My wife and I have been vegetarians for 3 years now but recently I started incorporating fish into my diet. I did that for two reasons. I work out regularly and wanted to make sure I was getting the proper amounts of protein for building lean muscle. And, for general health purposes, I wanted to add Omega-3 Fatty Acids as well. I didn’t think that I needed to be concerned at all with adding fish to my diet, but I just got the results of recent blood work. After consulting with my doctor, it made me think. Should Pescatarians be concerned about cholesterol?

I get my blood checked every 6 months as part of routine check-ups to make sure my remaining one kidney is functioning properly. I was diagnosed with kidney cancer and had one of them removed in late 2017. The results of my most recent blood work came back, and my LDL or bad cholesterol shot up to 111 mg/dl from 79 mg/dl in a previous test. The rest of my blood work was perfect including my HDL (good cholesterol). The only significant change that I made in my workouts, lifestyle, and diet in the last 6 months was that I had started eating fish.

Because I had made only that one change, and because I track everything that I eat, it was easy to pinpoint the probable cause of my increased cholesterol levels. I use the MyFitnessPal app from Under Armour. I mainly use the app to track calories as I’m trying to lose weight but yet eat enough calories to have enough fuel to work out.

It was simple to go back over time and check my daily intake of cholesterol. According to my age, weight, and weight loss goals I am supposed to keep my cholesterol intake at 300 mg or less daily. On the days that my cholesterol intake was higher than 300 mg I made note of the food that I had eaten that day with a high cholesterol content.

The culprits were shrimp, shark, and swordfish. And to a lesser extent tuna. But wait! What? Fish is high in cholesterol? I had no idea. Other than the warnings of mercury content I didn’t think there could be anything wrong with eating fish of any kind. So, I dug deeper and discovered that some fish and shellfish are indeed high in cholesterol. However, some fish are less so. I made a list of 20 types of fish and shellfish and their respective cholesterol levels. My source for this list, and to get a more comprehensive list, visit EatThisMuch.com.

What Pescatarians and Fish Eaters
Need to Consider

The Benefits of Eating Fish

First off, there are many benefits to eating fish of course. One of which is that eating fish also raises the level of good cholesterol (HDL) and provides those Omega-3 fatty acids that are body can’t produce on its own. Overall fish is good to have in your diet.

Type of Seafood Cholesterol (mg per ounce)
Shark 16.72
Salmon (Atlantic) 17.84
Salmon (Sockeye) 12.46
Salmon (Chinook) 24.1
Pollock 24.38
Herring 21.82
Tuna (Yellowfin) 13.3
Tuna (canned) 8.8
Clams 18.74
Bass 29.22
Sea Bass 11.62
Swordfish 18.7
Mackerel 21.3
Shrimp 71.37
Cod 16.16
Lobster 36
Grouper 10.35
Halibut 17.01
Oysters 28.35
Blue Crab 22.11
Choose the Types of Fish You Eat Based on the Level of Cholesterol

Some types of fish and shellfish do have significantly higher amounts of cholesterol and we should pay attention to the types of fish that we eat. And, if you have higher levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) you should also watch how much fish you eat.

Prepare Your Fish in a Healthy Way

The way in which we prepare our seafood can also contribute to a higher cholesterol level. Frying in batter or cooking in certain types of oils can significantly raise the cholesterol intake from the meal. We recommend that you use extra virgin olive oil only for many reasons.

We Do Need Cholesterol in Our Diet

Eatings food with cholesterol is necessary because we do need good cholesterol in our diet. We just need to know how much cholesterol we should be eating daily. The MyFitnessPal phone app is a good resource for that.

Know Your Recommended Daily Cholesterol Intake

The good news is that I don’t have to stop eating fish. In fact, last night I ate a small portion of Mahi (18.25 mg/oz) and some baby scallops (6 mg each). I simply need to keep my daily cholesterol intake under 300 mg.

Should Pescatarians Be Concerned About Cholesterol?

Pescatarians, keep eating fish! Hopefully, this helped you understand more about the types of fish you should eat and the fact that watching your cholesterol levels is important if you are indeed a fish eater.

Share with your friends