Food - News

What You're Really Eating When You Eat Fish Sticks

Fish sticks are made with minced fish — which is still high in protein and has the same nutritional value as regular fish — and the most common variety used is Alaskan pollock. Pollock is sustainable, safe for pregnant women to consume, and is low in mercury.


Breading forms a relatively small percentage of the fish stick’s contents, with most brands using wheat flour. More expensive brands, however, use panko bread crumbs — which are crispier, airier, and absorb less oil — while gluten-free brands use a mixture of rice and corn.


Most brands use highly-processed canola or soybean oils — which have more Omega-6 fatty acids than Omega-3 fatty acids, and consuming more Omega-6 can cause inflammatory diseases. Instead, opt for fish sticks that have less-processed rice or avocado oil.

Refined Vegetable Oils

Sugar is added to most processed foods, including fish sticks, which contain dextrose — a wheat or corn sweetener that helps baked goods to brown easily. However, too much consumption of dextrose leads to heart, kidney, and liver disease, as well as diabetes.

Sugar and Dextrose

Although fish fingers aren’t typically spicy, they do contain small amounts of spices — such as garlic, onion, black pepper, and paprika. Spices not only enhance the taste, but some spices like paprika provide antioxidants, help prevent cancer, heart disease, and even gas.


Genetically modified corn is common in fish sticks, but it can result in health problems — like increased inflammation and blood sugar spikes. If a corn supply was infested with mycotoxins, it can cause anything from acute poisoning to cancer, so, look for brands that use organic corn.

Corn Products

Sodium acid phosphate is a leavening agent that’s "generally recognized as safe" by the FDA, yet it also has laxative effects. It can cause kidney damage, mineral imbalances, and even death in those with kidney issues or high blood pressure, so check the label beforehand.

Sodium Phosphate

Fish fingers are unexpected sources of dairy and eggs, and more often than not, you can see if a brand contains them or has chances of cross-contamination by looking at the ingredients list. If you have a severe dairy allergy, it’s best to forgo buying fish sticks altogether.

Dairy Products

Yeast extract is commonly used in food products as a flavor enhancer, and it is considered to be safe for human consumption by the FDA. Yeast extract is rich in amino acids, vitamins, and minerals, and you can especially notice the depth of flavor it adds to prepared foods.


Fish sticks are high in sodium, with some brands containing more than a quarter of the recommended amount of sodium in just one serving. Per the CDC, dietary sodium should not exceed 2,300 mg, so look for brands with low salt content or avoid eating a full serving.


The FDA says that natural flavor has “flavoring constituents derived from [various food and plant products] whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional." If you wish to avoid natural flavors, though, look at the ingredients on the packaging before buying.

Natural Flavors