With ¾ of the daily recommended value of protein and over 100 percent of the vitamin B12 you need each day, pollock fish is an omega-3 food you should have more of in your life.
You may not recognize the name, but at some point in your life, you’ve probably eaten pollock fish. Because of the population size and catching techniques, it’s an incredibly common fish to eat in North America. At least, McDonald’s thought so — pollock fish is now used for all the fried Filet-O-Fish sandwiches the chain sells. (1) It’s also the fish in between layers of breading of the fish sticks many of our moms kept in the freezer while we grew up.
Of course, prepackaged, processed varieties are fish you should never eat, but don’t let that deter you from developing a love for pollock. This fish is good even when it’s not fried beyond recognition. Not only is it delicious, but the nutrients found in it are incredibly beneficial to your body. For instance, thanks to its high nutrient profile, pollock can help combat heart disease, improve brain health and more.
What Is Pollock?
There are two basic types of pollock fish. When stated as simply “pollock,” people in the U.S. are probably referring to Pollachius pollachius, or Atlantic pollock. The second is known as the Alaskan pollock or the walleye pollock, and it belongs to another genus completely, Gadus chalcogrammus.
While their names are often used interchangeably, Alaskan pollock contains less nutrients per serving than the Atlantic variety. The fish look very similar from the outside, and both have a fairly “un-fishy” taste.
This fish provides a soft, white meat that’s delicious when used in fillet form. You may also find it in imitation crab meat, very popular in Japan as a low-cost alternative to real crab.
Is Pollack Good for You or Bad for You?
When figuring out what seafood items you can safely eat, the amount of mercury it contains is a big issue. Fortunately, pollock contains a very safe, low level of mercury that should be of little concern for most people. (2) The Environmental Defense Fund says that four-plus servings per month of this fish (its highest recommended fish intake number) are completely safe, assuming that no other contaminated fish are consumed.
Another “fishy” question comes in terms of the sustainability and environmental impact of particular fish types. Unlike salmon and many other commercial seafoods, all pollock fish are wild-caught and never farmed. (3) There are several dangers of farmed fish, including antibiotics, pesticides, various chemical contaminations and a larger, major risk of permanently harming the environment.
There is one variety of Alaska pollock, stocked in the Western Bering Sea, that’s considered very unsustainable because of the methods used to catch and store them. Always check labels to ensure you’re purchasing pollock caught in a sustainable area.
In short, pollock fish, like other wild-caught, sustainable fish, is a good food to use as part of a life-giving diet.
However, even with the massive number of nutrients this fish offers in a serving, I still do not recommend anyone eat fish on a daily basis. Between the risk of damaging the populations of these animals and the potential for contamination, it’s best to limit your fish intake to once or twice a week, always carefully selecting what you purchase.
Benefits of Pollock Fish
1. Improves Cholesterol and Protects Against Heart Disease
Perhaps one of the most well-researched benefit of the nutrients in pollock fish is the way they protect the heart and circulatory system.
First of all, regularly eating pollock fish helps control cholesterol levels that can lead to heart disease. (4) Because it’s so high in vitamin B12 and vitamin B6, it can also help your body lower high homocysteine levels, an amino acid found in the blood that’s considered an important risk factor for heart disease. (5)
Pollock fish are also high in selenium, a mineral that’s inversely associated with risk for cardiovascular disease, meaning that the less selenium found in your blood, the higher your risk for coronary heart disease probably is. (6)
One serving of pollock fish contains about a third of your daily need for niacin (also known as vitamin B3), which helps reduce chronic inflammation that can lead to heart disease. Niacin is also a nutrient that’s been found to reduce the chance of a second heart attack in people who have already experienced one.
Due to the protein content found in pollock fish, they’re also part of a high-protein diet that’s a great way to naturally lower blood pressure and which is associated with a lowered risk of heart disease.
But the real winner in the battle against heart disease, at least when it comes to the pollock fish, is the high level of omega-3 fatty acids found in each dish.
