Catfish Nutrition Facts, Health Benefits, Recipes, And More

Written by Varsha Patnaik , MSc (Biotechnology), Certified Diet & Nutrition Coach

Catfish (Claria gariepinus) is a freshwater fish, widely available all over the world. It is unique in its physical appearance as it has noticeable whiskers and a scaleless body. While it is majorly available as farm-raised fish, some people might opt for wildly caught varieties as well. In this article, you can know further about catfish nutrition, its health benefits, and side effects along with healthy ways to include it in your diet.

Catfish Nutrition Facts

According to the USDA, a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of fresh catfish provides the following nutrients (1):

Energy

439

Protein

18.5 g

Total lipid (fat)

2.85 g

Carbohydrate

0 g

Fiber, total dietary

0 g

Calcium

11 mg

Iron

0.35 mg

Magnesium

28 mg

Phosphorus

304 mg

Potassium

419 mg

Sodium

50 mg

Selenium

14.3 µg

Fatty acids, total monounsaturated

1.1 g

Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated

0.636 g

Besides being low in sodium and calories, catfish is a good source of healthy fats, protein, important vitamins, and minerals.

Going ahead, let’s take a look at the number of health benefits associated with catfish.

Health Benefits Of Catfish

  •  Contains Health-boosting Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are known for their potential role in maintaining cardiovascular health and helping proper brain functioning. Research has suggested regular intake of omega-3 helps improve signs of depression as well (2). A study on 23 individuals reported a 7% decrease in all-cause mortality with a regular consumption increase of 0.2g of omega-3 fatty acids (3). Catfish have white flesh and are relatively lean with a small amount of fat content. Even then, one cooked fillet of catfish can provide you with 600 mg of omega-3 fatty acids (1). While other oily fish varieties might contain higher amounts of omega-3, this still is a reasonable amount to include in your diet. The omega-3 in catfish is in the most bioavailable forms of EPA and DHA, and that means these get easily absorbed by our system.

  •  Has Minimum Mercury Contamination

Mercury contamination of fish and seafood has recently been of a lot of concern (4). Mercury is known to build up easily in the body and can cause neurotoxicity and developmental issues in children (5). While large fishes like swordfish, sharks, and tuna are commonly known to have more concentrations of mercury, the catfish fares significantly well in this regard. As per an FDA research between the years 1990-2012, catfish only contains 0.024 PPM (mean average mercury content) (6). Catfish is actually even better than the popular “low-mercury” options in fish like mackerel and herring.

  •  Dense In Muscle-building Protein

Protein is important for building and maintaining lean muscle mass. It is also a “building block” responsible for the production of enzymes and hormones that affect every function of our body (7). Catfish is extremely protein-dense. 100 grams of catfish can offer you 18.5 grams of protein for only 105 calories (1).

  •  Rich In Vital B Vitamins

Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin, and it plays a crucial role in red blood cell formation, brain health, and DNA synthesis (8). Certain population groups, like pregnant women, infants, and the elderly, are more prone to a B12 deficiency (9). One fillet serving of catfish can provide you with 69% of the daily recommended intake of vitamin B12. Supplementing your diet with catfish can potentially help balance out any deficiencies.

Now that we have seen the various catfish benefits, let’s see if these beneficial nutrients remain the same for both the farmed-raised and the wild catfish.

Wild-caught Vs Farm-raised Catfish

Catfish is available all over the world and is commonly found as farm-raised catfish or wild-caught ones. While both these forms of catfish offer us the above health benefits, they have some nutritional differences.

Catfish found in the wild are bottom feeders which means that they survive on algae, aquatic plants, fish eggs, and other fish found at the bottom of their water habitat. Farm-raised catfish on the other hand are fortified with additional feed that’s high in fatty acids, protein, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and probiotics (10), (11).

These dietary differences can lead to significant differences in the nutrition value of a farm-raised catfish vs a wildly caught one.

