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What Is White Fish? 6 Best Types, Plus Recipes!

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What is white fish? - Dr. Axe

With its tender texture and mild flavor, white fish is frequently featured in many nutritious recipes. In addition to being super versatile and easy to prepare, these types of fish are also brimming with nutrients like protein, vitamin B12 and selenium.

So is tuna white fish? And is salmon white fish? Keep reading to learn more about some of the healthiest types of white fish, plus some simple white fish recipes to help you start adding this nutritious ingredient to your diet.

What Is White Fish?

Rather than referring to a specific type of fish, the term “white fish” generally refers to any white-fleshed fish with a mild flavor.

So is tilapia a white fish? And is sole a white fish? Although these are two of the most familiar white fish names, there are tons of other different types available, including cod, halibut, haddock and flounder.

Each type brings a unique set of nutrients to the table and has minute variations in taste and texture. However, most types of white fish are relatively low in fat yet high in protein and micronutrients like selenium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium.

Other types of fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna and anchovies are classified as oily fish. Unlike white fish, these fish are higher in calories but also pack a hearty chunk of omega-3 fatty acids into each serving as well.

Best Types

1. Cod

Cod is often considered one of the best white fish and is commonly featured in recipes like fish and chips due to its dense, flaky texture. In addition to being relatively low in calories, cod is an excellent source of protein, selenium and vitamin B12.

Cod is also super versatile, and there are limitless options for how to prepare this tasty white fish fillet. It works especially well baked and paired with your choice of herbs and seasonings, like in this recipe for Garlic Butter Baked Cod.

2. Snapper

The term “snapper” refers to any fish within the Lutjanidae family, which is comprised of over 100 different species. Red snapper is one of the most popular varieties, which is known for its slightly sweet yet nutty flavor and impressive nutrient profile. In particular, red snapper is a great source of B vitamins like vitamin B12, vitamin B6 and pantothenic acid.

Because snapper fillets are generally very thin, they are commonly baked or roasted whole. Check out this Savory Baked White Fish recipe for a healthy dinner idea that you can whip up in a pinch.

3. Grouper

Groupers are a type of fish notable for their large mouths and strong, stout bodies. Like other types of white fish, grouper is low in fat and rich in selenium, phosphorus and potassium.

Groupers have a firm, flaky and moist texture that works well grilled, smoked, roasted or baked. Try adding grouper to this Fish Tacos recipe for a simple yet satisfying meal that’s sure to satisfy the entire family.

4. Halibut

Halibut is a type of Alaskan white fish with firm yet delicate flesh. This type of brownish black and white fish is highly nutritious and jam-packed with protein, niacin, magnesium and phosphorus, along with an array of many other important micronutrients.

It’s often grilled, baked or broiled and served as a delicious main course. However, because it’s very thin, it’s important to watch carefully and avoid overcooking as it can become dry very quickly. For an easy meal idea, try out this recipe for Pan-Seared Halibut, which pairs halibut with a buttery and delicious lemon caper sauce.

5. Haddock

Haddock is a type of saltwater fish that is closely related to cod. Besides being low in fat and calories, each serving of haddock is also brimming with protein, selenium, niacin, vitamin B12 and phosphorus.

You can swap haddock in for nearly any recipe that calls for cod, as the two are very similar in terms of taste and texture. However, haddock does have a slightly sweeter flavor, which makes it a great option for savory dishes like Lemon Garlic Haddock.

6. Flounder

Flounders are a group of flatfish that live on the ocean floor off the coast of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Like other fish, flounder is highly nutritious; in fact, each serving provides a good chunk of the selenium, phosphorus and vitamin B12 that you need for the entire day.

Try pairing flounder with a bit of sauce or a drizzle of grass-fed butter to help it retain moisture and keep it from drying out. It can easily be baked, poached, pan-seared or sautéed and used in your favorite recipes like this Flounder Piccata.

Benefits

White fish is low in calories but loaded with protein, which makes it a great addition to a well-rounded weight loss diet. Protein can help curb cravings and boost weight loss by decreasing levels of ghrelin, which is the hormone that stimulates feelings of hunger.

Protein is also important for supporting muscle growth, tissue repair and immune function. In fact, a deficiency in this key nutrient can lead to stunted growth, anemia, vascular dysfunction and water retention, along with a laundry list of other symptoms.

Most types of white fish are also high in selenium, which is a compound that acts as an antioxidant to fight the formation of harmful free radicals and protect against chronic disease.

Although the exact nutrient profiles can vary a bit between different types of fish, most varieties are also rich in vitamin B12, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium.

Thanks to its stellar nutrient content, some research suggests that eating more fish may be linked to a lower risk of heart disease, cognitive decline, rheumatoid arthritis and depression.

Risks

While there are definitely several benefits to adding white fish to your diet, not all types are created equal.

Farmed fish, in particular, tends to be lower in important nutrients, like heart-healthy fatty acids. Some studies have also found that farmed fish contains higher levels of toxins and contaminants, which may be associated with long-term health problems.

Opting for wild-caught fish whenever possible is a good way to maximize the health benefits of your seafood. Be sure to also steer clear of species that are commonly farm-raised, such as tilapia, and select healthier alternatives instead.

Keep in mind that some types of fish may also be high in mercury or other contaminants, which can start to slowly build up in the body over time. Sole fish, for instance, may be at a higher risk of contamination in certain areas, whereas king mackerel, tilefish, swordfish, shark and bigeye tuna are all very high in mercury and are considered fish you should never eat.

Organizations like the American Heart Association generally recommend to including fatty fish and white fish in your diet at least twice a week to ensure you’re meeting your needs for important nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids. However, children and pregnant women should stick to fish that is low in mercury and moderate their intake to avoid adverse effects on health.

Final Thoughts

  • The term “white fish” is used to refer to white-fleshed fish that have a mild flavor. Other types of fish like salmon, mackerel and tuna are classified as oily fish and generally have a higher content of fat and a richer flavor.
  • Some of the best examples of white fish include cod, snapper, flounder, haddock, halibut and grouper.
  • These types of fish are rich in protein as well as important micronutrients like selenium, vitamin B12, phosphorus and magnesium.
  • In addition to supporting weight loss, adding these healthy fish to your diet can also supply a hearty dose of antioxidants, which can help reduce inflammation and protect against chronic disease.
  • Be sure to select wild-caught fish over farmed fish whenever possible and steer clear of varieties that are high in mercury or other contaminants to avoid any negative effects on health.
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