Is Raw Fish Good for You? Exploring Health Benefits and Risks

Raw fish has become increasingly popular, especially with the rise of sushi and sashimi dishes. You might be familiar with the beautifully plated dishes at restaurants or your favorite takeout spot, but you might also wonder if consuming raw fish is actually good for you.

When considering the health benefits of raw fish, it’s important to take into account the nutritional content and the potential risks. Raw fish is a good source of high-quality protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and other essential nutrients. The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish are known to support heart health and improve cognitive function.

However, there are potential risks associated with consuming raw fish, such as bacterial or parasitic infections. Proper food handling and preparation methods can help mitigate these risks. Additionally, certain individuals, such as pregnant women and individuals with compromised immune systems, should avoid consuming raw fish due to an increased risk of infections.

What Is Raw Fish?

Is Raw Fish Good for You

Raw fish, also known as sashimi or crudo in various culinary traditions, has been enjoyed by cultures around the world for centuries. From the delicate flavors of sushi to the vibrant freshness of ceviche, raw fish offers a unique gastronomic experience. In this article, we will explore the types of raw fish commonly consumed and the various ways it can be prepared.

Raw fish is consumed around the world, and the choice of fish and preparation methods vary based on regional preferences. It’s important to note that not all fish are suitable for raw consumption. High-quality and fresh fish from trusted sources is essential to ensure safety and optimal taste.

The popularity of raw fish dishes can be attributed to the unique flavors and textures that are preserved when fish is consumed raw. The delicate taste and melt-in-your-mouth texture of raw fish create a sensory experience that is different from cooked fish.

Types of Raw Fish

  • Tuna: Tuna is one of the most popular choices for raw fish dishes. Its firm texture and rich flavor make it ideal for sushi, sashimi, and tartare.
  • Salmon: Known for its delicate and buttery taste, salmon is another prized fish for raw preparations. It is often served as sashimi or smoked salmon, and its vibrant orange color adds visual appeal to any dish.
  • Snapper: Snapper, with its mild flavor and firm flesh, is a versatile fish for raw consumption. It is commonly used in sushi and ceviche, where its subtle taste complements the accompanying flavors.
  • Yellowtail: Yellowtail, also known as hamachi, has a buttery texture and a slightly sweet flavor. It is a staple in sushi bars and is often enjoyed as sashimi or in rolls.
  • Flounder: Flounder is a delicate white fish with a mild taste. It is often used in crudo preparations, where its tender flesh is thinly sliced and garnished with citrus or herbs.

Preparations of Raw Fish:

  • Sashimi: Sashimi refers to thinly sliced raw fish, usually served without any additional ingredients. It showcases the natural flavors and textures of the fish and is often enjoyed with soy sauce and wasabi.
  • Sushi: Sushi is a Japanese dish that combines raw fish with vinegared rice and various other ingredients. There are different types of sushi, including nigiri (fish on rice), maki (rolled sushi), and temaki (hand-rolled sushi).
  • Ceviche: Ceviche is a popular Latin American dish where raw fish is marinated in citrus juices, such as lime or lemon, which “cooks” the fish through the process of denaturation. It is often combined with onions, peppers, and cilantro for a refreshing and tangy flavor.
  • Tartare: Fish tartare involves finely chopped or minced raw fish mixed with ingredients like onions, capers, herbs, and seasonings. It is commonly served as an appetizer and can be enjoyed with crusty bread or crackers.

Nutrition Information

Raw fish is a popular food choice for many people, and it can provide a variety of health benefits due to its rich nutrient profile. When you consume raw fish, you are getting a good source of high-quality protein, heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and a range of essential vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin D, B12, niacin, iron, selenium, and iodine.

One of the key nutrients found in raw fish is omega-3 fatty acids, which contribute to your heart health, brain function, and overall well-being. These healthy fats can be found in higher concentrations in oily fish, like salmon or mackerel. Additionally, raw fish is a great source of lean protein, helping to build and maintain your muscles and tissues.

