Nutrition and Wellness

Understanding Fish Nutrition: Calories and Varieties

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For individuals trying to lose weight or improve their diet, can incorporating more fish help improve overall health?

Fish Nutrition

The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fish each week (American Heart Association, 2021). The type of fish chosen makes a difference, as fish nutrition and calories vary. Some can have a higher calorie count but contain healthy fat.

Nutrition

Comparing fish calories and nutrition data can be tricky. How it is prepared can significantly change its nutritional makeup, and the exact nutrition also varies depending on the variety. As an example, a half portion of a Wild Alaskan Salmon Fillet contains: (U.S. Department of Agriculture. FoodData Central. 2019)

  • Serving Size 1/2 fillet – 154 grams
  • Calories – 280
  • Calories from Fat – 113
  • Total Fat – 12.5 grams
  • Saturated Fat – 1.9 grams
  • Polyunsaturated Fat – 5 grams
  • Monounsaturated Fat – 4.2 grams
  • Cholesterol – 109 milligrams
  • Sodium – 86 milligrams
  • Potassium – 967.12 milligrams
  • Carbohydrates – 0 grams
  • Dietary Fiber – 0 grams
  • Sugars – 0 grams
  • Protein – 39.2 grams

The following guide includes other types of fish based on USDA nutrition data (U.S. Department of Agriculture. FoodData Central). Fish calories and nutrition are listed for a 100-gram or 3.5-ounce serving.

Halibut

  • Raw with skin
  • 116 calories
  • 3 grams fat
  • 0 grams carbohydrate
  • 20 grams protein

Tuna

  • Yellowfin, fresh, raw
  • 109 calories
  • Less than one gram of fat
  • 0 grams carbohydrate
  • 24 grams protein

Cod

  • Atlantic, raw
  • 82 calories,
  • 0.7 grams fat
  • 0 grams carbohydrate
  • 18 grams protein

Mahimahi

  • Raw
  • 85 calories
  • 0.7 grams fat
  • 0 grams carbohydrate
  • 18.5 grams protein

Ocean Perch

  • Atlantic, raw
  • 79 calories
  • 1.4 grams fat
  • 0 grams carbohydrate
  • 15 grams protein

Research suggests that fatty fish is the best for weight loss and improved health. Certain types of fish contain an essential fatty acid called omega-3. This polyunsaturated fat provides the body with various health benefits, like reducing the risk of heart disease. Studies show that individuals who eat seafood at least once per week are less likely to die from heart disease. (National Institutes of Health. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, 2024) Researchers also believe that omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and could even improve brain and eye health. Essential omega-3 fatty acids can be taken as a supplement. However, research has not shown that supplements can provide the same benefits as eating omega-3 foods. (Rizos E. C. et al., 2012)

Benefits

The American Heart Association suggests eating a variety of low-calorie fish that include: (American Heart Association, 2021)

Salmon

  • 3 ounces
  • 175 calories
  • 10 grams fat
  • 1.7 grams of omega-3 fatty acids

Anchovies

  • 3 ounces
  • 111 calories
  • 4 grams fat
  • 1.7 grams of omega-3 fatty acids

Pacific and Jack Mackerel

  • 3 ounces
  • 134 calories
  • 7 grams fat
  • 1.6 grams of omega-3 fatty acids

Pacific Black Cod

  • 3 ounces
  • 70 calories
  • 1 gram fat
  • 1.5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids

Whitefish

  • 3 ounces
  • 115 calories
  • 5 grams fat
  • 1.5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids

Albacore Tuna

  • 3 ounces, canned, packed in water
  • 109 calories
  • 3 grams fat
  • 0.7 grams of omega-3 fatty acids

Atlantic Herring

  • 3 ounces
  • 134 calories
  • 8 grams of fat
  • 1.4 grams of omega-3 fatty acids

Tilapia

  • 4 ounces
  • 145 calories
  • 3 grams of fat
  • 0.1 grams of omega-3 fatty acids

The way that the fish is prepared can change the calorie count. Baked, grilled, and broiled fish are usually the lowest in calories.

Storage and Safety

Fish experts suggest that individuals buy the freshest available. What questions should you ask when visiting the local market?

When was it caught?

The fresher, the better. Fish may remain edible for five days after being caught but may not taste as fresh.

How was it stored?

How the fish is stored and delivered to the market will impact its taste. Fish should be chilled immediately after catching and kept cold throughout delivery and transport.

How does it look and smell?

If the fish has a bad odor, it is likely not fresh. Fresh fish should smell like seawater. If buying fillets, look for a moist texture with clean-cut edges. If the fish is whole, look for clear eyes and a firm texture.

Where is it from?

Buying local fish from sustainable fisheries is recommended but not always possible, depending on where individuals live. There is a Smart Seafood Buying Guide that advises on buying American fish and provides a list of fish with lower mercury levels for health and safety. (Natural Resources Defense Council, 2024)

What is the best way to prepare this fish?

Sometimes, the fishmonger is the best source for simple and healthy recipes and preparation methods. Use fresh fish within two days, or store in the freezer. When ready to use frozen fish, thaw in the refrigerator and never at room temperature. For individuals who don’t like fish taste, there are a few things to help improve the taste. First, try less fishy types. For example, many report that around 100 calories per serving of red snapper tastes less fishy than heavier fish like salmon. Second, try adding fresh herbs and citrus to manage the taste.

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Nutrition Fundamentals


References

American Heart Association. (2021). Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids. www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/fish-and-omega-3-fatty-acids

U.S. Department of Agriculture. FoodData Central. (2019). Fish, salmon, king (chinook), raw (Alaska Native). Retrieved from fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168047/nutrients

National Institutes of Health. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. (2024). 7 things to know about omega-3 fatty acids. Retrieved from www.nccih.nih.gov/health/tips/things-to-know-about-omega-fatty-acids

Rizos, E. C., Ntzani, E. E., Bika, E., Kostapanos, M. S., & Elisaf, M. S. (2012). Association between omega-3 fatty acid supplementation and risk of major cardiovascular disease events: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA, 308(10), 1024–1033. doi.org/10.1001/2012.jama.11374

Natural Resources Defense Council. (2024). The smart seafood buying guide: five ways to ensure the fish you eat is healthy for you and for the environment. www.nrdc.org/stories/smart-seafood-buying-guide

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