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Basa fish (Pangasius bocourti) is a type of river fish that is commonly also called catfish. It is farmed in the Mekong River of Vietnam and is transported to other parts of Vietnam and exported in frozen form to other parts of the world. (1)
Some other countries that also do basa farming are Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia, and China. The main reason for its popularity is its white meaty texture with few bones and affordable cost. (2)
Like all other fish, basa is rich in protein and some amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, making it a healthy choice for weight loss, promoting heart health, and lowering cholesterol.
Note: Avoid eating basa raw because there is doubt that pesticides and chemical agents present in them can be harmful, but when cooked properly, the benefits are superior to the risk.
Read below to know more about basa fish and its benefits.
What Is the Truth Behind Basa Consumption: Is It Healthy or Risky?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that pregnant or breastfeeding women and young children should not eat four kinds of fish from the Gulf of Mexico, namely, shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish, because they contain high levels of mercury.
In comparison, basa contains low levels of mercury, (3) so it is regarded as a healthy food choice.
However, there is a concern that basa may cause foodborne illnesses because the Mekong River in Vietnam, where basa originates, was found to be contaminated with bacteria and parasites, especially pathogenic Escherichia coli and Listeria monocytogenes. E. coli has also been isolated from seafood and fish products from The Mekong River.
However, the published studies on the incidence and relative risk of bacterial pathogens in fish and fecal contamination of fish in Southeast Asia are limited. (4) Ultimately, when cooked properly, the benefits of consuming basa outweigh the risks.
Nutritional Profile of Basa Fish
Fish is generally a preferred food for a variety of health conditions. They are generally a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, iodine, vitamin D, taurine, and carnitine, which aid in reducing the risk of heart diseases (by lowering cholesterol) and in improving hormonal health. (5)
About 100 g of basa contains 88 calories and 13 g of protein, which fulfills 26% of the daily protein requirement. It also contains some amounts of iron (2% of the daily requirement) and sodium (7% of the daily requirement). It also provides 44 mg of cholesterol, which is 15% of the daily requirement. (6)
Health Benefits of Basa Fish
Here are some of the health benefits eating basa can offer.
1. Improves cardiovascular health
Cardiovascular diseases are a huge burden to health care and cause 40% of deaths from noncommunicable diseases such as hypertension, heart attacks, and diabetes. Diet plays a major role in the development of risk factors for heart diseases such as high cholesterol and high blood sugar levels. (7)
Therefore, consuming basa can be a great way to maintain heart health.
2. Aids weight loss
Protein is an essential micronutrient that aids weight loss. There is ample evidence that people who consume high protein (more than the RDA for their body weight) effectively reduce their fat mass within 6–12 months. (9)
Since fish is a great source of lean protein and has been shown to effectively bring down levels of triglycerides and bring about weight loss, including basa in the diet can also be a great way to achieve weight loss. (10)
The recommended daily intake of protein is about 48–56 g/day. (9)
3. Provides necessary cholesterol
The nutrients in basa make it an excellent source of lean protein. And even though it contains cholesterol, it isn’t an unhealthy food. This is because cholesterol is useful for the body when eaten in appropriate amounts.
Cholesterol is involved in maintaining the cell structure and creating hormones (cortisol and sex hormones) and enzymes (bile) that are necessary for digestion. It also aids in the absorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K. (11)
What Are the Recommended Fish Varieties by the FDA for Pregnant Women and Children?
The US Food and Drug Administration currently recommends that pregnant or breastfeeding women and children under age 12 years should eat 2–3 servings (8–2 ounces) of different kinds of fish and shellfish each week. (3)
Most-Asked Questions About Consuming Basa Fish
Does basa fish contain heavy metals?
Basa is considered to have lower levels of mercury than other fish.
Should people with asthma avoid eating basa fish?
Some animal studies have identified that consumption of basa for long durations aggravates inflammation of the lungs in mice with asthma. (12) The study recommends avoiding basa consumption as a diet strategy for people with asthma, but still more human studies are required regarding this.
- Basa fish is obtained from the Mekong River in Vietnam, where it is consumed locally and is also transported to other places in Vietnam and other countries.
- Basa is a rich source of protein and contains some amounts of iron and sodium.
- Consuming basa is beneficial in preventing heart diseases and reducing weight due to its lean protein.
- Though basa does contain high levels of mercury unlike other types of fish, it may have a risk of contamination due to the organic wastes thrown in the Mekong River.
- Basa also increases inflammation of the lungs in mice with asthma. People with asthma are recommended to avoid the consumption of basa.