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What is the best fish to eat? I’ll be the first to admit that any answer to this will be subjective. We don’t all have the same likes and tastes so the idea of what the best fish to eat is dependent on personal preferences. That said, there are several varieties of fish that are enjoyed by a broad spectrum of people with varying eating traditions.
Given the myriad of fish available for our consumption, I will only focus on fish that come with the perfect trifecta of flavor, texture, and ease of cooking. I will breakdown the nutritional profiles of the fish I select for this list and detail why they are among the best fish to eat.
In my opinion, salmon will always be at the top of any list of the best fish to eat. I’m referring specifically to wild-caught salmon because farmed salmon is not in the same league, health-wise nor nutritionally. I’ll get into why later on in the post.
There are several varieties of wild-caught salmon but I’ll stick with the well-known kinds like:
- King-Salmon or Chinook – The most expensive of salmon, Chinook salmon is prized for its high fat and buttery texture.
- Sock-Eye – Known for deep reddish color and has less fat than Chinook but still very tasty.
- Coho – Also known as silver salmon, this species of salmon is milder in flavor than sockeye or Chinook, making it a more affordable salmon choice.
So exactly why wild-caught and not farmed salmon? There are several reasons why wild-caught salmon is better than farmed salmon, namely farmed salmon has:
- Unbalanced Nutritional Values – Farmed salmon has three times the amount of saturated fat as wild varieties and unbalanced ratios of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids (wild = 3.4g omega-3 to 341mg omega-6 vs. farmed = 4.2g omega-3 to 1,944mg omega-6)
- Contaminants – from fish swimming in dirty tanks or from contaminated feed
- Anti-biotics – high amounts used to combat high infection rates found in farmed fish
The flesh of wild-caught salmon is firm and buttery with a reddish-orange color. It is a great source of protein, has balanced levels of omega-3s vs omega-6s, and contains more minerals than the farmed varieties. It’s worth it to spend the extra money to get the best salmon for you and your family. Salmon also has few bones and can be quickly prepared for a flavorful lunch or dinner.
I feel like most of us overlook kingfish or king mackerel in favor of more commonly recognized fish like salmon or tilapia. This is unfortunate because the flesh of kingfish is delicious! Moreover, kingfish has a meaty texture that makes it a filling and satisfying source of protein.
Kingfish is low in fat and is a powerhouse of great nutrients including:
- Protein – 40 grams per serving
- Heart-healthy omega-3s and omega-6s fatty acids
- Vitamins (high levels of niacin, riboflavin, B6, B12, and, vitamin A)
- Iron (20% of daily requirements per serving)
- Trace Minerals (high levels of selenium, phosphorous, and potassium)
Kingfish is best prepared fried (can be air-fried), baked, grilled or smoked. This makes it a versatile ingredient for many kinds of cuisines.
There is one important caveat for kingfish – it’s on the Environmental Defense Fund’s warning list for high levels of mercury. Children and pregnant women should avoid eating kingfish due to the potential for mercury poisoning.
Don’t let the mercury warning deter you from enjoying this flavorful fish. Eating kingfish every once in a blue moon will cause no harm and you get to enjoy a different and unique flavor in your soups, stews, or grilled kingfish steaks.
There are about 17 well-known varieties of snapper fish, but the Atlantic Red Snapper is, in my opinion, the best tasting of them all. Red snapper is a perciform (perch-like) fish that is found in the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. The flesh of this fish is white with a lean and firm texture and it also has lots of bones!
It’s important to make sure you get the real thing when shopping for red snapper, as other red-fleshed fish, like Pacific rockfish are sometimes sold as red snapper. There are other, differently colored snapper fish including yellow snapper and blue snapper that are also excellent choices for tasty lean fish.
Red snapper contains the following nutritional qualities:
- Low calorie with about 110 calories per 3 oz. serving
- 22 grams of protein
- It’s low-fat with about 1.5 grams of fat
- Excellent source of vitamin B12
I prefer fried red snapper topped with stewed tomatoes and onions but you can prepare this flavorful fish using many techniques. You can grill, braise, roast or stew red snapper, no matter how you prepare it, it will be delicious just watch out for the bones!
Atlantic cod is a lean, white-fleshed fish that is one of the more commonly available fish. Cod is not as fatty as other fish like salmon and has fewer omega-3s however it is packed full of other nutrients like:
- High in protein with about 41 grams per filet
- Low calorie with about 90 calories per serving
- Good source of minerals and vitamins
- Low mercury with levels much lower than other popular fish like tuna and mackerel
Codfish can be prepared in several ways like roasting or frying. In my culture, we enjoy a dried and salted version of cod that we call saltfish buljol. Buljol that is a stew made with flaked, desalinated cod cooked with onions, tomatoes, garlic, and other spices with a squirt of lime juice. Delicious!
Change Up Your Diet – Eat More Fish!
In New York City where I live, we are fortunate to have access to many varieties of fish. I recognize that towns and cities throughout the country may or may not market the types of fish listed in this article. Keep the faith, because you can still enjoy the benefits of fish by sourcing what’s available in your city.
If you can’t get fresh fish then I recommend you get healthy canned fish that can provide the same benefits of high protein, omega-3s, B vitamins, calcium, selenium, and other trace minerals. Some good options include:
- Wild-caught canned sardines
- Wild-caught salmon pouches
- Wild-caught canned light tuna
- Canned Herrings
- Canned Oysters
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the available varieties of canned fish. Shop around online and in your local stores to see what’s available.
So, which is the best fish to eat? That’s all up to you, just experiment and explore to find the species you and your family enjoy. You’ll be making a good choice for your general health and well-being. Eat more fish!