What is the Healthiest (and Safest) Fish to Eat?

There has been a lot of discussion throughout the years about how much meat is safe to eat. Many of us turn to fish as a healthier alternative. After all, the American Heart Association does recommend eating fish one to two times per week. Plus, fish provide anti-inflammatory omega-3s, as well as essential minerals like selenium and vitamin D.

But the type of fish you eat matters. Are you choosing the healthiest fish to eat for good health? Let’s find out below.

The Dangers of Eating Certain Fish

The main concerns about eating fish include:

  • Mercury, a highly toxic metal that can carry over to humans
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and manmade industrial chemicals that can build up in the fatty tissues of fish

Mercury is especially a concern for pregnant or breastfeeding moms and small children, so these groups should be very careful when considering the healthiest fish to eat.

Does this mean we should avoid fish completely? Not necessarily. Fish can have so many health benefits—for our hearts, especially. Organizations like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Institute of Medicine have concluded the evidence of mercury levels in fish is not sufficient enough to limit fish intake in light of its benefits for heart disease.

A good solution is making sure we choose the cleanest sources as much as possible and enjoy a variety of seafood options. The guide below will help.

Healthiest Fish to Eat: 2-3 Servings Per Week

The highest omega-3 options for fish that you can eat regularly are:

  • Anchovies
  • Black Sea Bass
  • Certain types of Salmon—Chinook, Chum, Coho, Farmed, Pink, or Sockeye
  • Herring
  • Oysters
  • Mackerel
  • Sardines
  • Trout

Other seafood you can enjoy 2-3 times per week include:

  • Butterfish
  • Catfish
  • Clams
  • Cod
  • Crab—Blue, King, Snow
  • Crab-Imitation
  • Crayfish
  • Flounder
  • Pollock
  • Scallops
  • Shrimp
  • Squid/Calamari
  • Tilapia
  • Tuna (canned light)

Fish to Limit: One Serving Per Week

Although it’s still best to limit them to once a week, these fish are the richest in omega-3s:

  • Sablefish/Black Cod
  • Albacore Tuna (canned white)

Other types of fish to limit include:

  • Chilean sea bass
  • Croaker
  • Halibut
  • Lobster
  • Mahi-mahi
  • Monkfish
  • Rockfish
  • Yellowfin Tuna

Fish to Generally Avoid

Pregnant women (or those who may become pregnant), breastfeeding mothers, and children should completely avoid:

  • King Mackerel
  • Marlin
  • Shark
  • Swordfish
  • Tilefish
  • Bluefin and Bigeye Tuna Steak

Other people may sometimes eat these fish, but it’s best to do so sparingly and focus on the previous lists instead.

Keep in mind that farm-raised fish are typically the most contaminated, as they are fed unnatural diets and raised in polluted and unclean environments.

Also, be careful about freshwater fish. Before eating it regularly, check local advisories to know how much is safe to eat.

Other Ways to Eat Fish Safely

You can also help protect yourself when eating fish by removing the skin, fat, and organs, then draining the fat, before cooking it. Doing so may help remove fat-soluble pollutants in the animal.

The Bottom Line

Fish can have plenty of benefits, especially for your heart health. Just make sure you are mindful of the type, source, and how it was raised. You’ll reap the various health benefits while avoiding potentially harmful elements as much as possible.

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