You’ve probably read many articles extolling the benefits of vegetarian and vegan diets. While these are good for you, they leave out a very healthy food: fish. One study found that vegetarians and vegans did in fact have a 9% and 15% reduced risk of all-cause mortality, respectively. However pescetarians were even better off, with a 19% reduced risk of all-cause mortality.
A meta analysis found that consuming fish once a week was associated with a 15% reduced risk of coronary heart disease. Eating fish 2- 4 times a week was associated with a 23% reduced risk, while eating fish 5 times a week or more was associated with a 38% reduced risk of heart disease. Overall, each additional 20 grams of fish a day was associated with a 7% reduction in coronary heart disease mortality. Another study found that fish consumption also reduces the risk of colorectal cancer by 12%. Yet another study found that 3 servings of fish a week reduces your risk of stroke by 6%.
Benefits and risks:
The health benefits of fish appear to be due primarily to their high omega-3 content. A study found that intakes of 250 mg a day of omega 3s from fish lowered coronary heart disease risk by 36%.
But, you may have heard that there are also some health risks to eating fish as well. Mercury is a heavy metal that can be toxic to humans. It appears in fish depending on the contamination of the fish’s environment and its lifespan. Another study found that intake of fish high in mercury lessened the beneficial effects of omega-3s (but there was still a net positive benefit to eating high mercury fish).
People have also raised concerns over PCBs and dioxins. However, the health benefits of farmed fish (which have relatively high levels of these compounds) outweigh the risk by 100x to 370x. So, the secret to eating healthy fish is finding those that are high in omega-3, but low in mercury. Without further adieu, here are the top 6 healthiest fish:
You’ve probably made fun of people who put anchovies on their pizza. But, they might actually have been onto something.
Herring is the healthiest fish you’ve probably never tried. See if you can’t find it in your local grocery store.
Sardines are another healthy fish that are looked down upon by many, but they serve as a great addition to many dishes.
If you’re a deep-sea fisherman you’ve probably caught a few mackerel. But, you might not have know how good they are for you.
5. Rainbow trout:
A prize of fly fishermen, rainbow trout are also great for you.
You’ve probably heard that salmon are good for you. It’s definitely true.
Bonus: complete chart:
Here’s a full chart from the FAO/WHO on the levels of omega-3s and mercury in a variety of fish.
So, aim for those fish that are high in omega-3s and low in mercury. But don’t let the mercury levels scare you away from eating fish overall. Even for fish high in mercury, the benefits outweigh the cost. As one expert said, “As long as you’re not a pregnant woman, the evidence suggests that the balance is always toward net benefit.”
He, Ka, et al. “Accumulated evidence on fish consumption and coronary heart disease mortality a meta-analysis of cohort studies.” Circulation109.22 (2004): 2705-2711.
Larsson, Susanna C., and Nicola Orsini. “Fish consumption and the risk of stroke a dose–response meta-analysis.” Stroke 42.12 (2011): 3621-3623.
Mozaffarian, Dariush, and Eric B. Rimm. “Fish intake, contaminants, and human health: evaluating the risks and the benefits.” Jama 296.15 (2006): 1885-1899.
Mozaffarian, Dariush. “Fish, mercury, selenium and cardiovascular risk: current evidence and unanswered questions.” International journal of environmental research and public health 6.6 (2009): 1894-1916.
Orlich, Michael J., et al. “Vegetarian dietary patterns and mortality in Adventist Health Study 2.” JAMA internal medicine 173.13 (2013): 1230-1238.
Wu, Shengjun, et al. “Fish consumption and colorectal cancer risk in humans: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” The American journal of medicine 125.6 (2012): 551-559.