Are Bass Fish Healthy to Eat?

Whether you eat sea or freshwater bass, one serving is low in calories and an excellent source of protein, selenium and essential omega-3 fatty acids. While both types contain the same nutrients, they have varying amounts of some, such as vitamins B-12 and B-6. Bass does have one downside: it contains mercury. You can still enjoy it, but pregnant women and children should limit the amount they eat.

Grilled sea bass with potatoes (Image: martinturzak/iStock/Getty Images)

Low Calories, High Protein

You can't go wrong if you choose bass for its protein. Sea and freshwater varieties contain 20 grams of protein in a 3-ounce serving, which is 40 percent of the daily value, according to NutritionValue.org. To be sure you get enough protein to meet your body's metabolic needs, the Institute of Medicine recommends that women get 46 grams daily, while men get 56 grams. You'll get all of this protein for only 105 calories in a 3-ounce serving of sea bass and 124 calories in the same portion of freshwater bass.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Even though bass is low in total fat, both varieties are excellent sources of two omega-3 fatty acids: Eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA, and docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA. These fatty acids help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering blood pressure and reducing levels of cholesterol, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Sea bass provides 0.8 grams of combined EPA and DHA, while freshwater bass has 0.65 grams in a 3-ounce serving. One serving supplies 40 to 75 percent of your daily intake, depending on the type you eat and your sex, because men need more than women, according to recommendations from the Institute of Medicine.

Nutrient Profile

The two types of bass provide 6 to 11 percent of your daily value for magnesium and potassium. They're both good sources of selenium, but sea bass provides 57 percent of the daily value, while freshwater bass has 20 percent, according to NutritionValue.org. Your body depends on selenium to produce antioxidants and to synthesize thyroid hormones. They also have different amounts of vitamin B-6 and B-12. Sea bass is a rich source of vitamin B-6, containing 20 percent of your daily value, which is three times more than you'll get from freshwater bass. Freshwater bass provides 33 percent of your daily value of vitamin B-12, compared to only 4 percent in sea bass.

Mercury Levels and Recommendations

Mercury emitted from industrial facilities lands in bodies of water and results in mercury-contaminated fish, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. Consuming mercury is a health concern for everyone, but it's especially critical for pregnant women and young children because mercury interferes with normal development of the nervous system. Striped and black bass, two freshwater varieties, contain a moderate amount of mercury, which means that vulnerable people can consume six servings or less per month. If you find Chilean sea bass in the store, be aware that it's high in mercury and should be limited to three servings or less per month.

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