Best Fish to Eat for Weight Loss, According to Dietitians

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Take a look at your social media feed, and you’ll find enough conflicting weight-loss advice to make your head spin. But the one thing pretty much everyone agrees on is the importance of protein in your diet. So, if you’re looking for a quality protein source, think fish. 

“Fish is an excellent source of dietary protein,” says Lena Bakovic, a registered dietitian nutritionist with Top Nutrition Coaching. Eating enough protein can help you feel fuller and more satisfied after a meal and may also help prevent overeating during the day, she explains.

When you reach for fish as your protein source at lunch or dinner, you can feel confident that choice will support your weight-loss goals. One review found that eating fish regularly may help people maintain a healthy body weight and is connected to a reduced waist circumference and a lower risk of metabolic syndrome. (This research, though peer-reviewed, was funded by the fishing industry.) 

So, other than protein, how does fish help with weight loss? The protein in fish contains anti-inflammatory compounds, plus you also get anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids when you eat fish. Both of these have been associated with less abdominal fat and a lower body weight., In general, consuming omega-3s is a boon for your health. “Omega-3 fatty acids have been extensively studied for their anti-inflammatory properties, cardioprotective effects, including the lowering of serum triglyceride levels, and for their protective role in brain health,” says Bakovic. Aim for two fish meals per week, recommends the American Heart Association. 

Now that we’ve got you hooked on fish, it’s time to dive into the seven best fish to eat when weight loss is your goal. What will be on your menu tonight?

7 Best Fish to Eat for Weight Loss

1. Herring

This soft, flaky fish has a bold flavor and high levels of healthy fats. A small study looked at omega-3 consumption and found that participants who took in 1,000 milligrams of the essential fats daily lost more abdominal fat than others—and 3 ounces of herring contains more than 1,300 mg of omega-3s., These Scandinavian Pickled Herring Bites are a great place to start if you’ve never tried the fish before. 

2. Mackerel

Mackerel is another oily, bold-flavored fish that’s packed full of omega-3 fatty acids—plus 16 grams of protein in a 3-ounce serving. In addition, one serving of mackerel contains more than 2,000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids. According to the FDA, king mackerel has a high mercury content, which can be dangerous for children or people who are pregnant or nursing. They recommend choosing Atlantic mackerel or Pacific chub mackerel, which are much smaller fish (and therefore contain less mercury). Mackerel shines in this Gochujang-Glazed Grilled Mackerel.

3. Trout

Trout provides 18 grams of protein per 3 ounces and plenty of vitamins and minerals, and it has more omega-3s than most fish. “Coldwater fish [like trout] tend to contain the highest naturally present amounts of omega-3 fatty acids,” says Bakovic. Trout is also a good source of vitamin D, and there’s evidence that this essential vitamin may play a role in a healthy metabolism. Trout can be grilled or pan-seared, but it shines when smoked, like in this Smoked Trout & Spinach Scrambled Eggs. 

4. Salmon

Salmon is famous for its heart-health benefits, but did you know it’s also helpful for weight loss? The famously pink or red fish contains 17 grams of protein in 3 ounces, plus a long list of vitamins and minerals, including omega-3 fatty acids. Scientists are starting to study salmon for a hormone it contains called calcitonin. Early research shows that it can slow stomach emptying (making you feel fuller longer) and increase calorie burn, possibly making it easier to lose weight. Bake or air-fry your salmon—or turn it into salmon patties atop a bed of greens.

 5. Sardines

One 3.75-ounce can of sardines provides 23 grams of protein, plus these small swimmers are rich in omega-3s. “Sardines are higher in essential fatty acids due to a higher fat content,” says registered dietitian nutritionist Lori Barrett with Top Nutrition Coaching. In addition, canned sardines also provide an excellent source of calcium because you eat the (tiny!) bones in the fish, she says. If you’ve never tried sardines, start with this Spicy Sardine Linguine. 

6. Tuna

Canned tuna is a classic lunch, and it’s full of protein and essential fatty acids, too. According to California’s Environmental Protection Agency, canned albacore tuna is high in omega-3s, but also contains more mercury. If you’re worried about that, choose canned light tuna. Tuna is great for weight loss because it’s packed with protein—22 grams per 3-ounce can—but is a lean fish, meaning one can contains fewer than 100 calories. Next up: Lunch! Try one of these 16 Healthy Lunch Ideas That Start with a Can of Tuna. 

7. Cod

Cod is a mild-tasting fish, which is great for people who aren’t big fans of that fishy flavor. Cod also provides more iodine than many other types of fish. Iodine is a mineral that is naturally present in some foods, and it’s necessary for our bodies to make thyroid hormones. Your thyroid plays a role in your metabolism, so you need it working properly for a healthy weight. Cod is a winner because a 3-ounce fillet contains 15 grams of protein, and it’s an excellent source of selenium, another mineral that is needed for healthy thyroid and metabolic function., This Seared Cod with Spinach-Lemon Sauce makes for a winning dinner.

The Bottom Line

Eating fish may be one of the best things you can do for your health. Take some time to find a type of fish and preparation method you like, and know you’ll be doing your body good and progressing toward your weight-loss goals at each meal.

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