Fish is a great source of healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. Eating it can provide you with benefits for your heart health, immune system, skincare, moods, and more. But can it help you lose weight? Diet is a huge part of weight loss — as the common saying goes, you can’t out-exercise a bad diet. What you eat often reaches beyond your exercise routine. There are actually many foods out there that influence your weight-loss journey, and fish is one of them. Fish consumption has been linked to more than just healthy heart benefits.
Here’s what science says:
Omega 3 Fatty Acids From Fish Help Reduce Inflammation And Improve Insulin Metabolism
Inflammation is the root of many health concerns. Omega 3 fatty acids are shown to reduce inflammation (11). Additionally, fish is rich in selenium, which has anti-inflammatory properties, helping to reduce inflammation throughout the body like the joints where arthritis typically settles in (14).
Having healthy joints means you’re better able to exercise, which ultimately means you’ll lose more weight.
Insulin metabolism is also improved by eating fish rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. When you eat healthy foods that are high in protein, your insulin levels are likely to remain more stable throughout the day, which means you’ll have more energy and won’t feel as hungry or tempted to snack on junk food (1).
Fish Contains High-Quality Protein For Weight Loss
Ounce per ounce, eating fish gives you more high-quality protein than most other food sources. A 100-gram serving of cooked tilapia provides 26.2 grams of protein while only containing 128 calories (6)! By comparison, beef provides 23.4 grams of protein per 100 calories while parmesan cheese contains 29.6 grams per 100 calories (3) (4) . Fish can be an excellent addition to your weight loss diet plan because it satisfies hunger between meals by providing more protein than other food sources.
Several studies have proven that a high protein diet can help you lose more weight (18). One recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that “protein is significantly more effective than either carbohydrate or fat at promoting satiety (12).
Having a high-quality protein source like fish can keep your blood sugar levels stabilize and hunger at bay between meals. Eating lean protein at every meal is a great way to ensure your body is getting the nutrients it needs to function, and also helps you lose weight faster.
Fish Is Rich In B Vitamins To Boost Energy And Improve Metabolism
The B vitamins are important for turning the food you eat into energy. Fish contains B12, which has been shown to improve metabolism and reduce cravings (20). Omega 3 fatty acids also play a role in the production of serotonin, which helps control appetite and balance mood (8).
You might wonder how your mood and weight loss are connected. The truth is, emotional eating is a huge reason why so many people cannot lose weight — they just can’t resist the urge to eat! Some also use food for stress relief and other emotional reasons. Eating fish rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, like salmon and sardines, helps control mood and reduce appetite.
Eating Fish Can Help You Build Muscle
When many people think about losing weight, they immediately think that they have to burn fat and lose weight in order to be successful.
But there’s another way to help you slim down: build muscle.
Muscle burns more calories than fat, which means your metabolism is likely to increase if you add lean protein sources like fish into your diet (9). This is one reason why protein diets are so popular — when you eat healthy protein-rich foods, your body is better able to turn food into fuel and ultimately lose weight.
Eating Fish Can Stabilize Your Blood Sugar Levels
When you eat foods high in carbohydrates, your blood sugar levels can become imbalanced. When this happens, it’s often hard to control cravings and ultimately lose weight since insulin levels are so unbalanced.
Eating fish can help stabilize your blood sugar levels by controlling the amount of glucose released into the bloodstream after a meal (16). Lowered glucose levels and foods high in lean protein are common among those who have had success controlling appetite, preventing cravings, and losing weight.
In fact, a study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a higher intake of fish was associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes development among men and women. This is in large part due to its ability to stabilize insulin levels (17).
Fish Has Good Fats
Many people think that the only “good” fats come from plant sources like avocados and nuts. However, fish also contains omega 3 fatty acids which are beneficial in many ways. Healthy fats increase metabolism, help balance hormones, and control blood sugar levels (15).
Hormonal balance and weight loss go hand in hand. Healthy thyroid function is important for lean muscle and hormone balance (19). Thyroid hormones directly control your metabolism and how efficiently you burn fat, so it’s important that you provide your body with the nutrients it needs to function properly — including fish high in healthy omega 3 fatty acids!
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Fish Is A Versatile Addition To Any Diet
Losing weight doesn’t mean eating bland and boring meals every day.
