While most Americans eat too much of just about everything, fish and seafood consumption remains pitifully low. Compared to other sources of protein, fish and seafood are low in calories, cholesterol, and saturated fat, and high in Omega-3 Fatty Acids. The most recent set of Dietary Guidelines recommends that Americans eat a minimum of 8 oz fish or seafood each week, yet most eat less than half that amount.
Not a fish person? You might want to reconsider.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids (abundant in fish and seafood products) have been shown to treat or prevent a myriad of health conditions. So many, in fact, that most experts agree that there are likely numerous undiscovered benefits of consumption waiting to be acknowledged by researchers.
Thus Far, Omega-3 Fatty Acids have been shown to decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke and may reduce the risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, Omega-3’s have shown some promise in reducing symptoms of depression and certain forms of arthritis (specifically rheumatoid arthritis).
If you’re not a fan of “fishy” fish, you’re in luck: just like other meat products, fish varies widely in both flavor and texture, running the gamut from firm to flaky, assertive to mild. Even if you hate salmon, there’s a good chance that you might enjoy a milder variety like cod or tilapia. Before writing off an entire category of aggressively healthy food, be sure to experiment- after all, there is plenty of fish in the sea, so to speak.
Not sure where to get started? Consider this your beginner’s guide of the best fish for your plate- and the planet.
Perhaps the most ubiquitous of healthy fish, salmon is high in both EPA and DHA, two omega-3 fatty acids that reduce the growth of arterial plaque and lower triglycerides. While there are many species of salmon, the healthiest for your plate (and mother earth) are wild-caught salmon from the Pacific (Alaska and Washington). These varieties more sustainably fished, with larger, more stable populations than Atlantic salmon, thanks to a combination of overfishing, pollution, and environmental change.
You’ll likely enjoy tilapia if: you’re not a fan of “fishy” fish.
The best fish for the seafood-wary palate, tilapia is very mild in flavor and flaky in texture. Farm-raised Tilapia in the US is produced in so-called “closed farming” systems, which limit pollution. Avoid tilapia produced in China or Taiwan, which are produced in open farming systems that generate pollution and create a less healthy product and ocean habitat.
A fatty fish found in warm-water oceans, tuna is beloved in both its yellowfin (aka Ahi) and canned varieties. Whether you’re consuming tuna in steak or canned form, it’s much healthier than many consumers believe. Despite concerns related to mercury concentrations, most consumers would have a difficult time overdoing it on tuna- especially of the yellowfin variety. It’s likely your wallet would feel the pinch before mercury consumption became a concern. However, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should limit tuna consumption to 6 oz per week.
The most environmentally friendly picks include troll/pole caught yellowfin and albacore, canned light/skipjack tuna, canned albacore, and blackfin, according to the Environmental Defense Fund.
You’ll likely enjoy Mahi Mahi if: you’re seeking a lean, mild, white fish.
Mahi Mahi’s lean white flesh makes it a perfect choice for weight-conscious consumers seeking a mild flavor profile. Lower in Calories than other types of fish, Mahi Mahi is great in applications that call for marinating, including fish tacos and simply grilled recipes. US troll/pole caught Mahi Mahi is by far your best choice, according to the Environmental Defense Fund.
You’ll likely enjoy Rainbow Trout if: you enjoy a delicate, nutty flavor profile and texture.
Rainbow Trout (also known as Steelhead) are relatives of salmon that are farm-raised in the US. Luckily, farming operations are held to strict environmental standards. Rainbow Trout is best grilled or broiled.
You’ll likely enjoy Pollock if: you enjoy a mild, firm fish for marinating and grilling
Commonly found in fish and chips, Cod is a mild, firm fish that is excellent baked thanks to its toothsome texture. Longline caught Alaskan Cod is your best pick, followed by US and Canada Pacific Cod. Stay away from Atlantic Cod and Japanese or Russian Pacific Cod, both of which are less environmentally friendly.
You’ll likely enjoy Pollock if: you enjoy a mild, soft fish for soups and chowders
A relative of Cod, Pollock is the main ingredient in fish sticks and surimi (imitation crab). However, this mild, flaky fish is best enjoyed when marinated and grilled (be sure to use a grill pan for this soft catch) or baked, served as fish tacos or fish sandwiches. Pollock is the predominant fishery catch in the United States, with healthy populations that make Pollock among the most sustainable seafood available, according to the Environmental Defense Fund.