A study comparing the nutrient profiles of wild and farm-raised African catfish found that the wild variety had more protein, fiber, fat, and overall calories than the farm-raised ones (12). Another study on the Indian butter catfish reported that farm-raised fish had higher fat and iron content while the wild fish had higher levels of most other minerals (13).

Having seen the differences between the farmed and wild varieties of catfish, let’s further see how the catfish differs from another commonly consumed fish, the tilapia.

Tilapia Vs Catfish – Basic Differences

Tilapia Vs Catfish - Basic Differences

iStock

Catfish and tilapia are very common fish found and farmed worldwide. You can distinguish tilapia vs catfish from the pointers in the table:

Catfish

Tilapia

Has a strong fishy flavor

Is milder in taste

Is richer in omega-3 fatty acids

Has a little amount of omega-3 fatty acids

Catfish need to be supplemented with Vitamin E

Tilapia has considerably more Vitamin E

Scaleless, cylindrically shaped body with a flattened underbelly, and characteristic whisker-like barbels.

Laterally compressed, oval body with a long dorsal fin and proportional features,

without any distinctly unusual physical features.

Catfish feed on anything in the water like insects, eggs, larvae, plants, smaller fish, including Tilapia

Tilapia feeds on algae and aquatic plants

Now that we know the basic differences of tilapia vs catfish, let’s further understand if there are any side effects of including catfish in your diet.

Possible Side Effects And Allergies Of Catfish

  •  Contaminants In Catfish

Fish and seafood can easily absorb toxins and harmful trace metals from their habitat waters. Upon eating, these contaminants can move into your system resulting in potential toxicities.

Mercury is one such risky heavy metal that is found in most fish (14). It increases the potential risks of neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Autism (15), (16). Catfish, with 0.024 ppm (mercury concentration mean) has the lowest mercury concentration amongst most fish making it preferably safer to consume in comparison (6). However, one should be careful of its source, farming methods and avoid excess intake to avoid the possible intoxication from mercury.

  •  Catfish Allergy

In 2008, catfish production exceeded that of salmon and led a group of scientists to compare the potential allergens (proteins in the fish that bind to human Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies) in catfish and salmon. This particular study conducted on 77 children with fish allergies, reported more IgE-binding allergens in catfish than salmon (17). When you are exposed to potential allergens, your immune system produces IgE antibodies in response. These then release chemicals, causing an allergic reaction.

Though catfish allergies are still not widely heard of, you should avoid excess intake and be careful of any symptoms of an allergic reaction after consumption, skin contact, or inhalation of catfish fumes while cooking.

Talking of cooking, let’s quickly see some of the best cooking methods for catfish.

Best Cooking Methods For Catfish

Frying is a common and traditional method for cooking catfish. However, you can choose to grill, bake or broil the catfish as well to keep the fat intake in check. Let’s see how the different ways of cooking affect the major nutrient intake from a single 3.5oz (100g) serving of catfish (18), (19), (20).

Dry Heat Without Oil

Baked Or Broiled With Oil

Breaded And Fried

Calories

105

179

229

Fat

2.9 grams

11 grams

13.3 grams

Sodium

50 mg

433 mg

280 mg

As seen from the above comparison, cooking with dry heat is the healthiest way to prepare catfish. Otherwise, you can opt for monounsaturated or polyunsaturated oils like canola or olive oil and low-sodium seasonings for the healthier preparation of catfish. You can pair the catfish preparation as a side dish with brown rice or couscous, some steamed vegetables, and salad to make it a wholesome nutritious meal. Here are a few recipes for you to try out:

Popular Recipes With Catfish

  •  Lime Broiled Catfish
Lime-Broiled-Catfish

Shutterstock

Ingredients

  •  Butter -1 tablespoon
  •  lime juice – 2 tablespoons
  •  Salt (optional) -½ teaspoon
  •  Pepper – 1/4 teaspoon
  •  Garlic powder – 1/4 teaspoon
  •  Catfish fillets (6 ounces each) – 2
  •  Lime slices or wedges, optional
  •  Fresh parsley, optional

