What Are the Benefits of Steamed Fish?

Chef is serving steamed seabass

Kondor83/iStock/Getty Images

If you like fish, but don't like all the fat and calories that come with a butter or olive oil sauce, consider investing in a steamer or even just some parchment paper. With those on hand, you can prepare an array of flavorful dishes that offer several benefits, whether you're trying to lose weight or just maintain an overall healthy diet.

Fewer Calories and Lower Fat Content

Steamed fish has fewer calories and less fat than fish cooked in butter. Consider, for example, a 3 oz. tilapia fillet, which contains 36 calories, 3 g of total fat and no saturated fat, according to Livestrong MyPlate. Cook it in 2 tbsp of butter -- just barely enough to keep it from sticking to the pan -- and the calories jump to 236, while the fat content jumps to 25 g of total fat, 14 g of which are saturated fat.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Some fish, especially cold-water fatty fish such as mackerel, albacore tuna, trout, and salmon, are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, according to Selene Yeager's “The Doctors Book of Food Remedies.” Yeager reports these acids help control cholesterol levels as well as prevent heart attack and stroke. High-heat cooking methods, such as broiling, can render these healthy acids out of fish, but steaming keeps them in, so your body use them.

Protein for Appetite Control

Steamed fish a good source of low-calorie protein, which is especially important to dieters, since protein helps keep your appetite under control. A 3 oz. tilapia fillet, while containing just 36 calories, offers 7 g of protein. The body processes protein at a slower rate than other nutrients such as carbohydrates, which makes it one of the most satisfying foods, according to Dr. David A. Kessler, a medical doctor and former commissioner of the FDA, author of the book “The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite.”


If you like to experiment in the kitchen, steamed fish is a fine choice. Mild-flavored white fishes, such as cod, tilapia, and whiting, are a blank slate for culinary creativity. The Fine Cooking website recommends steaming fish by making packets out of parchment paper, adding herbs, and cooking the fish in a 450 degree F oven. You can experiment with herb combinations and decide ones you like best; Fine Cooking recommends using a gremolata, a mixture of lemon zest, parsley and garlic.