Can You Eat Fish Skin, and Is It Healthy?

Update: 8/4/2021

Fish is a source of animal protein enjoyed by many people around the world on a regular basis.

In fact, it’s estimated that humans eat more than 330 billion pounds (150 million tonnes) of fish each year (1).

Fish is nutrient-dense, delicious, and a healthy addition to any meal. You may wonder if these properties apply to the skin as well.

This article reviews the benefits and safety of eating fish skin and explains how to include it in your diet.

Some people may avoid fish skin out of fear that it’s unsafe to eat, though this is generally not the case.

Fish skin has been eaten safely throughout history. It’s even a popular snack in many countries and cultures.

As long as fish have been properly cleaned and the outer scales fully removed, the skin is typically safe to eat.

Because fish is a great source of nutrients like iron and omega-3 fatty acids, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends eating a 4-ounce (113-gram) serving of fish 2–3 times per week.

However, some fish contain high levels of mercury and other toxins and contaminants, all of which can be present in the skin as well.

Therefore, choosing low-mercury fish more often than high-mercury fish is recommended. Here are a few examples of the typical mercury content of fish 

  • Low: catfish, cod, flounder, pollock, salmon, tilapia, most canned tunas
  • Medium: carp, grouper, halibut, mahi-mahi, snapper
  • High: king mackerel, marlin, shark, swordfish, tile fish

In short, fish skin doesn’t pose any health risks greater than those of consuming the flesh of fish. Use similar guidelines to choose fish skin as you would when choosing the types of fish to eat.

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