Is swordfish a good eating fish?

Swordfish is a popular seafood, known for its meaty texture and mild flavor. But there are some questions around whether swordfish is sustainable and safe to eat regularly. This article will examine the pros and cons of eating swordfish, looking at nutrition, taste, sustainability, and potential contaminants. Quick answers: Swordfish is high in protein, low in fat, and rich in omega-3s. However, some concerns around sustainability and mercury levels mean moderation is recommended. Keep reading for a more in-depth analysis.

Nutritional Value of Swordfish

Swordfish is an excellent source of lean protein. A 3 ounce serving of cooked swordfish contains around 25 grams of protein, providing over half of the recommended daily intake. Swordfish is a white, flaky, firm fish similar to tuna or halibut. It’s low in fat and calories – a 3 ounce serving contains around 110 calories and 1 gram of fat. This makes it a smart choice for heart health. Swordfish also contains healthy omega-3 fatty acids. A 3 ounce serving provides around 500 milligrams of omega-3s, with both EPA and DHA forms. Omega-3s provide anti-inflammatory effects and support brain and heart health. In addition to protein and healthy fats, swordfish contains a range of vitamins and minerals:

Key Nutrients in 3 Ounces of Swordfish

Nutrient Amount % Daily Value
Protein 25g 50%
Fat 1g 2%
Omega-3 Fatty Acids 500mg N/A
Vitamin B12 10mcg 417%
Selenium 44mcg 80%
Niacin 12mg 60%
Vitamin B6 0.5mg 25%
Magnesium 57mg 14%
Potassium 575mg 13%

As the table shows, swordfish is very high in vitamin B12 and selenium, and provides good amounts of niacin, vitamin B6, magnesium and potassium. The high protein and omega-3s, along with the wide range of vitamins and minerals, make swordfish a nutritious choice.

Taste and Texture of Swordfish

Swordfish has a distinctive texture and mild, meaty flavor. The flesh is white, dense and firm, with a somewhat fibrous texture. When cooked properly, swordfish steaks will be moist and tender. Swordfish holds up well to grilling, broiling, baking and pan-searing. It can also be used in kebabs, tacos, stir fries and more. Its firm texture makes it a versatile fish for many cooking methods.

In terms of taste, swordfish has a mild flavor compared to strongly-flavored fish like salmon or mackerel. It has a moderately rich, savory taste. When seasoned and cooked simply with lemon, herbs and olive oil, the flavor of the fish itself really shines through. The meaty texture and mild flavor make it appealing to people who don’t like or are new to fish. It works well with bolder seasonings and sauces, but also tastes great with simple preparation to let its natural flavor come through.

Sustainability and Environmental Concerns

There are some sustainability concerns around commercial swordfish fishing. Many swordfish populations are overfished or experiencing overfishing. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has classified some swordfish stocks as Endangered.

Longline fishing is the most common commercial method for catching swordfish. Longlines can be dozens of miles long, with thousands of baited hooks. This indiscriminate fishing method leads to high levels of bycatch, capturing marine life like sharks, sea turtles and seabirds. There are efforts by fishery management councils to mitigate these issues through gear modifications, catch limits and protected areas. But there are still concerns around the impacts of longline swordfishing.

Seafood guides by Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch and Environmental Defense Fund recommend avoiding Atlantic swordfish, which has been overfished. Pacific swordfish caught with harpoons or buoy gear are more sustainable options. Choosing swordfish from small-scale day boat fishermen using responsible practices is another way to get it sustainably.

Key Points on Swordfish Sustainability

Region Sustainability Notes
Atlantic Ocean Avoid due to overfishing, depleted stocks
Pacific Ocean Caught by harpoons or buoy gear are best options
Mediterranean Sea Risks for overfishing but some well managed stocks
Indian Ocean Manage sustainably per ISSF standards
Gulf of Mexico Moderately well managed

Following seafood guides’ recommendations and asking questions about catch method and location can help consumers choose responsibly-caught swordfish.

Mercury and Contaminant Concerns

As a large, long-lived predatory fish, swordfish does contain moderate mercury levels. The FDA recommends limiting consumption to no more than 3 to 4 servings per month for pregnant/nursing women and young children. For the general adult population, up to around 7 servings per month is considered safe.

Older, larger swordfish tend to have the highest mercury accumulation. To help reduce mercury exposure, choose smaller portions of swordfish – under 3 pounds. Asking for swordfish from the tail end of the fish can also reduce mercury levels. Cooking and preparation methods may also impact mercury exposure – grilling, broiling and baking allow fat and mercury to drip away, compared to pan-frying.

In addition to mercury, swordfish can contain other contaminants like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, and plastic-derived chemicals. The FDA and EPA have standards to limit these contaminants. Still, following mercury recommendations can also help limit accumulation of other chemicals found in seafood.


Swordfish is considered a good eating fish due to its great nutritional profile, versatile flavor, and ability to stand up to many cooking methods. It’s an excellent source of protein, low in fat, and provides anti-inflammatory omega-3s. Swordfish has a meaty, mild taste that makes it appealing even to those who don’t regularly eat fish.

However, some concerns around sustainability and mercury levels mean swordfish should be eaten in moderation. Choosing swordfish from sustainable sources and limiting intake to a few servings per month can allow you to enjoy the benefits of this tasty fish while minimizing potential downsides. Swordfish tastes great on the grill or seared with some herbs and olive oil, paired with roasted veggies or a bright salad. Incorporating this omega-3 powerhouse occasionally provides a hearty, protein-packed way to get healthy fatty acids in your diet.

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