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5 Healthy Fish You Should Eat

February 17, 2014

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As someone who maintains a vegetarian diet but eats fish too – also known as a pescetarian – I always keep my eyes, ears, and stomach open for the latest, healthiest options that fit this criterion. After all, you know what they say: there are plenty of fish in the sea.

And while this is true, a rise in fish farming and ocean pollution has made it pretty difficult to distinguish which fish to eat and which to avoid. Luckily, I’ve picked up a few tips along the way.

When given the choice between wild-caught or farm-raised fish, go with wild-caught. Just like factory-farmed land animals, farmed fish are kept in crowded cages and given feed that contains chemicals, antibiotics, and pesticides.

Then there’s mercury, a toxic contaminant present in sea animals. Human exposure to high levels of this hazardous element can impair the nervous system, brain, and heart. So it’s extremely important, especially for children, women of childbearing age, and pregnant women, to be extra careful about how much and what kind of fish to consume.

The recommended weekly fish intake for most of us is 8 ounces, and for young children or women carrying a child, trying to get pregnant, or breastfeeding,  stick to no more than 12 ounces of low-mercury fish per week.

With this in mind, here’s a list of five of the healthiest options, all of which contain low levels of mercury:

  • Wild Alaskan salmon. High in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and calcium, wild-caught Alaskan salmon packs a healthy punch. When selecting a filet, make sure the meat is bright red and the fat marks are thin – this indicates it was wild caught and not farmed.
  • Anchovies. Loaded with potassium and omega-3’s, anchovies help promote healthy heart function. Be sure to enjoy these little guys in moderation though because they’re high in sodium.
  • Catfish. Chock full of protein, amino acids, and magnesium, a filet of this whiskered sea creature gives the body energy and can help boost the immune system and regulate glucose levels.
  • Hake. A member of the cod family, this meaty white fish is rich in B vitamins and phosphorus, and can help improve blood pressure and reduce cholesterol.
  • Sardines. Vitamin B12 and protein make fresh sardines great for the immune system, nervous system, and brain – and they’re really, really flavorful to boot!

To learn more about your options when it comes to eating fish, check out Food & Water Watch’s comprehensive Smart Seafood Guide.

What fish is your favorite to eat?