Vitamin D is another essential nutrient you can gain from consuming raw fish, particularly from fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel. You might know that vitamin D promotes healthy bones, but it also plays a role in immune function, keeping your body’s defenses strong. Another vital vitamin found in raw fish is vitamin B12; this nutrient supports nerve function and red blood cell production.

Minerals in raw fish, such as iron, phosphorus, and iodine, have different roles in your body’s function. Iron is important for red blood cell production and oxygen transportation. Phosphorus is a crucial component for your bone health. Iodine is essential for normal thyroid function, which regulates your metabolism and energy production.

Despite its numerous health benefits, it is important to keep in mind that raw fish can be a source of sodium, which may be a concern if you are watching your salt intake.

It’s also worth noting that consuming raw fish may also pose some risks, such as potential exposure to parasites. To minimize the risk, make sure the raw fish you eat comes from a reputable source and is properly prepared.

Health Benefits of Raw Fish

Eating raw fish can provide numerous health benefits for you. One of the primary advantages is the abundance of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for your heart health. These fatty acids can help reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering inflammation and improving blood pressure.

Aside from heart health, omega-3 fatty acids also play a crucial role in brain function. They can help protect your brain against cognitive decline and even aid in alleviating symptoms of depression. A well-functioning brain is crucial for maintaining your overall cognitive abilities and emotional well-being.

Raw fish, especially when sourced from high-quality and sustainably-caught seafood, can be rich in several essential vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin D, vitamin B12, and iodine. These nutrients contribute to a healthy immune system and help you maintain strong bones and teeth.

It is essential to understand that consuming raw fish also carries certain risks, such as potential bacterial or parasitic infections. However, by carefully choosing fresh and properly handled seafood, you can minimize these risks while enjoying the many health benefits raw fish has to offer.

To get the most out of your raw fish intake, make sure to combine it with a balanced diet containing fiber-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. This combination can help you maintain healthy blood pressure levels and contribute to reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Pros and Cons of Eating Raw Fish

When considering the consumption of raw fish, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons to make an informed decision. Understanding both the potential health benefits and risks will help you determine if raw fish is a suitable choice for your diet.


Raw fish, like sashimi and sushi, can be a nutritious part of your diet. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, it promotes heart health and brain function. Additionally, opting for low-mercury fish, like salmon, reduces your exposure to harmful contaminants commonly found in seafood. Furthermore, farmed fish may be a more sustainable option with lower mercury levels.


Despite the nutritional benefits, consuming raw fish can expose you to certain health risks. Raw fish may harbor parasites, such as anisakiasis, which can lead to gastroenteritis, stomach pain, and other complications if ingested. Another concern is the presence of harmful bacteria like salmonella, listeria, and vibrio.

These pathogens can cause food poisoning and pose a potential risk to those with weakened immune systems, such as children and pregnant individuals.

Moreover, certain fish species are high in mercury, which can accumulate in the human body and pose a danger to the nervous system. It’s particularly crucial for pregnant individuals and young children to avoid high-mercury fish due to potential developmental harm.

Lastly, some people may prefer a plant-based or vegan diet, avoiding animal products altogether. In such cases, consuming raw fish is not an option, and alternative sources of omega-3 fatty acids should be sought.

Please remember that it’s always essential to practice good food safety and hygiene when handling raw fish. Ensure that the internal temperature of the fish remains below 40°F (4°C) during storage and preparation, and purchase your fish from a reputable source to minimize risks.

Related Studies

There have been several studies conducted on the effects of eating raw fish. It is crucial to be aware of both the benefits and risks associated with consuming raw fish in your diet.

A study on fishborne zoonotic trematode infections conducted in northern Vietnam found a higher prevalence of these infections among people who consumed raw fish. This highlights the potential health risks associated with eating raw fish, particularly in areas where these parasitic infections are more common.

However, it is also worth noting that some people believe that consuming raw fish has health benefits. One report even mentioned participants eating raw fish gallbladder, believing it to be beneficial for rheumatism. While it is essential to consider these traditional beliefs, it is crucial to weigh them against the potential risks to your health.

