When you’re deciding what kind of fish to buy, ask yourself, “What’s the main nutrient I’m trying to get from this food?” What nutrients can you get from this food that you can’t get as easily from others? For fish, the most valuable nutrient status would probably go to omega 3 fatty acids. For this reason, we have placed the fish containing the most omega 3 fatty acids at the top of the list. These are not necessarily the fish that are the lowest in fat. Note that when you choose one fish over another, you’re making some tradeoffs. Some of these are small and insignificant; if you eat dairy products regularly, you don’t need to worry about how much calcium is in your fish. Other choices matter more: mackerel, for example, contains a high amount of omega-3 fatty acids, but it also derives half of its overall calories from fat, including saturated fats. You would do better choosing salmon or tuna, unless you’re on a tight budget. Here’s how fish rate according to different nutrients.
- Best sources of omega 3 fatty acids: salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, lake trout, Alaskan halibut, sardines, herring.
- Highest in protein per serving: tuna, salmon, snapper, swordfish. Most fish are similar in protein content. Best source of protein in grams per calorie of fish are: lobster, shrimp, tuna, cod.
- Highest vitamin B-12 content: clams, mackerel, herring, blue fin tuna, rainbow trout, and salmon.
- Highest in iron: clams, shrimp, mackerel, swordfish.
- Lowest in iron: orange roughy, snapper, sea bass.
- Highest in zinc: crab, lobster, swordfish, and clams.
- Highest in calcium: canned salmon with bones.
- Highest in total fat, saturated fats, and calories: mackerel.
- Lowest in total fat and saturated fat: lobster, orange roughy.
- Highest in cholesterol: shrimp, mackerel, lobster.
- Lowest in cholesterol: yellowfin tuna, albacore, tuna, snapper, halibut, grouper.
- Most risky fish for pollutants: wild catfish, shrimp, lake trout (warm-water fish and those in lakes from agrochemical run-off).
- Least risky fish for pollutants: deep-water ocean fish, salmon and tuna.
OMEGA-3 FATTY-ACID CONTENT OF POPULAR FISH*
|FISH (Serving size = 6 ounces cooked, unless otherwise specified)||OMEGA 3 FATS (grams)|
|Sardines in sardine oil (3 oz)||2.8-3.3|
|Trout, rainbow, wild||1.7|
|Anchovy, European (3.3 oz)||1.4|
|Herring, Atlantic and Pacific (3 oz)||1.2-1.8|
|Mackerel (3 oz, canned)||1.0|
|Crab, Dungeness (3 oz, steamed)||0.3|
|Shrimp (3 oz, steamed)||0.3|
|Tuna (canned, 3 oz)||0.2-0.7|
|Clams (3 oz, steamed)||0.2|
* The omega-3 fatty-acid content can vary according to the mode of cooking and whether wild or farmed varieties.
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