There are two major omega-3s that are closely associated with heart health: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Less studied, but also seemingly significant the more they’re researched, are long-chain monounsaturated fatty acids (LCMUFAs). Together, high amounts of consumed EPA, DHA and LCMUFAs are associated with a generally lowered risk of heart disease. (7, 8)
2. Part of a Weight-Conscious Diet
Most weight-loss and “healthy” lifestyle diets include fish on the menu for good reason. The consumption of fish/fish oil is associated with a lowered body fat mass and better body composition, meaning fat-to-muscle ratios. (11) The body composition factor is especially true when the consumption of fish high in omega-3s, like pollock fish, with a regular exercise routine. (12)
Eating pollock fish is also beneficial for maintaining an exercise routine, as the protein, vitamin B2 and vitamin B12 it contains are useful in providing energy. Replacing carbohydrates with protein is known as one great way to lose weight fast.
EPA and DHA also play a part in this pollock fish benefit. A 2014 study tracked the level of EPA in school-aged children and discovered that obese children with insulin resistance had much lower amounts of EPA in their blood. (13) Other information suggests that DHA levels are also associated with lower overall weight.
3. Useful in Promoting Fertility and Healthy Pregnancy
From conception to birth, pollock fish provide mothers, fathers and babies with some essential nutrients that promote getting pregnant and proper fetal development.
The niacin found in pollock fish may be useful in preventing erectile dysfunction, one common issue in male infertility. The DHA in pollock fish promotes healthy sperm, ensuring the shape of sperm heads is a cone-like structure capable of breaking through an egg during the conception process. (14) The selenium content then helps improve sperm motility, or the movement of sperm to fertilize an egg. (15)
In women, the omega-3s found in fish and fish oil help reduce infertility-causing inflammation, as well as balance hormone levels and regulate monthly menstrual cycles. There’s also some evidence that they may be helpful in treating endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome, both of which cause infertility in many cases. The mineral selenium may also be helpful in preventing miscarriage.
Vitamin B12 is also hugely important for the development of a healthy child because it’s responsible for making nucleic acid, also known as DNA — you know, that fairly important building block of life. Phosphorus is also important in DNA and RNA formation during fetal development, and one serving of pollock fish provides almost half the daily recommended value you need.
4. May Aid in Cancer Prevention
Another benefit to healthy fish like the pollock is thanks to the nutrients that help your body prevent the formation of cancer, making several types of fish cancer-fighting foods.
The omega-3s in fish seem to be associated with a lowered risk of colon, prostate and breast cancer. (19) Selenium is also connected to a lower risk of cancer, specifically prostate, and has also been found to have the ability to slow the spread of cancer and repair damaged cells caused by the spread of this disease. (20)
Vitamin B2, referred to as riboflavin, behaves as an antioxidant and is also useful in preventing free radical damage linked to cancer development. It’s also used in the creation of glutathione, another antioxidant that also detoxifies the liver. This vitamin, found in a significant amount in pollock fish, also helps maintain the lining of your digestive tract, which contains most of your immune system. Without proper levels of riboflavin, your body is unable to absorb the nutrients you eat properly, which could also be linked to the development of cancer. B2 has been found to help prevent colorectal cancer in women. (21)
5. Supports Brain and Mental Health
Fish like pollock can aid in the development and health of the brain in a large variety of different ways.
First, many of these nutrients are responsible for basic neural processes. Phosphorus is needed to maintain normal hormonal, emotional and neurological responses, and a deficiency of this mineral is linked with age-related cognitive decline that leads to diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.
The protein in pollock fish aids in normal learning and development because amino acids are required for focus and energy. (22) Proteins also help make the neurotransmitters, hormones and enzymes necessary for brain function.
Vitamin B6 plays a role in the development of memory, and deficiencies there are also associated with cognitive decline and diseases like Alzheimer’s. As I mentioned earlier, it also helps regulate homocysteine levels, which are important not only in the risk of heart disease, but also in minimizing neurological damage in the central nervous system. (23) Since it plays a big part in developing serotonin and norepinephrine, researchers believe vitamin B6 is also helpful in treating or preventing disorders like ADHD, possibly caused by low serotonin levels. (24)
The omega-3s (mainly EPA and DHA again) are part of a discussion in how to treat Alzheimer’s as well as depression, although the ways in which they help is not well-understood yet. (25) One reason they may be effective could be because they, unlike most substances, can penetrate the blood-brain barrier. (26) There’s also evidence that DHA promotes neuroplasticity, or the wiring and rewiring of brain pathways, which is a large topic of research, especially in diseases like Alzheimer’s. (27)
Another one of pollock fish’s nutrients that seems to have Alzheimer’s-preventing effects is vitamin B3, aka niacin. (28) Niacin is also associated with a decreased risk of age-related memory loss, depression, motion sickness and insomnia.
