Is Basa Fish a Healthy Choice?

Last Updated on June 18, 2022 by Michael Joseph

Basa is a white fish belonging to the catfish family.

It is cheaper than traditional white fish options, but is it a healthy choice of seafood?

This article examines the nutritional properties of basa and applicable scientific research on the fish.

What Is Basa Fish?

Raw Basa Fish Fillet With a Slice of Lemon.

Known scientifically as ‘Pangasius bocourti,’ basa is native to Southeast Asia. Most basa on store shelves is imported from Vietnam, where extensive basa farming operations occur (1).

Depending on the locale, basa fish may also be labeled as bocourti, river cobbler, Pangasius, or panga.

Basa is a white fish with flesh similar in appearance and taste to cod and haddock.

Basa Is a Rich Source of Nutrients

Basa is a lean white fish, and while it is low in calories, it provides a broad range of essential nutrients.

The USDA does not have an entry for the nutritional properties of basa (Pangasius).

However, the United Kingdom’s McCance and Widdowson’s ‘Composition of Foods Integrated Dataset’ (CoFID), a database showing the nutrient content of the UK food supply, lists the full nutritional properties of basa.

Based on CoFID data, here are the full nutritional values for basa fish per 3.5 ounces (100g) serving (2).

All daily values have been calculated using the CoFID data and the FDA’s recommended daily values (3).

NameAmount% Daily Value (DV)
Calories109 kcal
Carbohydrates0 g0% DV
Fiber0 g0% DV
Sugars0 g
Fat2.30 g2.9% DV
Saturated0.72 g3.6% DV
Monounsaturated0.65 g
Polyunsaturated0.25 g
Omega-30.03 g
Omega-60.21 g
Protein21.80 g43.6% DV
Cholesterol52.50 mg17.5% DV
Basic nutrition facts for basa fish per 3.5 ounce (100g) cooked portion

Vitamins

  • Biotin: 166.7% (DV)
  • Vitamin B12: 58.3% DV
  • Niacin (B3): 46.3% DV
  • Pantothenic acid (B5): 15.4% DV
  • Vitamin D: 10% DV
  • Vitamin B6: 9.4% DV
  • Riboflavin (B2): 5.4% DV
  • Folate: 3% DV
  • Vitamin E: 2.3% DV
  • Thiamin (B1): 1.7% DV
  • Choline: 0% DV
  • Vitamin A, RAE: 0% DV
  • Vitamin C: 0% DV
  • Vitamin K: 0% DV

Minerals

  • Phosphorus: 19.4% DV
  • Sodium: 13% DV
  • Magnesium: 10% DV
  • Potassium: 9.1% DV
  • Zinc: 4.5% DV
  • Copper: 3.3% DV
  • Iodine: 1.3% DV
  • Calcium: 1.1% DV
  • Iron: 0.7% DV
  • Manganese: 0.4% DV
Key Point: Basa is a good source of protein and a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals.

High Protein Content

As a lean white fish, basa provides a good amount of protein for minimal calories.

In other words, it is easy to get high protein content without consuming a large amount of food.

People looking to increase their protein intake without taking in too many extra calories, such as dieters and athletes, may all find this protein-rich quality of basa appealing.

One hundred grams of cooked basa provides 21.8 grams of protein for only 109 calories (2).

The protein density of basa compares favorably to other protein foods such as milk, meat, cheese, and oily fish.

Key Point: Basa provides a large amount of protein for very few calories.

Heavy Metal Residues

Heavy metal contamination of seafood has been an increasingly publicized problem over the last several decades.

On this note, some types of fish, such as shark, swordfish, and tuna, can contain significant levels of heavy metals, such as methylmercury (3, 4, 5).

Although research is ongoing, some studies have linked excessive methylmercury intake from contaminated seafood to an increased risk of several chronic diseases and all-cause mortality (6, 7).

Thus, focusing on low-mercury seafood options may be prudent if consuming fish regularly.

Unfortunately, there is relatively little in the way of research on basa fish and heavy metal residues.

However, a 2020 analysis published in the Italian Journal of Food safety investigated the presence of heavy metals in various fish. Among these fish, two included samples of Pangasius bocourti (basa).

Based on these samples, basa had relatively low heavy metal levels.

The first sample of basa had a total heavy metal content of 2.37 mg per kilogram, and the second sample had 1.06 mg per kilogram. Mercury content was low, and all heavy metal concentrations were within the permissible limits defined by the FAO and WHO (8).

Key Point: Basa provides a large amount of protein for very few calories.

Basa Is More Affordable Than Cod and Haddock

Compared to other white fish options like cod and haddock, basa has a more economical price.

While prices vary from place to place, basa typically runs about 25% cheaper than cod.

As these three fish are all very similar nutritionally, some people may understandably find the added affordability of basa appealing.

Is Basa a Sustainable Fish?

Although it isn’t a strictly nutritional consideration, many people think about sustainability when buying seafood.

Is basa fish a sustainable option?

Marine Conservation Society

According to the Marine Conservation Society, some sources of basa are more sustainable than others.

The organization states that the “best choice” of basa should have certification from either:

  • GlobalG.A.P.
  • Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC)
  • Global Seafood Alliance Best Aquaculture Practices (GAA BAP)

Seafood Watch

Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch tests a significant proportion of worldwide seafood and aims to assess 75% of global seafood production by 2030 (9).

Seafood Watch has published a 36-page report on farmed basa fish (10).

As part of this report, Seafood Watch assessed the production of basa fish against eight key criteria:

  • Data quality and availability
  • Effluents/evidence of waste contamination
  • Habitat
  • Evidence of risk of chemical use
  • Feed quality
  • Escapes from farm
  • Disease, and pathogen and parasite interactions
  • The source of the fish

Based on these criteria, basa was awarded a yellow “good alternative” seafood source recommendation.

The best Seafood Watch rating is green for “best choice,” and the worst is red for “avoid” (11).

The whole report is available here for further reading.

Key Point: Basa doesn’t seem to be one of the best choices for sustainability, but it isn’t one of the worst either. Based on the Marine Conservation Society and Seafood Watch ratings, basa has at least a “good” rating.

How To Use Basa Fish

There are no unique considerations regarding the culinary use of basa fish.

In other words, basa is a like-for-like alternative to fish like cod and haddock in recipes.

However, for those looking for some ideas, here are some different ways to use basa:

  • Pan-fry and serve with sauteed vegetables of choice
  • Make a fish chowder soup
  • Coat the basa in batter or breadcrumbs for a traditional ‘fish and chips’
  • Use it in a fish pie like this one
  • Cook the basa, cut it into pieces and then add it to sandwiches, tacos, pasta dishes, rice dishes, or stir-fries
  • Bake the basa in an oven dish with a small amount of butter or oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper
  • Marinate the basa in a sauce of choice (such as soy sauce or hot sauce) and then grill it
Key Point: There are many different ways to use basa fish. For more ideas, a quick search for ‘white fish recipes’ should provide some useful recipes.

Final Thoughts

All in all, basa is a nutritious, affordable, and versatile white fish.

Nutritionally, the fish is low in calories, an excellent source of protein, and contains an impressive range of vitamins and minerals.

While it may not be as popular as cod and haddock, basa offers a somewhat similar experience for a lower price.

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