Mahi mahi is one of the fastest-growing fish in the world. Their beauty and strong fighting ability make them a highly sought-after game fish. Mahi fish can be found all over the world and are a favorite among fish lovers. That's because, while they offer most of the nutritional benefits that you can get from other seafood, they're also not very high in mercury. This makes them one of the healthiest sea fish that you can have.
What Is Mahi Mahi?
Mahi mahi (Coryphaena hippurus) is a deep-sea fish that can be found worldwide. It lives in tropical and subtropical waters warmer than 20°C, like those surrounding Hawaii, Indonesia, Japan, and South America. Globally, Peru produces the highest volume of mahi fish, followed by countries like Ecuador and Taiwan.
These fish get the name "mahi mahi" — meaning "strong" in the Hawaiian language — from their strong swimming and spawning abilities. They're also called "perico" in Peru and "dorado" in Latin America. Dorado — Spanish for gold — points to the beautiful golden-green tint of their scales. People in the U.S. also call them "dolphinfish" due to their large size. But they aren't in any way related to the mammal dolphin.
Mahi fish come in various colors, from yellow and green to bright blue. Adults have a short, distinct face and can reach 90 pounds in weight and 7 feet in length within a life span of 4 to 5 years.
They're mostly caught during the summer months and are considered an eco-friendly seafood choice. That's because they're usually caught in a sustainable manner with a hook and line and are not subject to overfishing. They also reproduce and grow quickly, which keeps the species healthy and in good numbers.
How Does Mahi Mahi Taste?
Mahi mahi is known for its pleasant taste and is one of the most popular food fish served in restaurants. Like many tropical fishes, it has a sweet taste and a mild to moderate flavor. Its flesh is lean, firm, and almost meaty, with a delicate and moist texture. Mahi fish also have a distinct "fishy flavor" that's often described as being milder than swordfish but stronger than halibut.
What Are the Nutrients in Mahi Mahi?
Mahi mahi is a rich source of protein as well as vitamins B3, B6, and B12. Among minerals, it contains some magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus as well as good amounts of sodium and selenium. Eating just a 3-ounce portion of mahi fish will give you about 72% of the recommended selenium amount in your daily diet.
Being a lean fish, a 3-ounce cooked mahi mahi fillet contains less than 1 gram of total fat. The good news is that omega-3 fatty acids, including docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), form a good portion of its fat content. Mahi fish also contain some other anti-inflammatory fatty acids that are good for your health.
What Are the Health Benefits of Mahi Mahi?
Mahi mahi is a low-calorie fish with plenty of nutrients. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration even considers it a "good choice" of fish based on its mercury levels. These are some of the health benefits of mahi mahi brought about by its impressive nutrient profile:
Good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Mahi mahi contains good amounts of omega-3 fatty acids — healthy fats with several health benefits. Adding omega-3 to your diet lowers your chances of having heart problems and stroke while also preventing inflammation.
Though a moderate level of inflammation is good for your body, too much of it can lead to health issues like heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, Crohn's disease, and even cancer. You might not find omega-3s in most of your other foods, so you may consider adding mahi mahi to your diet.
High in lean protein. The protein found in mahi fish has low amounts of calories and saturated fat, which makes it "lean" and very healthy. Eating plenty of protein helps maintain a healthy weight and control your appetite. Proteins also play a major role in building muscles and recovering from exercise. So, if you're looking to lose weight or gain muscle mass, mahi mahi would be a great food choice for you.
Full of minerals and vitamins. Selenium — a major nutrient in this fish — is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage, fight infection, and support reproductive health. Its other minerals include potassium, which helps control blood pressure, and phosphorus, a key component of your bones and teeth.
Among the B vitamins, mahi mahi is especially high in vitamins B3, B6, and B12. These vitamins play many vital roles in your body, including supporting your liver and brain function, controlling your cholesterol levels, maintaining your energy levels, and protecting your joints from disorders like arthritis. With so many nutrients, mahi mahi will make an incredibly healthy addition to your diet.
Relatively low in mercury. Unlike popular sea fishes like tuna and mackerel that have high amounts of mercury, mahi mahi has moderate mercury levels. This makes it a safe and healthy fish to have.
How to Cook Mahi Mahi?
Mahi mahi is a thick fish with lean flesh and is mostly sold as fillets. Its flesh is tender enough that you can steam it while also being firm enough that you can grill it without breaking it apart. But before you start cooking the fillets, make sure to check their:
Flesh. Always select fillets with firm and pale pink flesh. See that they have a mild aroma with no ammonia-like smell.
Skin. If you're planning to sauté the fish, its skin might help during cooking by keeping the fillet from falling apart. But if that's not the case, you should remove the skin, as it's inedible and tough to cook.
Bones. Before cutting portions of the fillet, remove the bones from it. By feeling along the fillet with your finger, you can find the bones and then pull them out with tweezers. If you plan to bake the whole fillet, remove the bones later once the fish is cooked.
Bloodline. Though safe to eat, many people find the bloodline — the red line down the middle of the fillet — too fishy for their taste. If that's the case with you, trim it away with a sharp knife. Otherwise, you can eat it. Just make sure it's bright red, never black or brown.
Since mahi mahi is a lean fish, it's better suited for quicker cooking styles like broiling, grilling, and baking on a sheet tray.
When grilling mahi mahi, it's good to keep the grill very hot and lightly brush it with oil. These steps will prevent the fillet from sticking. Take 2 to 4 minutes to cook each side of the fillet. Remember not to flip it more than once. Otherwise, it may fall apart. When the translucent flesh becomes opaque and takes on a pinkish-white shade, you can be sure that the fish is grilled.
To bake mahi fish in an oven, start by lightly oiling the fillet. Since the fish can stick to the pan, put a parchment paper on it to avoid that. To know when it's done, use an instant-read thermometer and check the temperature of the middle portion of the fillet. When the temperature reaches 135°F to 140°F, the fish becomes fully baked and ready to be taken out of the oven.
Don't worry if the fish continues cooking for some time. With the pan still hot out of the oven, it's meant to happen.
Are There Any Precautions to Consider Before Eating Mahi Mahi?
While mahi mahi is considered a "good choice" of seafood, remember that it still contains moderate amounts of mercury. As an adult, you should have no more than 6 servings — 3 to 4 ounces per serving — in a month. This means that it’s best not to have more than 2 servings per week. Doing so could add too much mercury to your diet and lead to conditions like mercury poisoning.
While high mercury levels don't create health problems for most people, they can be harmful for young children, nursing mothers, and pregnant women. High levels of mercury can negatively affect the nervous system of children and cause harm to a developing baby in the womb. This is why pregnant and breastfeeding women, as well as children, shouldn't have more than 1 serving of mahi mahi per week.
Another thing you need to be careful about is the scombroid fish poisoning risk of mahi mahi. When fishes like tuna, mackerel, and mahi mahi are not refrigerated properly, they get spoiled, as bacteria grow in them. Eating such spoiled fish can lead to scombroid fish poisoning.
The usual symptoms of this illness are sweating, headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, rash, and a burning or tingling sensation around the mouth. If you catch this illness, your symptoms should resolve on their own within 12 hours. If that doesn't happen, get medical help as soon as possible.