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The best fish to eat: 11 of the healthiest options for your plate

Even if you're picky about fish, you'll find several choices to enjoy on this list

Shrimp on a fork
Fernando Andrade / Unsplash

There’s a reason why fresh fish is often called brain food. It’s healthy stuff, just like fresh fruits, providing nutrients while aiding the body in a number of other important ways. Fortunately, you can enjoy fish in virtually countless ways. You can go Hawaiian and eat it raw in the form of poke or grill it up on your deck. You can clean a fish and even age a fish. Many types of fish are also great in pasta, sandwiches, or even tinned up as conservas. There are pretty much as many ways to prepare fish as there are delicious species swimming through the many vast oceans of the world.

There are things to look for when you’re combing through the fish selection of your favorite market, though. Look for terminology like “wild caught” on labels, ensuring that the fishery is being treated with the care and sustainability it deserves, wherever that may be. A great resource is this handy app from the Monterrey Bay Aquarium in California.

In short, you should eat more fish and to the tune of at least a couple of times a week. These days, it couldn’t be easier, as there are great online seafood stores. If you’re feeling at a loss for which direction to go, consider the following healthy options that are the best fist to eat.

Salmon

Cooked salmon in bowl of rice
Leonardo Luz / Pexels

Salmon is one of the more unique fish types, with its signature pinkish-red flesh and distinctive flavor. It’s a great beef substitute and much healthier, offering plenty of quality fatty acids, B vitamins, and more.

Tuna

Umi spicy tuna on crispy rice
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Tuna is a workhorse of a fish, offering enticing flavor while lowering your blood pressure, helping your heart, and even boosting your immunity. Albacore is generally the safest way to go, both in terms of sustainability and genuine quality. And it’s especially great in Asian-inspired recipes and all kinds of sushi.

Sardines

Sardines
Rachel Martin / Unsplash

So often thrown under the bus for their fishy flavor, sardines deserve better. They’re full of minerals and calcium as well as the best kinds of fatty acids. If the flavor is too strong for you, take the sting out by simply using less of the fish (a little can go a long way) or using something like tomato sauce for balance (they’re fantastic atop your favorite pizzas).

Pollock

Pollock Fish on Plate
Marco Verch / Flickr

A sibling of cod, pollock is tasty and one of the most sustainably fished species out there, especially in the cold waters of Alaska. It’s far easier on the environment than popular protein options like pork and beef and is believed to heighten muscle mass even in the absence of exercise.

Herring

Herring fish seared
Marco Verch / Flickr

Sure, there’s your grandmother’s pickled herring, a healthy option in its own right but perhaps not the sexiest of choices. It’s great for your brain, and it battles inflammatory conditions, among other things. It’s also great fried up or poached and placed on some bruschetta.

Swordfish

Swordfish
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Lean and mean, swordfish is full of zinc and omega-3 fatty acids while having next to no fat content. We like it chopped up in pasta or grilled in steak form over open flames.

Tilapia

Tilapia dish
Tilapia is a super fish, packed with major plusses like vitamin B-12, niacin, phosphorous, potassium, and more. It’s a nimble and relatively mild-tasting fish that’s great in everything from tacos and burritos to being baked on its own with lemon and parmesan.

Trout

Trout on a cutting board with a kinife
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Unless you’re camping and living off of nature’s bounty, this is one of the few exceptions where it’s usually better to go the farm-raised route, as the fish are subjected to better health regulations. Trout, likely in rainbow form, is also very versatile, a wonderful centerpiece roasted, smoked, or grilled, or even pickled and set aside for later.

Oysters

Oysters ready to eat
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Oysters are shellfish, making them fine candidates for the category (once you figure out how to shuck ’em). In addition to being extremely tasty, oysters are packed with healthy minerals, vitamin D, and riboflavin. Look out for what’s in season and inquire with your seafood specialist or fishmonger about how they were harvested.

Sablefish

Sablefish in a dish
kslee / Flickr

Sometimes, this species is listed as black cod, although there’s no relation. Regardless, sablefish are quite healthy, generally very low in mercury and high in iron and magnesium, as well as being good on the digestive tract. It’s not the prettiest creature in the Pacific, but its benefits outweigh its looks.

Shrimp

Himalayan rock salt blocks with shrimp
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Touting fatty acids, antioxidants, and protein, shrimp over delivers just about every time. For maximum flavor, look for vein-on and shelled shrimp, frozen or otherwise. And if you need more meat, look to prawns.

Mackerel

Mackerel filets
StephanieAlbert / Pixabay

Mackerel is an oily fish powerhouse that is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. These essential fats can reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, and decrease bad cholesterol (LDL) levels, all contributing to a healthier heart. This fish also contains several vitamins and minerals essential for overall health. It’s particularly rich in vitamin B12, which is vital for nerve function and red blood cell production. Additionally, it boasts vitamins B6 and B3, along with selenium, iodine, and copper, all contributing to various bodily functions.

Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
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