Is Raw Fish Hard to Digest?

All around the world, fish is consumed raw in everything from sushi to poke bowls. However, this does not mean that it is easy to digest or is the best food choice for every individual.

Since raw fish does not go through the cooking process, it is more difficult to digest than cooked fish. The cooking process helps to break down the proteins making the fish easier to digest than raw fish.

The rest of this article will go over how the cooking process affects the digestion of fish as well as other common questions regarding raw fish.

Is Raw Fish Easy to Digest?

Compared to many other foods, raw fish is not particularly hard to digest. Raw fish contains virtually no fiber which is one of the most difficult nutritional components to digest. It contains mainly protein and fat, both of which are easy for bodies to digest. 

Other foods, including vegetables like broccoli and cabbage will be significantly harder to digest as they contain large amounts of fiber. Fiber requires healthy gut bacteria to be processed correctly and can cause discomfort and intestinal distress when consumed without a healthy gut.

However, compared to cooked fish, raw fish is more difficult to digest.

Cooked vs. Raw Fish

Compared to cooked fish, raw fish is more difficult to digest and this is because of the denaturing process that cooking causes.

In its raw form, the proteins in fish are fully formed, and can be difficult for our bodies to break down. They will require significantly more energy to break down and the human body finds it more difficult to withdraw nutrients from proteins that have not been previously broken down. The cooking process allows us to begin the process of breaking down proteins before the food ever enters our mouths.

With cooked fish, the process of breaking down proteins has already begun. That way, when the fish is consumed it is easier for the body to digest the rest of the fish and absorb the available nutrients.

Raw fish has not been broken down at all which makes it more difficult to digest. This means that the nutrients available in the fish are more difficult to extract.

Cooked fish also has the benefit of being safer to eat than raw fish. Raw fish has the potential to carry parasites that can make humans very sick. By cooking the food, you can kill off any potential parasites that are still alive in the fish. Cooking can also kill off bacteria that may have grown on the fish after it was killed.

How Long Does It Take to Digest Raw Fish?

Fish, and other meats, can take up to two days to fully digest which is longer than most other foods. Since raw fish is more difficult to digest than cooked fish, raw fish may take even longer to digest. However, there is no solid research available to confirm that.

Since they contain high amounts of protein and fat and relatively low levels of carbohydrates and fiber, they take longer to be digested and move through your intestinal tract. This is one reason that it is important to consume a variety of foods, not just fish and meat.

Vegetables and fruits contain the fibers that help to keep your digestive tract running smoothly. Without them, you could struggle with constipation from a lack of fiber.

Things to Do Before Eating Raw Fish

Before eating raw fish the most important thing to do is make sure that the fish has been prepared correctly. In many countries, this will mean that the fish has been flash frozen to kill parasites and has been kept at the proper temperatures since the fish was processed. This will help to prevent bacteria from growing on the fish which could make you sick.

Before eating raw fish you should also make sure that you can handle breaking down large amounts of protein. If you have previously struggled to digest cooked fish, you should avoid raw fish as it will be even more difficult to process.

Is It Safe to Eat Raw Fish?

One of the main concerns that consumers have when it comes to raw fish is that it is not safe to eat. However, as long as it is prepared properly, raw fish is safe to consume.

The main concern with eating raw fish is that the fish carries dangerous parasites and bacteria that are not killed off during the cooking process. To prevent this, you should only consume raw fish that has been prepared by a reputable restaurant that stores and prepares their raw fish correctly.

To get rid of parasites, your raw fish should be flash frozen before consumption. This kills off the parasites in the food without changing the texture of the fish. In many countries, it is illegal to serve raw fish that has not been flash frozen.

To prevent dangerous bacteria, you should only consume fish that has been kept at the proper temperature. As long as the fish is kept below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the fish should be safe from harmful bacteria. 

To learn more about the risks associated with eating raw fish, click here.

What is the easiest fish to digest?

One of the easiest fish to digest is salmon. Salmon is a white, flaky fish that is also very light. There are also strict regulations surrounding salmon production which makes it one of the safest fish on the market.

How do I make sure fish is safe to eat raw?

To make sure fish is safe to eat raw you should only purchase it from a reputable seller that stores the fish properly. A good seller will flash freeze the fish to kill parasites and refrigerate the fish throughout the storage process to prevent bacterial growth.

Does raw fish make your stomach hurt?

As long as it is prepared properly, raw fish should not make your stomach hurt. If it does make your stomach hurt this likely means that it was carrying a parasite or bacteria.

If your stomach pain persists for more than a day or two you should visit your doctor.

How do you prevent Salmonella after eating raw fish? 

The best way to prevent Salmonella when eating raw fish is by only consuming raw fish produced by reputable sellers. They will only source their fish from healthy habitats where Salmonella is uncommon.

If you are worried that you may have contracted Salmonella from eating raw fish you should visit your doctor.

Final Thoughts

Raw fish is a popular ingredient in many dishes across the world. However, it is not the easiest food to digest.

Since raw fish is not cooked, the proteins in the fish have not been broken down. This makes it more difficult for the average person to digest the fish and extract all of the available nutrients from the food.

Raw fish can also carry some parasites and bacteria that are dangerous to humans. If you decide to eat raw fish you should use caution and only consume fish from reputable sources.