Moving beyond traditional beliefs, consuming fresh fish has been shown to have various health benefits. A study conducted in Croatia found that participants perceived fresh fish as a healthy food product. Although this study does not focus explicitly on raw fish, it implies the importance of including fish in general in your diet.

One study found that freezing raw fish does not ruin its quality for sushi consumption, which is encouraging for those wanting to enjoy sushi at home or in restaurants. Ensuring that the raw fish is frozen at the proper temperature and for an adequate duration can help eliminate parasites, making it safer for consumption.

It is crucial to remember that there are dangers associated with consuming raw fish. A case reported in the New England Journal of Medicine highlights how eating raw fish, such as sushi, can lead to parasitic infections. It is essential that you are aware of these risks when choosing to include raw fish in your diet.

What Do Health Experts Say About?

Eating raw fish is a popular dietary choice, especially in dishes like sushi and sashimi. But, what do health experts like registered dietitians say about consuming raw fish? Let’s explore their professional opinions:

Firstly, raw fish can be a healthy addition to your diet as it is an excellent source of high-quality protein, healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin D and selenium. Incorporating raw fish into your diet can promote heart health, improve brain function, and support a strong immune system.

In contrast, when consuming raw fish, there’s a certain risk of foodborne illnesses, bacteria, and parasites. Health experts caution that raw fish can contain parasites like Anisakis or harmful bacteria like Salmonella, which can lead to severe gastrointestinal symptoms.

To reduce this risk, always choose high-quality fish from reliable sources and store it at a safe temperature to prevent bacterial growth.

It is worth noting that some individuals may be more susceptible to foodborne illnesses and should avoid raw fish altogether. Health professionals advise pregnant women, young children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems to refrain from consuming raw fish due to the increased risks associated with potential bacterial and parasitic infections.

Moreover, health experts recommend consuming a variety of fish to enjoy the benefits without overloading on any single type, particularly species that may contain high levels of mercury, such as swordfish, king mackerel, and shark. By having a well-balanced diet that includes a mix of fish, both raw and cooked, you can minimize these risks and enjoy the health benefits that fish has to offer.

Who Should Avoid It

While raw fish can have numerous health benefits, it’s essential for certain individuals to be cautious or avoid consuming it. Consuming raw fish may pose a risk for pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, people undergoing cancer treatment, and those with compromised immune systems.

The nervous systems of these sensitive populations may also be at higher risk of damage from toxins or infections.

If you’re pregnant, it’s recommended that you avoid raw fish due to the potential for exposure to harmful parasites and bacteria, like listeria. These can lead to serious complications for both you and your unborn baby. In addition, pregnant women should be cautious about the levels of mercury in fish, which can affect the developing nervous system of the fetus.

Breastfeeding mothers should also exercise caution, as contaminants in raw fish can be passed to the infant through breast milk. Make sure to consult with your healthcare provider for advice about consuming raw fish while breastfeeding.

Cancer patients and individuals with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS or organ transplant recipients, are at a higher risk for infection from consuming raw fish. These populations should avoid raw fish to prevent complications caused by parasites, bacteria, or viruses that may be present in the fish.

Lastly, regardless of your current health status, it’s crucial to choose reputable sources when buying raw fish for consumption. High-quality and properly prepared fish minimize the risk of exposure to parasites and bacteria.

If you’re unsure about the safety of consuming raw fish, it’s best to consult with your healthcare provider for personalized advice, considering your unique health circumstances and needs.

Natural Alternatives

While raw fish can be a nutritious addition to your diet, there are other options to consider if you want to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Incorporating a variety of vegetables into your meals can provide essential vitamins and minerals, ensuring you receive a well-rounded array of nutrients.

When it comes to fish consumption, it’s crucial to be mindful of mercury levels present in certain species. High-mercury fish, such as king mackerel and blue marlin, can pose potential health risks if consumed in large quantities.

As a safer alternative, try opting for low-mercury fish, which include options like catfish and other varieties that pose lower health risks. A diverse diet that encompasses both plant-based foods and low-mercury fish can promote overall wellbeing.

