Is raw fish good for your health?

People have different reasons and perceptions on why fish should be cooked before serving it. A lot of people consider it a custom that has been passed for one generation to another. In real sense, cooking fish eliminates different kind of parasites and bacteria causing disease. However, some people prefer raw fish. Sashimi and sushi are some meals that contain raw fish. We are going to understand if raw fish are healthy and safe to consume.

The different kinds of raw fish meals

Below are some common types of raw fish meals consumed across the globe:

  • Sashimi- Sashimi is a popular Japanese dish. This dish entails can comprise or either sliced meat or raw fish.
  • Sushi-Sushi is one of the commonly consumed Japanese dishes. It entails cooked rice with vinegar and some raw fish.
  • Ceviche- Ceviche is one of the seafood that is characterized by raw fish. The raw fish should be cured in either lime juice or lemon.
  • Poke- Poke is popular Hawaiian traditional salad that comprises of seasoned raw fish accompanied by vegetables.
  • Carpaccio- This is an Italian dish characterized by raw sliced fish. This meal offers a wide range of variety.
  • Soused herring- This is marinated raw fish accompanied by different kinds of servings.
  • Koi Pla- This is a popular diet on the southern part of Asia. This meal comprises chopped raw fish that have been mixed with vegetables, herbs, chillis, lime juice and fish sauce.
  • Gravlax- Gravlax comprises of raw salmon fish that has been cured in dill, salt and sugar.

It is evident that people from different part of the globe consume raw fish.

Different parasitic infections from raw fish

Raw fish contain different kinds of parasites. Parasites are animals that feed on living organisms. They don’t benefit the host in any way. Some parasites don’t exhibit any symptoms, whereas others are dangerous and can cause serious danger to an individual. A lot of serious health conditions are caused by parasitic infections. Parasites can easily be passed through raw fish and drinking infected water.

Purchasing raw fish from accredited dealers and suppliers is one of the ways of reducing parasitic infections. Raw fish should be properly handled and prepared or they risk different parasitic infections. Below are some common parasitic diseases that can be transmitted through raw fish:

Liver flukes

Liver flukes fall under parasitic flatworms. This parasitic flatworm mostly causes opisthorchiasis. Liver flukes are commonly found in Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia and South America. It has been scientifically proven that eating raw fish increases the risks of developing opisthorchiasis. The liver flukes settle in the livers once they enter the body of a person. Here, they will feed on your blood. As a result, your liver might enlarge in size. Liver flukes are also linked to liver cancer, gallbladder inflammation, bile duct infection and gallstones. Raw fish is the main cause of liver flukes. Dirty kitchen utensils, unwashed hands and dirty preparation surfaces are other factors that trigger liver flukes. You should also properly cook your fish.


Tapeworms can be transmitted to a person through either undercooked fish or raw fish. Fish found in fresh water rivers are more prone to tapeworms. Salmon is one of the fishes that are prone to tapeworms. Tapeworms are the largest parasites that can infect a person. It is estimated that over twenty million people get infected with tapeworms each year. It can be difficult to determine if you are infected with fish tapeworms. Normally, this parasite doesn’t exhibit instant symptoms. This parasite can cause diphyllobothriasis. Constipation, diarrhea, stomach discomfort and fatigue are some symptoms of diphyllobothriasis that you will experience. That’s not all; tapeworms also deprives off nutrients from their host. Vitamin B12 is one of the nutrients tapeworms can cause deficiency.


Roundworms from raw fish cause anisakiasis. Fish that live in sea are prone to parasitic roundworms. Infections from roundworms are prone to people who frequently consume raw fish or salted raw fish. Therefore, you should immediately stop raw fish or you risk contracting parasitic roundworms. Medical reports revealed that Anisakis roundworms cannot last long periods in a person. They attach themselves on the walls of the intestines. This is where they will stay until they eventually die off. Anisakis roundworms are linked to severe symptoms such as vomiting, stomach pain and inflammation. These symptoms will be experienced whether the parasite is alive or dead.

Parasitic roundworms might also cause gnathostomiasis. Gnathostomiasis is common in India. You are likely to contract this condition by eating undercooked fish or raw fish. Swelling, fever, loss of appetite, skin lesions, stomach pain, itching and rashes are some symptoms linked to gnathostomiasis. This condition can be severe, depending on where the parasite larva settles down. There are instances where it can damage some organs.

Bacterial infections

Fish is also cooked to reduce food poisoning caused by different types of bacteria found in raw fish. Diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach upset are some symptoms linked to food poisoning. Salmonella, clostridium, vibrio and listeria are some harmful bacteria that are found in raw fish. The young children, elderly and HIV patients are prone to food poisoning when compared to healthy people. The above categories of people should avoid raw fish at all cost. Expectant women are also discouraged from eating raw fish. Listeria bacteria are linked to fetal death.

Raw fish posses high levels of pollutants

Fish accumulate a lot of persistent organic pollutants, commonly known as POPs. These chemicals are very toxic and pose serious health effects. Polybrominated diphenyl esters and polychlorinated biphenyls are some examples of these toxic industrial chemicals. Fish can accumulate high amounts of Persistent organic pollutants over time. These levels are higher in raw fish when compared to cooked fish. POPs can result into chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes and cancer. Cooked fish contains low amounts of POPs, thus less harmful.

Are there benefits of eating raw fish?

Yes, there are some health benefits attributed to eating raw fish. There are numerous ways of consuming raw fish. It can be salted or marinated. Grilled or fried fish is linked to contaminants such as heterocyclic amines. This contaminant increases the risks of cancer. These contaminants are not available in raw fish. Fried fish contain less amounts of omega 3 fatty acids when compared to raw fish. Docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentenoic acid are some examples of omega 3 fatty acids that significantly reduce on fried fish when compared to raw fish. In short, some nutrients levels might reduce when fish is cooked. Raw fish helps maintain cultural customs and save time.

Minimizing the risks linked to raw fish

Do you find it difficult or challenging to stop eating raw fish? If yes, there are ways you can reduce the possibility of bacterial and parasitic infections. Below are some of these ways:

  • Consume only frozen fish. Freeing is one of the ways of completely killing parasites and bacteria. Frozen fish are safe for human consumption.
  • Regularly inspect your fish before consuming it. Always inspect your raw fish before consuming it. This might help detect some parasites. However, most parasites are difficult to spot.
  • Buy your fish from a licensed dealer. Licensed dealer are more likely to practice high levels of hygiene when handing fish. This reduces risks of bacterial and parasite infections.
  • Avoid keeping fresh fish for a long time. This can create a healthy environment for bacterial infestation.
  • Develop the habit of washing your hands before and after handling your raw fish.
  • You should also clean your utensils and kitchen. This helps avoid contamination.

Bottom line

Raw fish has for a long time been linked to food poisoning and parasitic infections. However, there are some guidelines you can use to reduce the risks of parasitic and bacterial infections from raw fish.