Is Cod Healthy? Know it’s Health Benefits and Side Effects

Cod
Credit: Nutrition Data/ Cod Fish

Cod is a mild-flavored fish with a flaky white flesh and is available throughout the year. Its mild flavor has made it a favorite among the other fish in American cuisine. The most common species of cod are Atlantic cod and Pacific cod. But, is cod healthy?

Cod is very healthy and so is cod liver oil. Cod livers are processed to make a highly nutritional supplement known as cod liver oil. It has a high amount of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A, vitamin D, and vitamin E. Cod is a good alternative to meat and is packed with healthy proteins.

Pacific cod is lower in calories compared to Atlantic cod. Pacific cod has 82 calories per 100 grams while Atlantic cod contains 105 calories. The Pacific cod fish protein content is 18 grams, while Atlantic cod fish has 23 grams for a 100-gram serving.

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Cod Fish Nutrition Facts

Cod Fish Nutrition facts

Credit: Nutrition Data/ Cod Fish

Like most other fish, cod is a good source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. It is also rich in vitamins B12 and B6, niacin, as well as vitamins E, A, and C. It is a good source of phosphorus, potassium, selenium, and other trace minerals.

Is Cod Healthy? The Benefits of Cod Fish

We will answer the question, “Is cod healthy?” The other question, “Is cod good for you?” will also be answered. In order to answer these, we first need to go through the health benefits of cod fish we’ve listed here for you.

1. Good for bodybuilding

A study published in the Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism journal says that cod protein helps promote growth and regeneration of skeletal muscle after an injury. Due to the high arginine content in cod, the proteins improve the resolution of inflammation.

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Bodybuilders need a quick and easy-to-digest source of protein. Cod is an excellent food for bodybuilding. It has easy-to-digest amino acids like that of whey proteins and egg-whites.

Incorporating cod in the bodybuilding diet gives many nutritional benefits. It includes zinc, selenium, and chromium all of which are important minerals for bodybuilding. Omega-3 fatty acids in cod help reduce the fats in the body without risking muscle loss.

2. Supports heart health

Heart Health

Cod is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. According to a study published in the April 2005 issue of Chest, omega-3 fatty acid improves cardiovascular health by increasing heart rate variability. Fernando Holguin (MD) said, “Omega-3 fatty acid levels are associated with decreased risk for sudden death.”

A research study conducted on patients consuming fish oil showed improvement in heart function in just two weeks. Taking fish oil supplements may help protect from heart attacks when complemented with a healthy lifestyle of exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting eight hours of sleep.

3. Protects against heart arrhythmia

A study lead by Dariush Mozaffarian at Harvard Medical School states that fish consumption contributes to improved electrical properties of heart cells and also protects against abnormal heart rhythms.

According to another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the long-term consumption of fish is associated with lower QT interval in free-eating patients without any evidence of cardiovascular disease. Therefore, overall fish intake provides protection against arrhythmia.

4. Reduces the risk of strokes

According to the meta-analysis of cohort studies published in the July 2004 issue of Stroke, consumption of fish is inversely related to the risk of stroke, especially in cases of ischemic stroke. Consumption of fish as less as one to three times per month may help protect against ischemic stroke.

5. May help lower triglycerides

A form in which fat is carried in the bloodstream is triglycerides. They serve as a major source of energy. But high levels of triglycerides increases the risk of heart disease, may also increase bad cholesterol (LDL), and lower good cholesterol (HDL). In a study conducted on patients with high triglycerides, it was found that two weekly servings of fish and other sources of omega-3 fats such as flaxseed may lower triglyceride levels.

6. Controls high blood pressure

According to the International Study of Macro- and Micro-nutrients and Blood Pressure, those who consume a diet rich in omega-3 have normal blood pressure. A higher omega-3 fatty acid intake by patients who didn’t use supplements, drugs, or a special diet for hypertension, diabetes, or heart disease was associated with a reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 1.01/0.98 mm Hg.

7. Protects against deep vein thrombosis

Deep vein thrombosis is formed deep in the veins of the legs, thighs, or pelvis due to blood clots—causing swelling and pain. According to another study, those who consume fish once a week, along with fruits and vegetables, are at a lower risk of DVT. Meanwhile, those consuming red and processed meats are at a higher risk of DVT.

8. May reduce the risk of cancer

Prevent Cancer

Foods rich in omega-3 fats may help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Consuming fish oil daily may help slow the spread of colon cancer in the early stages of the disease, but it is recommended to consult your doctor before taking the supplements. Research is being conducted to find the effects of omega-3 consumption on prostate and breast cancers.

9. May protect against Alzheimer’s disease

Eating fish two to three times per day for a week would provide 380 milligrams of EPA and DHA per day. In a paper published in the journal, Neuron, researchers at the University of California (Los Angeles School of Medicine) reported that a DHA-rich diet reduces the impact of the gene that is linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Also, normal levels of folate and vitamin B12 in the blood have been linked to decreased levels of dementia or other cognitive function disorders.