Remember that moderation is key; striking a balance between raw fish, vegetables, and low-mercury alternatives is an effective way to enjoy the nutritional benefits each food group offers. By being conscious of your choices and selecting a range of nourishing options, you can enjoy a fulfilling, nutrient-rich eating experience without compromising your health.


Eating raw fish can provide numerous health benefits, as it is often a rich source of essential nutrients. High-quality raw fish, like sushi-grade fish, is an excellent source of lean protein, healthy fats, and various vitamins and minerals. Consuming raw fish may help improve heart health, boost brain function, and support a healthy weight.

However, to enjoy the benefits of raw fish without the associated risks, it is crucial to select the freshest fish possible and handle it properly.

When incorporating raw fish into your diet, it is important to maintain a balanced and varied meal plan. While raw fish can be nutritious, it’s essential to consume a range of other nutrient-rich foods as well.

Balancing the intake of raw fish with nutrient dense foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other lean protein sources can ensure that you obtain all the necessary nutrients your body requires to sustain good health.


What are the health benefits of eating raw fish?

Eating raw fish can provide many health benefits as it is often rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to help lower the risk of heart disease, improve brain health, and support a strong immune system.

Raw fish also typically contains high amounts of protein, essential vitamins, and minerals. However, it’s essential to ensure that any raw fish you consume is safe and properly prepared to avoid potential health risks like bacterial infections or parasites.

How often should you consume raw fish?

There is no set guideline for how often you should consume raw fish, as it depends on your personal dietary preferences and health conditions. However, it’s recommended to eat fish, including raw varieties like sushi or sashimi, one to two times per week as part of a balanced diet.

Always confirm that the fish you consume is from a reliable source and adequately prepared to avoid potential health risks.

What makes certain fish safe for raw consumption?

Certain fish are safe for raw consumption because they are less susceptible to parasites and bacterial contamination. The fish should also come from clean waters, be properly handled and stored, and undergo inspection to ensure that it doesn’t contain any parasites. The safest fish for raw consumption are typically tuna, salmon, and farmed fish raised specifically for sushi.

How can you safely prepare raw fish at home?

To safely prepare raw fish at home, follow these steps:

  1. Obtain fresh, high-quality fish from a reputable source that meets food safety guidelines.
  2. Ensure the fish has been stored at the proper temperature and hasn’t been sitting out for too long.
  3. Clean your hands, work surfaces, and cooking utensils before handling the fish.
  4. Remove skin and bones from the fish, taking care not to puncture the flesh.
  5. Slice the fish into thin pieces, avoiding cross-contamination with any other foods or surfaces.

What types of fish are unsafe to eat raw?

Some types of fish are unsafe to eat raw due to factors like high bacteria levels, presence of parasites, or toxins. Examples of fish that should not be consumed raw include freshwater fish such as catfish, tilapia, and bass, and larger predatory fish like shark, king mackerel, and tilefish. Also, avoid consuming raw shellfish, as they can harbor harmful bacteria and viruses.

Why is raw fish safe to eat but not raw meat?

The primary reason that raw fish is generally considered safer to eat than raw meat is due to the lower risk of bacterial contamination. Fish live in a more controlled, cleaner, and colder environment than land animals, which lessens the likelihood of harmful bacteria growth.

However, it’s essential to note that consuming any raw animal product comes with some level of risk, so always ensure that the raw fish you eat is properly sourced, handled, and stored to minimize potential health issues.


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  • Marixie Manarang, MT, undergrad MD

    Marixie Manarang is licensed Medical Laboratory Scientist and an undergraduate of Doctor of Medicine (MD). For one year, she completed her internship training in a government hospital, primarily catering to retired veterans and their dependents. Through her preceptorships in medical school, she gained exposure to patients from various medical departments. Marixie’s passion for writing stems from her excellent medical background, being a mother, and a strong desire to assist the elderly and others in need. Education: Our Lady of Fatima University Doctor of Medicine (MD), Doctor of Medicine (2012-2015), Angeles University Foundation Doctor of Medicine (MD), Doctor of Medicine (2009-2011), Angeles University Foundation Bachelors, Medical Technology (2004-2009)






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