Chances are, you have never heard of pollock fish. The name alone might give you visions of bottom feeding swimmers you might catch and throw back. It is likely. However, you have eaten pollock fish most of your life and probably enjoyed it.

The pollock fish population is large and is both farm-raised and caught. It has a mild flavor, making it the perfect breed for fish sticks and imitation crabmeat. The vast majority of fast-food fish sandwiches are made from pollock fish, as well.

It is a nutrient-rich fish with a myriad of health benefits, including bolstering heart health, improving brain function and reducing inflammation. Remember, however, that the health benefits found in Pollock fish can be diminished or eliminated when it is processed or prepackaged. When possible, select fresh pollock prepared as part of a healthy recipe.

What Is Pollock Fish?

Wild pollock are plentiful in the cold ocean waters of the northern hemisphere. The majority of pollock that makes it to the grocery aisle or fast-food wrapper is caught in the wild. It is related to cod and haddock and is often chosen as a cost-effective alternative to those two species.

Pollock is a white fish, like cod, and carries a similar flavor. It is mild, not overly “fishy,” as some would use to describe seafood. It is considered a stronger flavor than cod, but not by much. You may even have to taste the fish side by side to truly detect any difference.

There are two types of pollock fish: Atlantic pollock also called saithe, coalfish, Boston bluefish, coley or green cod in New England, and Alaska or walleye pollock. Norwegian pollock is another name for Alaska pollock, as well.

Is Pollock Nutritious?

There are some fish species that experts suggest you avoid, such as tilapia, because of its high-fat content, and Chilean sea bass, because of reported mercury levels in the species. There are some reasons to avoid other fish species, including whether it is the species’ environmental instability or whether it is caught in the wild or raised on a farm.

Thankfully, pollock fish is not among those groups. In fact, eating pollock fish as part of a well-balanced diet is both safe and nutritious.

Both fish and shellfish bodies contain mercury, usually in the form of methylmercury, a highly toxic organic compound. Because humans bioaccumulate mercury, and other similar compounds, the mercury in fish transfers over to humans. This added accumulation can result in mercury poisoning if the consumer is not careful or does not follow the recommended consumption guidelines.

Regarding mercury levels, Pollock is considered very safe. Experts recommend eating no more than four servings a month of Pollock or similarly rated fish.

Pollock are caught in the wild and are a highly sustainable fish. They are rarely if ever, farmed. Farmed fish may carry certain risks if consumed, including antibiotics and pesticides used while raising the fish.

Are There Benefits to Eating Pollock Fish?

Those that add pollock into their diet are rewarded with many health benefits. For those watching their waistline, Pollock delivers a low-calorie count per 100 grams of meat. Depending on which species of pollock you choose, you may consume only 80 to 90 calories altogether per 100 grams. On top of that, you collect nearly 20 grams of energy-charging protein.

It’s also jam-packed with nutrients, including vitamins B12 and B6, niacin, selenium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, calcium and more. This low-cholesterol dinner alternative provides more than 170 percent of the daily recommended amount of omega-3 fatty acids.

That’s not all. It also delivers an ocean-full of health advantages. Here are a few.

Prevents Heart Disease

Heart disease causes one in every four deaths in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is the leading cause of death for both men and women, and nearly 750,000 people have a heart attack each year. Therefore, it is advantageous for people to do what they can to protect themselves against heart disease.

A diet rich in foods like pollock can help. Pollock has a low LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) profile and minimal triglycerides. It also contains heart-healthy B12 and B6 vitamins. Those vitamins work to reduce homocysteine, an amino acid often blamed for high cholesterol levels.

Some experts believe selenium levels correlate with heart disease. Low levels may increase a person’s risk of developing cardiovascular problems while higher levels may prevent the disease in the first place.

Finally, the omega-3 fatty acids in pollock also contribute to a healthier heart. The eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids in the fish are what give pollock its biggest heart boost.

Improves Vision

Two nutrients in pollock fish help combat certain vision problems, including macular degeneration and cataracts: omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B6. One study from the National Eye Institute found that study participants who consumed more omega-3 fatty acids than their study counterparts were 30 percent less likely to develop macular degeneration over a 12-year period.

Omega-3s may also help with preventing dry eye syndrome and encourage the proper drainage of intraocular fluid. Proper drainage of this fluid decreases the risk of both high eye pressure and glaucoma.

More than that, omega-3 fatty acids contribute to the development of an infant’s vision. Healthy preterm infants who received DHA, found in omega-3s, showed significantly better visual acuity at 2 and four months old than those infants who did not receive omega-3s, according to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health.