Finally, vitamin B12 is heavily associated with mood improvement. B12 also helps protect against memory decline and is sometimes used for treating Alzheimer’s, although the science behind that is lacking somewhat.
6. May Be Useful in Treating Anemia
Since pollock fish contains high amounts of several B-complex vitamins, it can be used as part of an anemia-fighting diet. (29)
Vitamin B2 is used in the steroid hormone synthesis process and is also useful in the process of transporting oxygen to different bodily cells. B2 reduces high homocysteine levels, also a related factor in the development of anemia.
The body uses vitamin B6 to create hemoglobin in the blood, important for oxygen transportation and the mobilization of iron. Your body also needs significant amounts of vitamin B12 in order to facilitate the production of red blood cells. Vitamin B12 is known specifically to help prevent a chronic form of anemia known as megaloblastic anemia. (30)
7. Reduces Inflammation and Pain Responses
Because inflammation is at the root of most diseases, it’s become more and more important to eat a diet full of foods that reduce inflammation and remove things from your diet, like processed sugar, that increase inflammation.
Pollock fish contain several nutrients that reduce various types of inflammation and pain. For example, the omega-3s, niacin and vitamin B6 reduce arthritic pain. (31)
High levels of riboflavin are often used to treat and reduce the severity of migraine headaches. (32)
In addition, eating foods like pollock fish that are high in vitamin B6 can help you to reduce PMS cramps, possibly because of the way they encourage neurotransmitter production. (33)
8. May Help Diabetes Patients
High-protein foods, like pollock fish, along with foods high in omega-3s, are one part of a diabetic diet plan. The omega-3s found in fish help reduce complications of diabetes, like cognitive deficits and vision-related symptoms. (34)
Using niacin can also help diabetes patients because it regulates blood sugar levels. (35)
9. Beneficial for Eye Health
Pollock fish contains omega-3s that are protective against age-related macular degeneration and may also help to prevent cataracts. (36) Vitamin B6 also helps prevent the onset of age-related macular degeneration.
10. Keeps Skin and Hair Healthy
The last major benefit found in pollock fish is the way it helps your skin and hair remain healthy and vibrant. Omega-3s contribute by keeping skin elastic and preventing wrinkles. A deficiency in DHA and EPA can lead to skin conditions, such as psoriasis, eczema, age/sun spots, thinning hair and even dandruff.
Vitamin B12, which is responsible for cell production in many ways, also keeps your hair and skin strong and healthy. One way it achieves this is by reducing inflammation, redness and dryness.
Finally, vitamin B2 helps in the production of collagen, which contributes to the elasticity of skin. By eating a diet rich in B2, you can help your skin heal faster, chap less and stay young.
Especially when it comes to the Atlantic version, pollock fish contains an incredible number of nutrients. In just one serving, you’ll eat an entire day’s worth of vitamin B12 and selenium and almost half the day’s recommended value of phosphorus, a powerful mineral that helps build strong bones and detoxify your body.
One feature of fish that makes them so useful in a healthy diet is the high amount of omega-3s they include, especially two major types known as EPA and DHA. Pollock fish contain similar amounts per gram of these fatty acids as Atlantic cod. (37) The EPA and DHA in pollock fish have a large number of health benefits ranging from boosting brain health to avoiding macular degeneration to reducing chronic inflammation. That’s why the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Agriculture, American Heart Association, and American Dietetic Association all recommend you eat fish at least twice a week to reap the benefits they offer.
In addition to omega-3s, pollock fish contain several nutrients that act as antioxidants, fighting free radical damage to help with the general prevention of disease.
