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Is Fried Fish Healthy? Everything You Need to Know About the Health Impacts of Fried Fish

Is Fried Fish Healthy? Everything You Need to Know About the Health Impacts of Fried Fish

Fish is an extremely popular food around the world, and the health benefits of eating fish have been widely reported. But what about fried fish? Is fried fish healthy?

Fried fish is not healthy. In moderation, it can be fine. But consistent consumption of fried fish can be detrimental to your health. We expand on this point below with additional reasons why.

So, while fried fish may taste delicious, there could be hidden dangers lurking beneath the crispy coating.

Still, if eaten in moderation, it wouldn’t hurt to enjoy fried fish once in a while. Balance is key!

We cover the following items in this post:

Is Fried Fish Healthy?

Fried fish on a tray with tartar sauce. Is fried fish healthy?

No, it’s not. Frying fish, regardless of whether it’s pan-fried or deep-fried, requires high temperatures and hot fat to cook the fish.

When the fish is fried in fatty oils, the fried fish absorbs some of the fats. The high temperatures can harm the omega-3 fatty acids in fish. Frying can also reduce the amount of Vitamin D the fish provides.

The latest research from Harvard offers additional reasons why fried fish may not be so good for you. In their study Fish Intake and Risk of Incident Atrial Fibrillation, published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality & Outcomes, researchers found that eating deep-fried or pan-fried fish more than once a week was associated with an increased risk of atrial fibrillation (AFib). This type of irregular heartbeat can increase the risk of stroke and other heart problems.

Pan-fried fish is a healthier option than deep-fried fish due to the limited amounts of oil used.

The Health Benefits and Risks of Fried Fish

We’ll start with the health benefits, and transition into the associated risks.

The Nutritional Benefits

Fish is rich in important nutrients and minerals. Fried fish still offers many of the same nutritional benefits as its non-fried counterpart, including:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids. Since fish is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, these beneficial fats can still be gained from fried fish. Omega-3s are linked to a number of health benefits, including reducing inflammation and helping to protect against cardiovascular disease.
  • Vitamin D and Vitamin B-2. Fish consumption has been associated with improved bone health due to its high vitamin D and B-2 content.
  • High in protein and low in carbohydrates. Fried fish is still a lean source of protein, providing essential amino acids for muscle growth and repair. The breading has some carbohydrates, but they’re low compared to other carb-heavy options.
  • Limited saturated fats. Fried fish, pan-fried specifically, can be relatively low in saturated fat, making it a better choice than some other fried foods. Saturated fats can lead to elevated LDL (low-density lipoprotein) — also referred to as “bad cholesterol.” However, many deep-fried fish dishes are still high in saturated fats.
  • A source of healthy minerals. Fried fish can provide you with important minerals, such as iodine, magnesium, iron, potassium, and zinc.

The Risks of Eating Too Much Fried Fish

As noted above, there are some risk factors associated with eating fried fish too often.

  • Increased risk of heart disease, heart failure, and heart attack for at-risk populations. Eating fried fish more than once a week may put you at a higher risk of developing AFib. The Harvard study also found that the risk was significantly higher in people with type 2 diabetes or those who were overweight.
  • Increased fat and calorie content. It should be no surprise that fried foods are higher in fat and calories than their non-fried counterparts. Overeating these items can lead to unhealthy weight gain.
  • Potential for high blood pressure. Fried fish contains high levels of sodium, which is linked to high blood pressure and hypertension.
  • Trans fats and their impact on cholesterol levels. Many fried foods contain trans fats, which are associated with a higher risk of heart disease and elevated cholesterol levels.
  • Obesity (for populations who consume fried foods more often). Eating a lot of deep-fried or pan-fried fish can lead to increased calorie consumption and weight gain over time, which increases the risk of obesity.

Lower-Risk Cooking Methods: Ways to Reduce Health Risks 

Fish being baked in the oven.

Fried fish isn’t the healthiest way to prepare seafood, but there are plenty of other ways to enjoy fish while still reaping its nutritional benefits.

