Making the Most of Your Fish: Health Benefits, Cooking, and What to Avoid

benefits of eating fish

March and April are among the most popular times of the year to eat fish – due in a big part to Lent. While it’s difficult to find a conclusive sales number for the entire fish industry, it seems that many retailers and restaurants report seeing roughly a 20% spike in fish sales this time of the year.

Increased fish consumption for many American’s is great because fish is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D and B2, and more nutrients that make them a great protein choice.

However, the way fish is prepared makes a big difference. Knowing what kind of fish to choose can make a big difference in what nutrients you can receive from this popular food.

Popular Types of Fish

Salmon, cod, and trout are among the most popular types of fish that also yield fantastic health benefits. All three are good sources of protein, with salmon being the standout for omega-3, cod for vitamin B12, and trout for vitamin D (though all have amounts of each in).

Most local “fish fries” will use cod, but it can vary. Fast food restaurants, which commonly sell fish sandwiches each spring, are an entirely different sector. McDonalds for instance uses Alaska Pollock, a type of cod that they report is 100% real as certified by the Marine Stewardship Council. While McDonalds may have real fish, that perfectly square patty has no doubt been cooked in a way that makes it different from fresh fish.

What’s the Healthiest Way to Cook Fish?

The healthiest cooking method is the one that retains the greatest amount of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins because both can be lost in the cooking process.

To retain these nutrients, you will ideally want to bake or steam your fish. Simply baking in the oven with dry heat is significantly better than deep-frying. While deep-frying may be the most common way to serve fish, particularly at fast-food restaurants, this increases calories and reduces the fat in the fish (in this case the fat is healthy, so losing it is a problem).

Grilling can be an alright method as well, but be careful to not char the fish!

What Should You Avoid in Your Fish?

As mentioned previously, fast-food fish can be relatively suspicious regarding health benefits considering how it is cooked. But Harvard also shares the importance of knowing that your fish is safely sourced.

Fish can take in chemicals from the water they live in, or food they eat, causing mercury and other chemicals to build up in their body over time. While this is a relatively rare danger when purchasing fish, it is something you should be aware of if you are recreationally fishing and eating your catch.