Instructions

  1.  Melt butter in a small saucepan.
  2.  Stir in the lime juice, pepper, garlic powder, and salt if desired.
  3.  Remove from heat and set aside.
  4.  Place the catfish fillets in a shallow baking pan.
  5.  Brush each fillet generously with the lime-butter sauce.
  6.  Broil for 5-8 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.
  7.  Remove to a warm serving dish.
  8.  Spoon the pan juices over each fillet.
  9.  Garnish with lime slices and parsley if desired.
  •  Cornmeal Catfish
Cornmeal-Catfish

Shutterstock

Ingredients

  •  Cornmeal – ¼ cup
  •  Seafood seasoning – 1 teaspoon
  •  Catfish fillets (6 ounces each) – 4
  •  Canola oil – 3 tablespoons
  •  Tomato (medium, chopped) -1

Instructions

  1.  Take cornmeal and seafood seasoning in a shallow bowl and mix.
  2.  Oat the catfish in the cornmeal mixture and shake off excess.
  3.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  4.  Add the catfish in batches.
  5.  Cook for 4-5 minutes on either side or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.
  6.  Top with chopped tomato, and serve.

To Sum Up

Catfish are found worldwide. They are low in calories with a fair amount of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12. They make for a good source of lean protein and can be a healthy addition to any meal when cooked right. You can reap the many benefits of catfish nutrition without worrying too much about mercury contamination as well. If you like having fish, catfish is a good choice to include in your meals overall.

Sources

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Fish catfish channel wild cooked dry heat
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/173714/nutrients
  2. Dietary n-3 PUFA fish consumption and depression: A systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27544316/
  3. Fish long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids consumption and risk of all-cause mortality: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis from 23 independent prospective cohort studies
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28802305/
  4. Environmental Mercury and Its Toxic Effects
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC3988285/
  5. Mercury Exposure and Children’s Health
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC3096006/
  6. Mercury Levels in Commercial Fish and Shellfish (1990-2012)
    https://www.fda.gov/food/metals/mercury-levels-commercial-fish-and-shellfish-1990-2012
  7. Protein Structure and Function
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK21177/
  8. Vitamin B12 in Health and Disease
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC3257642/#:~:text=Vitamin%20B12%20is%20essential
  9. Epidemiology of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
    https://www.intechopen.com/books/epidemiology-of-communicable-and-non-communicable-diseases-attributes-of-lifestyle-and-nature-on-humankind/epidemiology-of-vitamin-b12-deficiency
  10. Nutrition and health of aquaculture fish
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22233511
  11. Δ6-fatty acid desaturase and fatty acid elongase mRNA expression phagocytic activity and weight-to-length relationships in channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) fed alternative diets with soy oil and a probiotic
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26400353
  12. COMPARATIVE STUDIES OF NUTRIENT COMPOSITION OF WILD CAUGHT AND POND REARED AFRICAN CATFISH CLARIAS GARIEPINUS
    http://oaji.net/articles/2017/491-1503315672.pdf
  13. Comparative study of seasonal variation in proximate composition and nutritional quality of farmed and wild Indian butter catfish (Ompok bimaculatus) in Tripura India
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/322020300_Comparative_study_of_seasonal_variation_in_proximate_composition_and_nutritional_quality_of_farmed_and_wild_Indian_butter_catfish_Ompok_bimaculatus_in_Tripura_India
  14. Fish and fish products as risk factors of mercury exposure
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30260185/
  15. Insights into the Potential Role of Mercury in Alzheimer\’s Disease
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30877448/
  16. The relationship between mercury and autism: A comprehensive review and discussion
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27473827/
  17. Expanding the allergen repertoire of salmon and catfish
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32860256/
  18. Fish catfish channel wild cooked dry heat
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/173714/nutrients
  19. Catfish baked or broiled made with oil
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1098783/nutrients
  20. Fish catfish channel cooked breaded and fried
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/174187/nutrients
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