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Healthy Foods: A Cook's Guide to Lean Fishes

Enjoy this healthy food often!

It seems that people are becoming more and more health conscious, especially when it comes to adding healthy foods to their diet. As a result, fish has become an extremely popular dish, and many families try to consume at least a serving or two every week. Fish is high in protein, selenium, and vitamin B12, and many species also have anti-inflammatory properties. Besides the health benefits, fish is versatile, tasty, and some species are very inexpensive. Fish can be an extremely healthy food.

Why fish is a healthy food

Fish generally fall into one of two categories – fatty fish and lean fish - and both types are healthy foods. As the name implies, fatty fish are higher in fats, but the fats are the healthy omega-3 fats. Fatty fish species include Atlantic salmon, tuna, rainbow trout, mackerel, and sardines.

Unfortunately, many don’t like the taste of fatty or oily fish. These fish tend to have a much stronger “fishy” taste than lean fish have. Even though lean fishes lack the high levels of omega-3’s, they can still be part of a healthy diet – they supply high protein that’s much lower in saturated fats than other flesh like beef and pork.

Most lean fish can be cooked whole, filleted, or steaked. Cook by broiling, sautéing, frying, poaching, blackening, grilling, baking, or smoking.

Popular Species of Lean Fishes




Grouper is a family of fish with sweet, mild flesh with large flakes. The thick fillets are firm and hold moisture better than most lean fish, so it’s an excellent choice for grilling. In some upscale fish markets, groupers are sold live. Grouper in the wild can grow to enormous sizes.

My son-in-law, Cory, with a nice flounder.

My son-in-law, Cory, with a nice flounder.


Flounder is a saltwater fish, a flatfish that has a delicate white flesh that’s extremely mild in taste. The fillets are usually thin and dry out easily, so it’s best to fry them or cook them with some type of liquid. Fresh flounder are far superior to frozen and is readily available in warmer months..



Tilapia is mild, flaky, and tender. Strong seasonings will mask the delicate flavor. Tilapia are farmed and caught in the wild. This freshwater fish has a mostly vegetarian diet, so you won’t have to worry about mercury levels when consuming tilapia.


fried cod

fried cod


Cod, a saltwater fish, has a medium texture, mild flavor, and large white flakes. Smaller cod, called scrod, have a finer texture. Both cod and scrod have a moderate moisture content. This is the fish, along with haddock, that’s typically used for “fish and chips.”

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halibut fishing

halibut fishing


Halibut is a saltwater fish that can grow to over 500 pounds, but you won’t find one that size in your local fish mark