Fish is a great addition to any diet — it can be eaten as a snack, for breakfast, or even part of your dinner! Here are some ways to add fish to your diet:
Grilled Salmon On A Bed Of Mixed Greens
- Grill salmon and top with lemon juice.
- Serve over mixed greens dressed in olive oil, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, sea salt, and black pepper.
Smoked Salmon On Whole Grain Bread
- Top whole-grain bread (or Ezekiel toast) with avocado, tomato slices, sea salt, pepper, and onion.
- Add smoked salmon on top.
Poached Salmon With Vegetables
- Poach salmon fillet in water or broth for 10 minutes to cook thoroughly.
- Steam mixed vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, squash) until tender.
- Top salmon with vegetables and seasonings of choice (olive oil, tamari, dill weed, garlic powder, onion powder).
Leftover Grilled Fish With Salad
- If you were lucky enough to grill fish the night before, simply add it to your salad.
- Then top with veggies and avocado.
Fish Cooked In Pepper Sauce
- Cook fish of choice in black pepper sauce (olive oil, water or broth, sea salt, ground pepper, and optional spices like garlic powder and onion powder).
- Serve with broccoli florets and chopped yellow squash cooked to your liking (steamed, sauteed, or baked).
Fish Sauce With Brown Rice And Vegetables
- Cook fish in a sauce of choice (light coconut milk, lime juice, and spices for Thai style; olive oil, garlic powder, onion powder, sea salt for Italian style)
- Cook brown rice (or quinoa) to your liking.
- Steam vegetables of choice (broccoli, carrots, squash) until tender.
- Combine cooked fish with sauce and brown rice and vegetables of choice.
Tuna Salad In A Pita Pocket
- Combine canned tuna with celery, onion, garlic powder, and sea salt in a small bowl.
- Add chopped red bell pepper and diced cucumber to the mix if desired.
- Fill a whole-grain pita pocket with fish mixture and veggies of choice (tomato slices, cucumber slices, shredded carrots).
Tuna Sandwich With Whole Grain Bread And Veg
- Combine tuna with chopped veggies (celery, onion, and peppers) and sea salt in a small bowl.
- Add mayo to the mix if desired.
- Serve on whole-grain bread with veggies of choice (avocado slices, tomato slices, shredded carrots).
Healthy Baked Fish And Rice
- Bake fish of choice with seasoning of choice (olive oil, garlic powder, onion powder, and sea salt).
- Serve over brown rice cooked to your liking and topped with veggies of choice (steamed broccoli or asparagus).
The Best Types Of Fish For Weight Loss
Not all fish meat options are healthy meat options! Some types of fish such as tuna and swordfish, as well as shellfish like clams and oysters, are high in mercury content. Consuming too much mercury can lead to serious health problems, so you should avoid these types of fish if you’re trying to lose weight (10).
Some mercury-free options include:
Here are some tips for ensuring you get all the health benefits of fish without exposing yourself to negative side effects:
Wild-Caught Vs. Farm-Raised Fish
When you can, opt for wild-caught fish over farm-raised fish. If your grocery store doesn’t carry any of the wild varieties, ask them to order some for you. Farm-raised fish are often given more antibiotics than their wild counterparts and may also contain harmful chemicals that help the animals grow bigger faster (2).
Coldwater fish like salmon and sardines contain high levels of Omega 3 fatty acids, which help improve blood flow to the heart and brain while boosting mood and reducing inflammation in the body. Freshwater fish like carp, tilapia, and haddock are good sources of lean protein.
Read More: Is Raw Salmon Good For You?
Choose The Healthiest Cooking Options
When preparing fish, try baking, broiling, or grilling instead of deep frying. The healthiest options are steaming, poaching, and sauteeing in nonstick pans with fat-free cooking spray. When fish is baked, the moisture reduces the oil needed for cooking so it’s much healthier than frying.
Cut Out Unhealthy Fish Options
When you eat out at restaurants, choose fish prepared in olive oil, garlic, and herbs instead of cream sauces, fried fish, or any battered options. This is because restaurants often use high-fat cooking oils, lots of butter, or unhealthy fats like lard to prepare fish. Be sure to choose steamed veggies over french fries as accompaniments when possible.
