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Cod

The white, mild flavored flesh of cod is available throughout the year and is a wonderful substitute for meat protein with its versatility making it easily adaptable to all methods of cooking.

Cod belong to the same family (Gadidae) along with both haddock and monkfish. It’s not surprising that the words “cod” and “cold” are so similar since cod need the cold, deep, Arctic waters to grow, reproduce and survive.

 


Health Benefits

Besides being an excellent low-calorie source of protein (a four-ounce serving of cod provides 52.1% of the daily need for protein for only 119 calories), cod contains a variety of very important nutrients and has also been shown to be useful in a number of different health conditions.

Cardiovascular Benefits

Fish, particularly cold water fish like cod, have been shown to be very beneficial for people with atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease. Studies show that people who eat fish regularly have a much lower risk of heart disease and heart attack than people who don’t consume fish. Cod, specifically, promotes cardiovascular health because it is a good source of blood-thinning omega-3 fatty acids, but is also a good source of vitamin B12 and a very good source of vitamin B6, both of which are needed to keep homocysteine levels low. This is important because homocysteine is a dangerous molecule that is directly damaging to blood vessel walls, and high homocysteine levels are associated with a greatly increased risk of heart attack and stroke(homocysteine is also associated with osteoporosis, and a recent study found that osteoporosis occurred more frequently among women whose vitamin B12 status was deficient or marginal compared with those who had normal B12 status.) Cod is also a very good source of niacin, another B vitamin that is often used to lower high cholesterol levels, something else that can lead to heart disease.

Eating fish, such as cod, as little as 1 to 3 times per month may protect against ischemic stroke (a stroke caused by lack of blood supply to the brain, for example, as a result of a blood clot), suggests a meta-analysis of 8 studies published in the July 2004 issue of Stroke.

Data on nine independent groups participating in eight different studies found that, compared to those who never consumed fish or ate fish less than once per month, risk of ischemic stroke dropped:

  • 9% in those eating fish 1 to 3 times per month
  • 13% in those eating fish once per week
  • 18% in those eating fish 2 to 4 times per week
  • 31% in those eating fish 5 or more times each week
(October 11, 2004)

Eating cod that's broiled or baked, but not fried, may reduce risk of atrial fibrillation, the most common type of heart arrhythmia, especially in the elderly, according to a Harvard study published in the July 2004 issue of Circulation. In the 12-year study of 4,815 people 65 years of age or older, eating canned tuna or other broiled or baked fish 1 to 4 times a week correlated with increased blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids and a 28% lower risk of atrial fibrillation. Eating broiled or baked fish 5 times a week lowered risk even more— a drop in atrial fibrillation risk of 31%.

Eating fried fish, however, provided no similar protection. Not only is fried fish typically made from lean fish like cod and Pollack that provide fewer omega-3 fatty acids, but in addition, frying results in the production of damaged, free-radical-laden fats in the fish as well as the frying oil.(December 13, 2004)


Protection Against Cancer

Fish consumption is also correlated with a reduced incidence of colon cancer. The selenium, vitamin B12, and vitamin D found in cod have all been shown to reduce the risk of the development of colon cancer by protecting colon cells from the damage caused by toxic substances found in certain foods and cancer-causing chemicals produced by certain gut bacteria..

Lower Your Risk of Leukemia, Multiple Myeloma, and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

Fishermen have, in epidemiological studies, been identified as having a lower risk of leukemia, multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, an occupational benefit that researchers thought might be due to the fact that they eat more fish.

Now, a Canadian study published in the April 2004 issue of Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention suggests that persons whose diet includes more weekly servings of fresh fatty fish have a much lower risk of these three types of cancer. Data drawn from a survey of the fish eating habits of 6,800 Canadians indicates that those consuming the most fatty fish decreased their risk of leukemia by 28%, their risk of multiple myeloma by 36%, and their risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma by 29%. Overall, frequent eaters of fatty fish reduced their risk for all forms of lymphomas by 30%. (August 3, 2004)

Anti-Inflammatory Nutrients Reduce Asthma, Arthritis and Migraine

The selenium, vitamin D and omega-3 fats found in cod have anti-inflammatory actions that reduce the inflammation that can lead to asthma attacks, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, and even migraines. Studies have shown that children who eat fish several times a week are at a much lower risk of developing asthma than children who don’t eat fish. The selenium in cod helps prevent asthma attacks by regenerating antioxidants that are used to reduce the free radical damage that can lead to severe attacks. Selenium is indirectly responsible for keeping the body's supply of at least three vitally important antioxidants intact: these are vitamin C, glutathione, and vitamin E. Although the chemistry of these relationships is complicated, it centers around an enzyme (protein molecule in the body that helps "jump start" a chemical reaction) called glutathione peroxidase. This enzyme cannot function without selenium.

