Cod Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Cod fish
Cod fish.

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Cod is a firm-fleshed white fish that swims in the chilly waters of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Its mild flavor and sturdy, flaky texture make it a go-to choice for fish and chips, fish tacos, and fish stews, among other recipes.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 recommend consuming 8 ounces (about two servings) of fish and seafood per week, and cod is a healthy choice for reaching this target. As a very lean fish, cod doesn’t contain the ample amounts of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids you’ll find in fatty fish like salmon or tuna. However, it still can contribute to your daily intake of this beneficial fat.

Cod is also a low- to moderate-mercury fish, meaning it's safe to eat regularly. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, this means that cod is safe to eat 2-3 times per week.

Cod Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information for 4 ounces (112 grams) of cod has been provided by the USDA.

  • Calories: 90
  • Fat: 0.5g
  • Sodium: 79.5mg
  • Carbohydrates: 0g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugar: 0g
  • Protein: 20g

Carbs 

Breadings and seasonings may add carbohydrates to cod, but the fish itself contains no carbs. 

Fats

The fat in cod is minimal, at 0.5 grams per 4-ounce serving (though Atlantic cod may have slightly more fat than Pacific). About half the fat in cod is the polyunsaturated variety—some of which comes from omega-3 fatty acids. One serving of cod provides 0.1 grams of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA and 0.04 grams of the omega-3 EPA.

Protein

Cod is an excellent source of protein, at 20 grams per 4-ounce fillet. Because of its low-fat content, cod is considered a very lean protein. 

Vitamins and Minerals 

The micronutrient rockstar of cod is its vitamin B12. One fillet can contain up to 96% of the recommended dietary allowance of 2.4 micrograms of this vitamin. Other nutrients present in smaller amounts include vitamin C, vitamin D, iron, and sodium. 

Health Benefits

Promotes Heart Health 

Research shows that a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids, especially from fish, can reduce the risk of heart disease. As a lean fish, cod isn’t as high in omega-3 fatty acids as some other, fattier fish—but every little bit helps. The 0.14 grams of omega-3s in one serving of cod provides 9% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of omega-3s for men and 13% for women.

Suitable for Special Diets 

Because cod is a lean protein with no carbohydrates, it can fit well into a diabetes meal plan or other low-carb diets. It’s also an option for those on a Paleo, pescatarian, or gluten-free diet.

Low in Mercury

Many people have concerns about the mercury content in fish, which has been linked to neurological problems. In particular, pregnant and lactating women are often advised to limit mercury in their diet. Fortunately, though, cod is considered a low or moderate-mercury fish. According to the American Pregnancy Association, pregnant women can safely consume two to three servings of cod per week.

May Help Weight Loss 

Studies show that following a pescatarian diet—which includes fish but no meat—is associated with lower body mass index (BMI). Replacing meat with fish reduces calories and saturated fat, which may lead to weight loss. 

More specifically, a 2009 study examined the relationship between eating cod and losing weight. Researchers found that the more cod young, overweight, and obese adults included in their diet, the more likely they were to shed pounds.

May Benefit Some Health Conditions

Cod is high in vitamin B12, which the body requires to form red blood cells and synthesize DNA. People with certain health conditions, such as pernicious anemia and bowel disorders, may have a vitamin B12 deficiency. If you’re living with one of these conditions, your doctor may recommend you consume more high-B12 foods like cod.

Allergies

Fish—including cod—are among the top eight food allergens, so an allergy to cod is certainly possible. But unlike many other food allergies, which appear in childhood, a fish allergy may not present until adulthood. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, as many as 40 percent of people with a fish allergy don’t begin to have problems with fish until adulthood. If you’ve noticed symptoms such as hives, runny nose, nausea, indigestion, or difficulty breathing after eating cod, consult your doctor about the possibility of a fish allergy.

Adverse Effects 

Cod is safe for most people, but those at high risk of foodborne illness, like the elderly and pregnant women, may need to avoid raw cod. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about which fish you can eat.

Frozen cod may be treated with a salt solution during processing, which can add a significant amount of sodium. If you’re on a sodium-restricted diet, be sure to check labels on frozen cod to stay informed.

Varieties 

Two primary varieties of cod exist: Atlantic cod and Pacific cod. Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) are found in the waters of the North Atlantic Ocean, while Pacific (Gaud macrocephalus) make their home near the Alaskan coast. Atlantic cod are typically larger, with a sweeter taste and meat that flakes into larger pieces. Pacific cod’s flavor, on the other hand, is milder and more savory, and its flesh may be chunkier and firmer. 

When It’s Best 

Cod fishing has its peak in the late summer, but this doesn’t mean the fish is only available seasonally. Fresh and frozen cod is typically sold year-round. 

Storage and Food Safety 

Fresh cod should be stored in the refrigerator and used or frozen within two days. Frozen cod can last three to eight months. To freeze fresh cod, wrap individual fillets tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil or another airtight freezer-safe material. If you use heavy duty foil, is wise to use an overwrap because it can be torn or punctured easily. Light weight (household) aluminum foil is not satisfactory for home freezing.

Always take a whiff of cod before cooking and eating it. Fish that has gone bad will have an “off” or sour smell and may appear slimy. Discard any cod with these tell-tale signs of going bad.

How to Prepare

Because of its mild flavor and firm flesh, cod is a wonderfully versatile fish. You can prepare it by baking, frying, pan-searing, smoking, grilling, or poaching. The other bonus? It cooks relatively quickly. For a simple baked cod, place fish in a greased baking dish, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Cod is done when its flesh flakes easily with a fork.

Recipes 

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Article Sources
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