One serving of Atlantic pollock fish (193 grams, ½ fillet) contains about: (38)
- 178 calories
- 38 grams protein
- 1.9 grams of fat
- 6.2 micrograms vitamin B12 (103 percent DV)
- 70.4 micrograms selenium (101 percent DV)
- 426 milligrams phosphorus (43 percent DV)
- 6.3 milligrams niacin (32 percent DV)
- 129 milligrams magnesium (32 percent DV)
- 0.6 milligram vitamin B6 (28 percent DV)
- 0.4 milligram riboflavin (21 percent DV)
- 687 milligrams potassium (20 percent DV)
- 116 milligrams calcium (12 percent DV)
- 0.7 milligram pantothenic acid (7 percent DV)
- 166 milligrams sodium (7 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligram thiamine (6 percent DV)
- 0.9 milligram zinc (6 percent DV)
- 0.9 milligram iron (5 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligram copper (5 percent DV)
How to Find the Best Pollock
Because of the process by which these fish are retrieved, by trawling the seabed, there are some organizations, such as Greenpeace, that find the process of harm to the environment. (39) However, most organizations recognize the vast majority of pollock fishing to be sustainable.
Most grocery stores in the U.S. and Canada carry pollock fish fillets. It’s a soft, white meat that isn’t often “fishy” smelling. It can also be purchased in other forms, such as surimi or roe, to be used as imitation crab.
When buying pollock, try to find fresh products caught within the last 48–72 hours, and be cautious of smell. Anything that smells strongly fishy should be avoided. You can also purchase frozen varieties, but try to stick to reputable companies when making your purchase.
As mentioned above, try to avoid pollock stored in the Western Bering Sea area, which is the only fishery noted as unsustainable in its fishing methods.
How to Cook (Recipes)
While many commercial food companies use pollock as part of fried fish sticks or as part of processed fish sandwiches, that wouldn’t be the route I recommend. Instead, try steaming or frying it in a healthy fat, such as coconut or extra virgin olive oil. Don’t broil it, as you’re likely to end up with dry fish unless you calculate the time exactly right.
It’s also great to try in small, bite-size pieces that can be made as replacement fish sticks (without the processed breading) or as part of homemade sushi recipes. However, do not eat pollock fish raw.
For an extremely simple and quick meal full of healthy fats and delicious protein, try this recipe for Pollock in Garlic Butter Sauce (ready in just 15 minutes).
You may also enjoy Alaska Pollock a la Plancha, where you can pan-fry your pollock fish fillets and add some depth of flavor with potato, red peppers, tomatoes and pearled onions.
If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, you may want to try Alaska Pollock Jerk Tacos, a spicy and flavorful dish that will make you feel like you’re sitting on a beach.
Risks and Side Effects
Remember that not all pollock fish is created equal. Like most seafood products, it’s important to make informed purchases as a consumer and only purchase sustainably and safely sourced fish.
You should also avoid the overly processed versions in packaged and frozen foods, like fish sticks. Instead, go with fresh or frozen fillets that you can prepare in healthy recipes.
There was, over a decade ago, one instance of a parasitic infestation in a large number of walleye pollock. (40) It’s also possible to find small worms in pollock fish, similar to those sometimes found in cod. When freshly sold, reputable sellers will already have removed any of these worms.
However, cooking the fish renders any potential issues harmless, as long as you have thoroughly prepared your dishes.
- Pollock fish often has a bad reputation because of its use in fast food and processed items, but when prepared and eaten healthily, it’s a great addition to a protein-rich lifestyle diet.
- Like all fish, it should be consumed in moderation (once or twice a week at most) because of the potential for mercury contamination and fishing sustainability, although it’s a fairly sustainable and mercury-free fish by most accounts.
- The nutrients in pollock aid your body in a large variety of ways, most notably by preventing heart disease, aiding in the treatment of cancer, helping promote fertility and healthy fetal development, keeping your brain functioning at high levels, and potentially helping prevent or treat anemia.
- Because of the nutrients acting as antioxidants in pollock fish, it’s also able to help you lose weight, protect your eyes from age-related disorders, keep your skin and hair healthy, and prevent certain pain responses by reducing inflammation.
- When looking for pollock in-store, go with freshly caught or frozen varieties from well-known, reputable companies. Avoid anything stored in the Western Bering Sea. If buying fresh, make sure to stay away from anything that smells very fishy.
- The best preparation methods for pollock are steaming or pan-frying. Avoid broiling/baking, as it’s very easy to dry out the fillets.
- Always thoroughly cook your fish to avoid any potential parasites or contamination issues.