What Is Fatty Fish?

Fatty fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are considered good fats. They contain around 18–21% lipid content. 

what is fatty fish
what is fatty fish

Fatty fish, often called oily, encompasses diverse species known for their higher fat than leaner fish varieties. These fish are characterized by their oil-rich flesh, primarily due to the presence of healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids. In this article we will delve into the complete guide on What Is Fatty Fish?

what is omega-3 fatty acids?


Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat found in certain foods and often praised for their health benefits. They’re considered “essential fats” because our bodies can’t produce them on their own, so we need to get them from our diet.

Here’s a breakdown of omega-3s:


There are three main types of omega-3 fatty acids:

  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA): Found mainly in plant oils like flaxseed, soybean, and canola.
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA): Found primarily in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and tuna.
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA): Also found in fatty fish, but also concentrated in the brain, eyes, and heart.


Omega-3s are linked to a wide range of potential health benefits, including:

  • Heart health: May help lower blood pressure, triglycerides, and bad cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Brain health: Important for brain development and function, and may help protect against cognitive decline and dementia.
  • Mental health: May help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Eye health: May help prevent age-related macular degeneration.
  • Anti-inflammatory effects: May help reduce inflammation throughout the body, benefiting various conditions like arthritis.


The best way to get omega-3s is through your diet:

  • Fatty fish: Aim for 2-3 servings per week.
  • Plant sources: Flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and hemp seeds are good sources of ALA, but the body converts it to EPA and DHA less efficiently.
  • Fortified foods: Some eggs, yogurt, and milk are fortified with DHA.
  • Supplements: Consult your doctor before taking omega-3 supplements, especially if you’re on any medications.

Types of Fatty Fish


One of the most prevalent fatty fish, salmon, is packed with omega-3s, making it a nutritional powerhouse. Its rich, flavorful taste and versatility in cooking methods make it a favorite among health-conscious individuals.


Mackerel, with its distinctive flavor, is another excellent source of omega-3s. This fish variety offers a robust taste profile and can be grilled, smoked, or baked, providing a delectable addition to various dishes.


Despite their small size, sardines are nutrient-dense, offering an abundance of omega-3s, calcium, and vitamin D. They’re often enjoyed fresh, canned, or grilled, making them a convenient and nutritious choice.


Trout, known for its delicate flavor and tender texture, is rich in omega-3s. Its versatility in cooking methods makes it an adaptable option for various recipes.

Nutritional Benefits

Fatty fish are powerhouses of essential nutrients, boasting a spectrum of health-boosting elements.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The omega-3 fatty acids found abundantly in fatty fish are crucial for heart health, reducing inflammation, and supporting brain function.

Protein Content

These fish varieties are excellent sources of high-quality protein and aid muscle repair and growth.

Vitamins and Minerals

Fatty fish are packed with vitamins like D and minerals such as selenium, making them an integral part of a balanced diet.

Health Benefits of Fatty Fish

Heart Health

The omega-3s in fatty foods significantly lower the risk of heart disease by reducing cholesterol levels and maintaining healthy blood pressure.

Brain Function

Consuming fatty fish supports cognitive function, potentially reducing the risk of cognitive decline and enhancing brain health.

The anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3s aid in alleviating joint pain and reducing inflammation in the body.

Incorporating Fatty Fishthe into the Diet

Cooking Techniques

Grilling, baking, or pan-searing are famous for preparing fatty fish and preserving their nutrients and flavors.

Recipes and Ideas

From salmon salads to mackerel tacos, myriad recipes are available to creatively incorporate these fish into your meals.

Sustainability and Environmental Impact

Understanding the sourcing and impact of consuming fatty fish is vital for supporting sustainable practices and maintaining marine ecosystems.

Risks and Considerations

While fatty fish offer numerous health benefits, mercury levels and sourcing considerations should be acknowledged, especially for pregnant women and young children.

How much fish should we eat?

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults eat at least two servings of fish per week, focusing on oily fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel.

Here is a more detailed breakdown of the recommended fish intake for different groups of people:

  • Adults: At least 8 ounces (227 grams) of seafood per week, focusing on oily fish.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women: Up to 12 ounces (340 grams) of seafood per week, focusing on lower-mercury fish like salmon, catfish, and pollock.
  • Children: 4-6 ounces (113-170 grams) of seafood per week, depending on their age. Children should avoid high-mercury fish like swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and tilefish.

Eating fish is a great way to get essential nutrients like protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and selenium. These nutrients are essential for heart, brain, and overall well-being.

Here are some tips for choosing and preparing healthy fish:

  • Choose a variety of fish from different sources. This will help to reduce your mercury exposure.
  • Look for mercury-rich fish, such as salmon, catfish, pollock, and tilapia.
  • Grill, bake or broil your fish instead of frying it. This will help reduce the fat and calories in your meal.
  • Enjoy your fish with various healthy sides, such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.

By following these guidelines, you can enjoy the many health benefits of eating fish while minimizing the risk of mercury exposure.


Fatty fish stand out not only for their delicious taste but also for their unparalleled nutritional value. Incorporating these fish into your diet can significantly improve overall health and well-being.

Frequenty Asked Questions and Answers

What are considered fatty fish?

Fatty fish are a type of fish that are richer in oil and fat than lean fish. They typically have an oil content of around 5-20% of their body weight, compared to bony fish, which have about 1-2%. This higher fat content gives them a richer flavor and texture and makes them a good source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

Here are some of the most common types of fatty fish:

  • Salmon: Salmon is a popular fatty fish available in wild and farmed varieties. It is a good omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and vitamin D source.
  • Tuna: Tuna is another popular fatty fish often canned or used in sushi. Albacore tuna has the highest, while skipjack tuna has lower levels.
  • Mackerel: Mackerel is a smaller, oily fish often smoked or grilled. It is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12.
  • Herring: Herring is a small, oily fish that is often pickled or smoked. It is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D.
  • Sardines: Sardines are small, oily fish often canned or packed in olive oil. They are a good omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and vitamin B12 source.

Is canned tuna a fatty fish?

No, canned tuna is not considered a fatty fish. It’s a lean fish with less fat than salmon, mackerel, or herring. While it contains healthy omega-3 fats, it lacks the high-fat content and oily texture of actual fatty fish.

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