Overhaul Your Entire Diet
Eating fish alone is not enough to make you lose weight. You need to eat lots of healthy vegetables and whole grains, such as brown rice and quinoa, along with lean protein sources like fish to achieve weight loss goals (5).
You also need to reduce your portions, stay away from processed foods, and engage in regular exercise to lose weight (21). If you just want to eat fish for the health benefits without addressing your overall lifestyle habits, you are unlikely to drop much weight or see much change in your body composition.
The best way to ensure you are eating a healthy amount of fish is to opt for a fillet that is no larger than 4-6 ounces. This size portion will ensure that you eat the proper serving size and stay under the mercury limit as well.
Choose Healthy Accompaniments
If you are eating fish at a restaurant, ask for vegetables on the side so that you don’t have to eat unhealthy sides like french fries or white bread alongside your fish. When cooking fish at home, opt for vegetables over potatoes or other high-carb options.
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Eating Fish During Pregnancy
If you are pregnant, it’s essential to ensure you are eating enough healthy fish. But here too, it can be challenging to determine which types of fish are the best for pregnancy. You should only eat 8-12 ounces of low mercury fish per week during your pregnancy or when trying to conceive (13).
Salmon, tilapia, herring, and sardines are among the best types of fish to eat during pregnancy. If you cannot find these at your store or don’t like their taste, opt for canned tuna in water instead.
How Often Should You Eat Fish?
You should aim to eat at least two servings of fish per week (7). This means eating it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. You can even make healthy fish snacks like tuna fish sandwiches, salmon patties, or fish tacos for an easy afternoon snack.
What About Fish Oil Supplements?
If you are not a big fan of the taste of fish, you can also get your healthy dose of Omega 3 fatty acids from fish oil supplements. Fish oil caps are a simple way to ensure you get the full health benefits without any fishy taste or smell.
Is Fish Good For Weight Loss? The Bottom Line
If you eat fish in moderation and with a balanced diet, it can actually be quite beneficial for weight loss. The antioxidants in this meat help promote energy levels while the protein helps sustain your energy levels until your next meal. Furthermore, macronutrients in fish like healthy fats help boost your metabolism by improving blood flow to the heart and brain.
To get the full benefits of eating fish without exposing yourself to toxins or negative side effects, opt for wild varieties whenever possible. Avoid fried fish dishes and choose baking, broiling, or grilling instead. And eat no more than 6 ounces per serving to ensure your portions are healthy.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- A diet rich in long chain omega-3 fatty acids modulates satiety in overweight and obese volunteers during weight loss – ScienceDirect (2008, sciencedirect.com)
- Aquaculture (n.d., sciencedirect.com)
- Beef, round, eye of round roast, boneless, separable lean only, trimmed to 0″ fat, select, raw (2019, fdc.nal.usda.gov)
- Cheese, parmesan, grated (2019, fdc.nal.usda.gov)
- Essentials of Healthy Eating: A Guide (2020, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Fish, tilapia, cooked, dry heat (2019, fdc.nal.usda.gov)
- Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids | American Heart Association (2021, heart.org)
- Food for Mood: Relevance of Nutritional Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Depression and Anxiety | Physiology (2018, frontiersin.org)
- Increasing muscle mass to improve metabolism (2013, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Mercury and health (2017, who.int)
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Inflammatory Processes (2010, mdpi.com)
- Protein, weight management, and satiety | The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2008, academic.oup.com)
- Questions & Answers from the FDA/EPA Advice about Eating Fish for Those Who Might Become or Are Pregnant or Breastfeeding and Children Ages 1 to 11 Years | FDA (2021, fda.gov)
- Selenium and inflammation: underlying anti-inflammatory mechanisms (2009, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The Functions of Fats (n.d, openoregon.pressbooks.pub)
- The prevention and control the type-2 diabetes by changing lifestyle and dietary pattern (2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The prospective association between total and type of fish intake and type 2 diabetes in 8 European countries: EPIC-InterAct Study (2012, academic.oup.com)
- The role of protein in weight loss and maintenance | The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2015, academic.oup.com)
- Thyroid Hormone Regulation of Metabolism (2014, journals.physiology.org)
- Vitamin B12 – Health Professional Fact Sheet (2021, ods.od.nih.gov)
- Weight-Loss and Maintenance Strategies – Weight Management (2004, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)