From broiling, baking, and steaming to sous vide, poaching, and more, there are many delicious and healthy options.

  • Broiling is a great way to give fish a nice crispy coating without the added fat or calories. While broiling, you can use a variety of herbs and spices to add flavor without too much salt or fat.
  • Baking is an easy way to cook fish that retains the fish’s moisture. Baked fish recipes can also be very creative and flavorful, with the addition of fresh herbs, citrus fruits, and even vegetables like tomatoes or spinach.
  • Sous vide is a cooking technique that uses vacuum-sealed bags to slowly cook food in a water bath. This way, you can retain all of the flavors and nutrients without using too much oil or butter. You can also reach a perfect internal temperature.
  • Poaching is another healthy cooking method for fish where the fish is cooked in simmering liquid like broth or wine. This method is great for keeping the fish moist and flavorful without all the fat.
  • Steaming is one of the healthiest ways to cook fish since it requires no added fats or oils. You can also add herbs, spices, and citrus fruits to enhance the flavor of your steamed fish dish.

Does the Type of Fish Impact How Healthy It Is?

When it comes to fried fish, certain types of fish may be considered healthier than others.

In general, leaner fish like cod, haddock, and snapper are seen as being the healthiest options when fried. These types of fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to a variety of health benefits, including reducing inflammation, lowering blood pressure, and improving heart health.

What Is the Healthiest Fish to Fry?

Fresh tilapia fish on a cutting board.

Fish with low-fat content and high in omega-3 fatty acids are usually the best option for frying.

  • Salmon is an excellent choice for frying. This fish is packed with healthy fats and nutrients, such as protein, vitamin D, and potassium. It is also low in unhealthy fats, making it a healthier option than other fried fish.
  • Cod is another great type of fish to fry. This whitefish is high in protein and contains beneficial omega-3 fats, as well as vitamin B12 and potassium. Cod is also lower in fat than some other types of fish, making it an ideal choice for those who want healthier fried fish.
  • Tilapia is also a healthy option to fry. It’s high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids and contains fewer unhealthy fats than some other types of fish.

While these are the healthiest options for frying fish, there are still some potential health risks associated with frying fish. The high temperatures used in the cooking process can cause some of the healthy fats to break down into unhealthy transfats.

Additionally, fried fish may contain more calories than other cooking methods due to the added fat used in the cooking process when using various frying oils.

How Different Oils Impact Fried Fish 

Fish being fried in a pan. Is fried fish healthy?

Pan-frying is slightly healthier than deep-frying fish because it requires less oil and generally uses healthier cooking oils. Pan-frying involves using a small amount of oil to coat the bottom of a skillet, then heating it up until the oil begins to shimmer. This technique is best for fish that have been cut into thin filets.

When it comes to the oil used in the pan-frying process, olive oil is a great choice as it is high in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants which are beneficial for your health.

Other healthy oils such as avocado, coconut, or peanut oil can also be used for pan-frying fish.

Deep-frying, on the other hand, involves submerging the fish in hot oil and is not as healthy since it requires more fat to be used. Canola oil is not recommended as it can lead to increased oxidized fatty acids and some harmful compounds.

Final Thoughts: Is Fried Fish Heart Healthy? 

Fish provides a ton of great nutrients, and fried fish still offers many of them. But, fried fish is not the healthiest option, and too much of it can lead to potential health issues.

Eating fried fish on a regular basis can have serious implications for your heart health. Research has linked fried food consumption to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease due to the higher fat content.

When choosing fried fish, leaner varieties are a better option than fatty fish varieties. Additionally, olive oil is the healthiest option for pan-frying and should be used sparingly when deep-frying fish.

By making healthier choices when it comes to frying fish, you can still enjoy this delicious dish without compromising your health. And remember, eating once a month or less is the best way to ensure you get to enjoy some crispy fish with minimal risk. Happy frying!

If you enjoyed this article, you may also be interested in learning more about how long seafood can be left out and how to safely store seafood so your fried fish remains clear of bacteria.