritious foods. However, the answer also depends on which type of fish is more nutritious and which cut of chicken has a higher nutrition value and the method of cooking. 

A: This is a very subjective question. It can be Salmon for one or Tuna for another.

Q. Is cod a healthy fish?

A: Yes cod is a healthy option to include in your diet. Cod is a good source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. It is also rich in vitamins B12 and B6, niacin, as well as vitamins E, A, and C. It is a good source of phosphorus, potassium, selenium, and other trace minerals.

Q. Which fish has the most omega-3?

A: Salmon has the most omega-3 content in its one serving which is4,123 mg.  Eating food high in omega 3 fatty acids is said to prevent osteoporosis, brain diseases and depression. It improves brain function and bone density if included in the diet regularly. Its also good for the brain, heart, immune system and eyes. Another benefit of omega-3 acids is mood enhancement 

Q. What fish has the most protein?

A: Tuna is the richest source of protein among fish Protein is the building block of our body that helps build and preserve muscle and increases satiety after a meals

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