What Are the Health Benefits of Whiting?

Medically Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, RD, LD, MPH on June 07, 2022
4 min read

Whiting may not be as widely eaten as salmon or tuna, but it's a tasty and nutritious fish that can be cooked in many ways.  

Whiting or Pacific whiting (Merlangius merlangus) is also known as hake or Pacific hake. It’s a silver-colored fish that has black specks on its back. It grows to about 1.4 pounds in weight and 3 feet long.

Pacific whiting can be found off the west coast of Northern America. Their range stretches from Southern Baja California to the Gulf of Alaska.

Whiting is a type of whitefish. Whitefish is a term used for all the fish species that have white meat, including:

  • Haddock
  • Pollock
  • Cod
  • Chilean seabass

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries, Pacific whiting is currently not overfished. The mid-water trawls used to catch whiting fish have low impact on sea habitats, and the number of other marine creatures that are accidentally caught (bycatch) is low.

A 100-gram serving of Pacific whiting fillets contains:

Calories: 86

Protein: 19 grams

Fat: 1 gram

Calcium: 44 milligrams

Iron: 1 milligram

Vitamin C: 1.1 milligrams

Vitamin A: 88 international units (IU)

Fish is an important part of a healthy diet. It provides many important nutrients, such as:

  • Selenium
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin B12

Selenium is an essential element that helps your body make some proteins and enzymes. These proteins help to make your DNA. They also protect against infection and cell damage.  

Zinc is important for:

  • Healing wounds
  • Immune system
  • Metabolism
  • Your sense of smell and taste 

Vitamin B12 has an important role in:

  • Formation of red blood cells
  • DNA production
  • The function of your nerves
  • Cell metabolism

Good protein source. Whiting, like other fish, is a good source of protein. Fish doesn’t contain as much unhealthy saturated fat as meat does.

Having too much saturated fats can raise your LDL, “bad” cholesterol. This increases your risk of stroke and heart disease. You can lower your risk of heart disease by replacing saturated fats with healthier choices, like fish.

Omega-3 fatty acids. Many types of fish, like whiting, contain some amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are a type of unsaturated fatty acid that has many benefits for your health. It: 

  • Reduces blood clotting
  • Reduces irregular heartbeats
  • Lowers your blood pressure
  • Lowers your risk of heart failure and strokes
  • Decreases triglycerides, which are a type of fat found in your body 

May promote brain health. Studies have found that people who eat more fish have slower rates of mental decline with age. The rate of mental decline was lowest among people who eat two or more meals of fish a week.

While you should include fish in your diet, be aware of the types of fish you eat. Some fish may contain mercury. Mercury is a heavy metal that’s naturally found in water, air, and food. Fish may absorb mercury from oceans and streams. Pregnant women and their unborn babies are at the most risk from mercury contamination.

Mercury levels differ among the species of fish, but the fish that eat other fish (predators) and are at the top of the food chain tend to contain more mercury.

The good news is that whiting is on the FDA’s “Best Choices” fish list. This means that it’s ok to eat two to three servings (8 ounces to 12 ounces) a week. A serving portion for an adult is 4 ounces or a fillet about the size of the palm of your hand.

Experts recommend that children eat two servings of fish a week. The serving size for children’s portions are:

  • Age 1 to 3: 1 ounce 
  • Age 4 to 7: 2 ounces
  • Ages 8 to 10: 3 ounces 
  • Age 11 and up: 4 ounces 

Pacific whiting is described as having soft flesh that tastes mild and slightly sweet. Its flesh is less flaky than other whitefish like pollock and cod.

You can find fresh or frozen whiting in many supermarkets and fish markets. Here are some tips on how to buy the best fresh fish:

  • Buy fish that’s refrigerated or lying on a thick bed of fresh ice.
  • Pick fish that smells mild and fresh. It shouldn't have a strong fishy or ammonia-like smell.
  • Check the eyes. They should be shiny and clear.
  • The flesh of the fish should be firm and spring back when you press it.
  • Fish fillets shouldn’t have discoloration or drying around the edges.

If you're buying frozen fish, check the package for ice crystals or frost. This may mean that the fish has been thawed and refrozen or stored for a long time.

When you bring the fish home, put it in the fridge if you’ll be using it within 2 days. If not, wrap it well in foil or plastic and place it in your freezer. Thaw it by putting it in the fridge overnight.

If your raw or cooked fish smells fishy, sour, or rancid, don’t eat it.

Pacific whiting or hake fillets may be gaining in popularity, but the most common use of whiting fish is as surimi. This is a minced fish product that’s used to make imitation crab, such as that found in California rolls. 

Like other white fish, whiting can be cooked in a variety of ways:

  • Wrap it in foil and cook it on the grill.
  • Pan fry or sauté in some vegetable oil.
  • Dredge both sides of the fillet with seasoned flour. Sear it in vegetable oil and some butter.
  • Steam it with vegetables. 

Don’t overcook fish. If you cook fish for too long or at too high a temperature, the fish will dry out, and its flavor will be gone. If you're baking or broiling the fish, cook for 10 minutes per inch of thickness.

Most fish should be cooked until its internal temperature reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit.