Nutrition

What to know about cod

Cod is a healthful type of fish with many dietary benefits. It is high in protein and low in fat, which makes it an excellent protein source. Cod is also high in vitamins and minerals that are essential to bodily functioning.

Some of the best ways to consume cod is steamed, baked, or grilled. It also goes well with vegetables or in a curry.

Most types of fish, especially larger species, contain mercury. Mercury can be toxic in high amounts, so it is best to avoid consuming too much. However, cod is not high in mercury. This means that for most people, it is possible to consume cod without this risk.

This article will discuss the benefits and risks of eating cod.

High in protein


Cod is naturally high in protein.

Like other types of fish, cod is naturally high in protein. Specifically, 100 grams (g) of cooked cod contains around 20 g of protein.

Protein is an essential part of any diet. Proteins support the “structure, function, and regulation” of cells, tissues, and organs in the body.

Protein contains amino acids. It is essential to get some of these amino acids from food, as it is not possible for the body to make them itself. Many plant-based sources of protein do not contain these essential amino acids, but fish does.

Cod is also a healthful source of protein. There are around 0.25 g of fat and 84 calories in 100 g of cod.

Evidence suggests that obtaining protein from more healthful sources could have a range of health benefits, such as reducing the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Less healthful sources of protein are foods such as red meat and cheese.

It is important to eat protein every day, as the body stores protein in a different way to other macronutrients such as carbohydrates.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine advise that adults aim to include at least 0.8 g of protein per kilogram of body weight in their daily diet.


Omega-3 fatty acid

The low fat content of cod mainly consists of omega-3 fatty acids. The body cannot produce omega-3 fatty acids, so people must get them from their diet.

Omega-3 fatty acids are important to cell functioning and contribute to the functioning of the cardiovascular, endocrine, and immune systems.

These fatty acids appear to have many health benefits, such as protecting against cardiovascular disease.

Omega-3 fatty acids are less common than other fatty acids, such as omega-6. Fish, including cod, is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids.


Vitamins

Cod fish swimming in the ocean
Cod contains several vitamins and minerals.

Cod is a good source of several vitamins, including vitamins E, A, C. It is also an excellent source of multiple B vitamins, especially B-6 and B-12.

Vitamins perform a range of important functions in the body, and a vitamin deficiency can have negative health consequences.

For example, vitamin B-6 is important for metabolic processes and brain development. Vitamin B-12 supports nerve and blood cells. It is also important for preventing health conditions such as anemia and maintaining energy levels.

Vitamin B-12 is mostly present in animal products and fish. A person can obtain other B vitamins from both plant and animal sources. Cod contains both vitamins B-6 and B-12.


Minerals

Cod also contains multiple minerals, including phosphorus, potassium, and selenium.

Potassium supports the muscles and nervous system. Phosphorus is important for keeping bones healthy, regulating heartbeat, and maintaining kidney function. Selenium is important for thyroid function, reproduction, DNA production, and the immune system.

The body needs a range of minerals to function properly. As with vitamins, it is important to obtain minerals from the diet.

Potential risks

Consuming cod in moderate amounts is safe and generally without adverse effects.

Cod, like most types of fish, contains mercury. Excessive mercury consumption can be toxic and may cause neurological and behavioral disorders. It may be particularly problematic in children.

Fish naturally contain mercury, partly from consuming other fish. It may be worth limiting the consumption of large fish, such as swordfish, tilefish, and king mackerel. It is important to note that albacore tuna has significantly more mercury than canned light tuna.

However, cod does not contain high amounts of mercury. So, moderate consumption of cod should not cause problems in most people.


During pregnancy

In general, cod is safe for pregnant women to consume in moderate quantities.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommend that pregnant women consume 8–12 ounces (oz) of fish low in mercury. Consuming too much mercury can harm a fetus.

Cod is lower in mercury than many other fish. Eating between 8 and 12 oz of cod per week should be safe for pregnant women. Other examples of very low-mercury fish are sardines and herring.

Adding to the diet

raw cod fillet on a board
The best way to eat cod is to bake, steam, or grill it.

There are many ways to add more cod to the diet, such as by consuming cod fillets.

The best method of eating a cod fillet would be to steam, grill, or bake it. It is also possible to fry the fillet, but this is a less healthful way of cooking.

Cod goes well with vegetables and in a curry. It is also possible to make cod into a pie, or to use breadcrumbs to coat the fish for added flavor.

A range of ready-made products also contain cod, such as fish cakes and fish sticks. However, these products are generally less healthful.


Summary

Cod is a highly nutritious food. It is a rich source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. It is also low in calories and contains very small amounts of fat.

It is generally safe to eat in moderate amounts.

Pregnant women should consume no more than 8–12 oz of cod per week due to its mercury content.

The most healthful way to eat cod is to grill or bake the fish and combine it with a side of mixed vegetables.

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