It’s easy to include omega-3s in an infant’s diet. Mothers who consume omega-3s pass those on in their breast milk, and many supplements today include an infusion of omega-3s. Simply check the label to be sure.

Regulates Blood Sugar

Omega-3s not only help with both heart and vision health, but they also contribute to the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels. This is particularly important for people with diabetes. Omega-3s do this by stimulating adiponectin levels, according to a Harvard study. Adiponectin increases insulin sensitivity, which researchers believe could help prevent or control Type 2 diabetes.

Pollock also includes niacin, which many believe helps maintain blood sugar levels. Other studies, however, suggest that niacin may do just the opposite. Consult with a doctor or nutritionist if you have questions about niacin and blood sugar levels.

Reduces Inflammation in the Body

Omega-3s, vitamin B6, and niacin are pollock’s true powerhouse nutrients. They also aid in the fight against inflammation.

The seriousness of chronic inflammation on the body is a growing concern in the medical field. Inflammation can damage or destroy healthy cells and ravage blood vessels and tissue. Inflammation may be the cause of a host of illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, some cancers, autoimmune diseases, inflammatory bowel diseases, allergies, migraines and more, according to medical experts.

For some, certain foods can trigger inflammation and exacerbate the problem. Pollock, because of its power nutrients, may help reduce inflammation overall. Other nutrients, such as magnesium, potassium, and riboflavin, also help fight inflammation. Riboflavin, in particular, can help mitigate the effects of migraines.

Supports Brain Function

There is a reason fish is called “brain food.” Again, it all comes down to omega-3s, which are plentiful in pollock fish.

Human brains are 60 percent fat, and the body does not generate that fat. It must be acquired via diet. The best fats for the brain are the fatty acids in omega-3: eicosapentaenoic acid, docosahexaenoic acid, and alpha-linoleic acid. While much of the body benefits from omega-3s, the brain needs them more than any other system.

Other nutrients in pollock fish help grow the brain, including phosphorus, which helps regulate neurological responses and may fight dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and niacin, which may protect against depression and insomnia.

Helps Fight Cancer

As stated before, omega-3s help reduces inflammation in the body. Because researchers have linked some cancers to chronic inflammation, such as colorectal, liver, lung and prostate cancer, it is believed omega-3s can reduce the risk of contracting one of these diseases.

Omega-3s aren’t the only cancer fighters in pollock fish, though. Selenium is thought to slow the spread of cancer and aid in cell repair. Riboflavin, too, is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties, helping protect against certain cancers.

Promotes Healthy Skin and Hair

A quick search online reveals a hearty list of beauty foods or foods that support both the skin and hair. Add pollock to that list and give its nutrient-rich makeup the credit.

As you might expect, omega-3s play a role in aiding skin and hair health. Its fatty acids protect against eczema and psoriasis, both inflammatory diseases, which can cause dandruff and hair loss. They also help make the skin more elastic, which wards off wrinkles.

Vitamin B12 aids cell production and niacin promotes collagen development. Collagen boosts skin cell health.

How To Find the Best Pollock Fish

Because Pollock is so plentiful and widely used in the fast-food and restaurant industries, it is not too difficult to find tasty pollock to eat. Finding pollock served healthily is a bit more of a challenge.

One option is to prepare pollock on your own. Most grocery stores carry pollock in the form of fish fillets. Grilled or baked, the whitefish has a light, mild flavor. Pollock is also the base for other seafood concoctions, including surimi, a fish paste often used in the creation of imitation crabmeat.

To select the best pollock fillets, visit the fish counter and check to see if the fillets were caught no more than 48 to 72 hours prior. Remember, the nose knows. If there is a strong, fishy smell to the fillet, it’s best to avoid that selection.

Another Pollock buying tip: Avoid pollock from the Western Bering Sea, which experts consider unsustainable because of the way Pollock is fished there.

Is There Any Reason To Avoid Pollock Fish?

While there are some restaurant chefs who have sworn off Pollock because they believe the fish’s mild flavor is so mild as to be flavorless, there are not many reasons to avoid the fish. While perfectly fine some of the time, avoiding processed pollock by way of fish sticks and similar snacks is a good way to retain the healthy attributes of the fish.

There is also the case of some fishing strategies used in the Western Bering Sea, as mentioned above, that many believe have an impact on the fish population and environment there. It is easy to avoid fish from this region as long as you ask.

All in all, Pollock makes a fine addition to your overall diet. The health benefits provided by the nutrient-rich fish make it a wise choice when deciding what’s for dinner. Follow the tips above to purchase the right type of Pollock and enjoy this tasty dinner alternative.

Featured image credit: CC0 Creative Commons, BlackRiv via