10. Provides 90% of RDI of vitamin A

Cod liver oil extracted from the livers of Atlantic cod provides 90% of the daily recommended intake of vitamin A per teaspoon. It has 888 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids, and 42.1 milligrams of omega-6 fatty acids. Consumption of cod liver oil has numerous benefits. It helps to have glowing skin, prevents coronary atherosclerosis, has higher amounts of vitamin D, and also helps repair wounds.

Side Effects of Cod Fish

Frozen cod is treated with a salt solution to prevent moisture loss during thawing. A three-ounce serving of cod has 60 milligrams of sodium, and when treated, the sodium content increases to 316 milligrams. It is always better to check the label on the packaging to avoid consuming high amounts of sodium.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, cod fish has mercury, but in moderate amounts. So then, is cod healthy? Cod fish is nutritious compared to other fish. Smaller amounts of mercury consumption don’t pose a risk to health.

Fish high in mercury can be harmful and toxic, especially to young children, so it’s best if you know the source of the fish. This is because an increase in the levels of industrial pollution increases the amount of mercury in the environment, including water sources. This mercury is consumed by fish through food. Therefore, it is important to know the levels of mercury before any fish is consumed.

Is Cod Healthy during Pregnancy?

Higher amounts of mercury can damage a fetus or newborn, so it is highly recommended for pregnant and nursing mothers to keep a check on the type of fish they consume. According to the FDA, pregnant women and children under six should eat only two servings per week of low-mercury fish. Cod has moderate amounts of mercury and so must be avoided by children and pregnant women.

Cod vs Salmon: Which Is Healthier?

Cod belongs to the genus Gadus while salmon belongs to Salmonidae family. Is cod fish a healthier option over salmon? Salmon and cod both have an ample amount of essential nutrients. They both have a good amount of protein and are excellent sources of selenium, too. According to the Institute of Medicine, a serving of either fish provides the daily requirements of selenium.

The protein content in Pacific cod fish is 18 grams per a 100-gram serving. Cod is a low-calorie fish compared to salmon. Cod contains only 82 calories, while salmon contains more than twice the amount of calories in the same serving as cod. A 100-gram serving of salmon has 206 calories. Cod comparatively contains lower cholesterol (about 37 grams) than salmon, which contains 63 grams per a 100-gram serving.

Although salmon contains more saturated fats than cod, salmon has higher amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids compared to cod. Cod contains 221 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids per 100 grams, while the same serving of salmon contains 2,260 milligrams. Salmon contains 666 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids per a 100-gram serving, while cod contains only 6 milligrams.

The mercury content in cod fish is moderate. Salmon has a low mercury content, but over-consumption of salmon can lead to increased levels of mercury. Also, the pollution factor stated above applies to salmon as well.

So, we can conclude that cod may be better for your health than salmon, considering certain factors such as calories and saturated-fat content. However, if you are more focused on increasing folate and good fats, then perhaps salmon is a better choice. It depends on your health condition and priorities.

Cod Fish Recipes: Cooking Cod Fish the Healthy Way

Cod fish is better when baked, broiled, or grilled. Frying the fish will increase the calories. You can pair the fish with healthy side dishes, such as serving it over steamed kale, grilled veggies, or with oven-baked sweet potato fries.
Here is a healthy cod fish recipe, which still has its nutrients preserved after it’s cooked.

Poached Cod and Green Beans with Pesto Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound green and/or yellow wax beans, trimmed
  • ¾ cup thinly sliced shallot
  • 1 ¼ pounds cod, cut into 4 portions
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth or “no-chicken” broth
  • ¼ cup prepared pesto
  • Lemon wedges for serving

Directions

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add shallots and beans, and cook while stirring for about two minutes, until the shallots soften.

Sprinkle the cod with salt and pepper on both the sides. Spread the beans in the pan in a flat layer, and place the cod on the top. Increase the heat to high. Add the broth and cook it covered for about four to six minutes.

Gently transfer the cod and beans to a large serving plate, and cover to keep warm. Cook the broth over high heat until it reduces to half a cup. Remove from heat and add in pesto.

Pour sauce over the fish and beans. Serve with lemon wedges.

Now that you have a healthy cod recipe and answer to your question, “Is cod healthy?” you can make it a part of your diet, however, in moderation.


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Sources:

“Fish Consumption and Incidence of Stroke,” American Heart Association Stroke Journals, June 24, 2004;
http://stroke.ahajournals.org/content/35/7/1538.

“Omega-3 fatty acids,” University of Maryland Medical Center; http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/omega3-fatty-acids, last accessed March 3, 2017.

“Fish, cod, Pacific, raw,” SELF NutritionData; http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/finfish-and-shellfish-products/4045/2, last accessed March 6, 2017

“Benefits of Cod,” The Science of Eating;  http://thescienceofeating.com/2015/01/15/benefits-of-cod/, last accessed March 6, 2017