Is Basa Fish Healthy? Nutrition, Benefits and Dangers
Basa is a type of white fish native to Southeast Asia.
In the countries that import it, it’s often used as a cheap alternative to cod or haddock due to its similar taste and texture.
However, despite its popularity, it’s been claimed to carry some health risks.
This article reviews the nutrition of basa fish and whether eating it is healthy or risky.
What Is Basa Fish?
Basa is a type of catfish belonging to the Pangasiidae family. Its formal scientific name is Pangasius bocourti, though it’s often called basa fish or bocourti in the United States.
You may also have heard basa fish referred to as river cobbler, Vietnamese cobbler, pangasius, or swai.
Its flesh has a light, firm texture and a mild fish flavor — similar to cod or haddock. In fact, it’s often sold as boneless fish fillets and used in the same way.
Basa fish is native to the Mekong and Chao Phraya rivers, which run through several countries in Southeast Asia.
Due to its popularity and the high demand for export, it’s also farmed in large numbers in pens surrounding the Mekong River.
One reason Basa is so popular is its cost. It’s cheap to grow and harvest, making it competitively priced, even when exported abroad.
Basa fish is a type of catfish native to Southeast Asia. Its low cost — even when imported — makes it is a popular fish across the world.
Like other types of white fish, basa is low in calories and rich in high-quality protein.
A 4.5-ounce (126-gram) serving provides:
- Calories: 158
- Protein: 22.5 grams
- Fat: 7 grams
- Saturated fat: 2 grams
- Cholesterol: 73 mg
- Carbs: 0 grams
- Sodium: 89 mg
Due to its low calorie and high protein content, it can be a beneficial food for those on a diet — not unlike other types of white fish.
It also contains 5 grams of unsaturated fats, which include some omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats important for maintaining the optimum health of your body and brain — especially as you age.
However, basa is much lower in omega-3 fats than oily fish like salmon and mackerel.
Basa fish — like other white fish — is high in protein and low in calories. It also contains small amounts of healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Whitefish like basa provide you with high-quality protein and not many calories.
Eating fish has also been linked to a number of health benefits, including longevity and a lower risk of heart disease.
People Who Eat Fish May Live Longer
Observational studies have found that people who eat more fish live longer than those who don’t.
In fact, in one study, those who ate the most fish — which was measured by testing the levels of omega-3 fats in their bloodstream — lived just over two years longer than those who ate the least.
Though omega-3 fatty acids are found in the highest amounts in oily fish, leaner fish like basa can still contribute to your omega-3 intake.
Keep in mind that observational studies cannot prove cause and effect. Therefore, these studies cannot say that eating fish is what makes people live longer.
Still, research suggests that fish like basa are a healthy addition to a balanced diet.
May Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease
People who eat the most fish are also thought to have a lower risk of heart disease.
This benefit is often linked to oily fish, due to their high levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
However, even eating leaner fish has been linked to lower cholesterol levels — which may reduce your risk of heart disease.
This suggests that there may be other aspects to eating whole fish that may reduce heart disease risk, and that including white fish in a healthy, balanced diet may have heart-healthy benefits.
Provides High-Quality Protein
Basa — like other white fish — is a good source of high-quality protein.
Protein plays a number of vital roles in your body, including the growth and repair of your body’s tissues and the production of important enzymes.
A 4.5-ounce (126-gram) serving of basa provides 22.5 grams of high-quality, complete protein — meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids that you need from your diet.
Low in Calories
The low-calorie content of basa makes it an excellent food if you’re trying to reduce your calorie intake.
In fact, one 4.5-ounce (126-gram) serving has just 160 calories.
Additionally, some studies show that fish proteins may help you feel fuller for longer than other animal protein sources.
One study found that fish protein had the greatest impact on feelings of fullness, compared with chicken and beef.
Basa is low in calories and high in protein. Eating lean fish like basa has been linked to longevity and a reduced risk of heart disease. This suggests that it’s a healthy addition to a balanced diet.
Is It Safe to Eat?
In general, eating any type of fish is associated with some risks.
This is because fish can contain industrial waste contaminants like mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). These compounds can build up in your body and have toxic effects.
Yet, it’s thought that the benefits of eating fish outweigh any potential risks.
Studies found that heavy metal residues in basa fish are within safe limits.
However, it’s been suggested that the way basa fish is farmed and the environment in which it lives may make this fish a higher-risk food.
The ponds that catfish like basa are farmed in are susceptible to contamination. To control this, fish farmers often have to use chemical agents and drugs to control pathogens and parasites — these components may affect the fish.
Some studies have found that imported catfish — including basa fish — from Vietnam have not met international standards for safety.
In fact, fish from Vietnam were more likely to contain traces of veterinary drugs, including antibiotics, in concentrations exceeding legal limits.
One study also observed that 70–80% of the catfish exported to the European countries Germany, Poland, and Ukraine were contaminated with Vibrio bacteria — a common cause of food poisoning.
To minimize your risk of food poisoning, make sure to cook basa properly and avoid eating it if it’s raw or undercooked.
Fish imported from Vietnam — like basa — has been found to breach standards for drug residues and to contain potentially pathogenic bacteria. Always ensure that basa is properly cooked before eating it to minimize your risk of food poisoning.
The Bottom Line
Basa is a white fish from Southeast Asia that’s an excellent source of high-quality protein and healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids.
Its cheap cost, mild taste, and flaky, firm texture make it popular worldwide.
However, it may pose a higher risk of food poisoning, so be sure to cook it properly.