The vitamin D and essential fatty acids found in cod have also been shown to prevent the progression of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, in societies where fish is eaten regularly, the rate of rheumatoid arthritis is much lower than in areas where fish is not commonly eaten. Cod, specifically, may help prevent or lessen the progression of these diseases since it is a very good source of vitamin D, providing 15.9% of the daily value for this nutrient in a 4-ounce serving. The most metabolically active form of vitamin D, calcitriol, works with parathyroid hormone to maintain proper levels of calcium in the blood, and when needed, to increase calcium absorption and thus calcium, helping to ensure strong, healthy bones. The anti-inflammatory actions of the omega-3 fats found in cod reduce the inflammation that is central to the symptoms and progression of rheumatiod and osteoarthritis, and may also help prevent migraine attacks, which are triggered by an inflammatory cascade that spreads from neuron to neuron in the brain called spreading depression. A four-ounce serving of cod provides 12.8% of the daily value for these beneficial omega-3 fats.

Description

It’s not surprising that the words “cod” and “cold” are so similar, just differing by one letter. It’s not surprising since cod need the cold. They need to live in deep, artic temperature water to grow, reproduce and survive.

Although there are a few varieties of cod that are generally consumed, North Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) is the most reputed and well known type. It has a light color and a noble taste. Other types of cod that are eaten throughout the world include ling cod, saithe cod and zarbo cod.

Cod belong to the same family (Gadidae) as both haddock and monkfish.

History

People have been enjoying cod as a food ever since this beautiful fish appeared in the Earth’s waters, basically since time immemorial.

Like other fish, in addition to being consumed fresh, preservation techniques such as salting, smoking and drying were used to preserve the cod. This allowed it to be easily transported and stored and made it one of the most commercially important fishes during the Middle Ages in Europe. Salted and dried cod is still very popular today in many countries including Norway, Portugal and Brazil.

Ever wonder where Cape Cod, Massachusetts, got its name? The answer: from this fish that used to be abundant in the coastal waters of this seaside town as well as the eastern seaboard of the United States and Canada. Unfortunately, over-fishing during the past few decades has greatly diminished the amount of cod in these waters. In addition to North America, much of the cod available in today’s market comes from Norway, Greenland, Iceland and Newfoundland.

How to Select and Store

Just as with any seafood, it is best to purchase cod from a store that has a good reputation for having a fresh supply of fish. Get to know a fishmonger (person who sells the fish) at the store, so you can have a trusted source from whom you can purchase your fish.

Fresh whole cod should be displayed buried in ice, while fillets should be placed on top of the ice. The flesh of the cod fillets should gleam and have minimal gaping.

Smell is a good indicator of freshness. Since a slightly “off” smell cannot be detected through plastic, if you have the option, purchase displayed fish as opposed to pieces that are prepackaged. Once the fishmonger wraps and hands you the fish that you have selected, smell it through the paper wrapping and return it if it does not smell right.

When storing all types of seafood, including cod, it is important to keep it cold since fish is very sensitive to temperature. Therefore, after purchasing cod or other fish make sure to return it to a refrigerator as soon as possible. If the fish is going to accompany you during a day full of errands, keep a cooler in the car where you can place the cod to make sure it stays cold and does not spoil.

The temperature of most refrigerators is slightly warmer than ideal for storing fish. Therefore, to ensure maximum freshness and quality, it is important to use special storage methods to create the optimal temperature for holding the fish. One of the easiest ways to do this is to place cod, which has been well wrapped, in a baking dish filled with ice. The baking dish and fish should then be placed on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator, which is its coolest area. Replenish ice one or two times per day.

The length of time that cod can stay fresh stored this way depends upon how fresh it is, i.e. when it was caught. Fish that was caught the day before you purchased it can be stored for about four days, while fish that was caught the week before can only be stored for about one or two days.

How to Enjoy

For some of our favorite recipes, click Recipes.

Plan on cooking Cod for about 7 minutes per inch thick for perfect doneness. This can vary some depending on the individual fish, and temperature of heat source.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas:

Combine cod, broth, healthy sautéed onions and garlic, and your favorite vegetables and seasonings in a stock pot to make a delicious fish soup.

Cod braised with tomatoes, olives, garlic, and Italian herbs is delicious.

Poaching cod is easy. Just cover it with water or broth, add a little lemon juice, parsley, and simmer until the flesh becomes opaque and flakey.

Serve steamed cod in a large shallow bowl over a thin layer of miso soup. Garnish with chopped scallions, daikon and shiitake mushrooms.

Bake cod in the oven covered with fresh chopped herbs, such as chives, tarragon, chervil, and a little fresh lemon juice and broth.

Safety

Cod is not a commonly allergenic food, is not included in the list of 20 foods that most frequently contain pesticide residues, and is also not known to contain goitrogens, oxalates, or purines.

Nutritional Profile

Introduction to Food Rating System Chart

The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good or good source. Next to the nutrient name you will find the following information: the amount of the nutrient that is included in the noted serving of this food; the %Daily Value (DV) that amount represents; the nutrient density rating; and, the food's World's Healthiest Foods Rating. Not all of our Daily Value standards are obtained from the FDA. In most instances, we used FDA Daily Values when available because they are widely recognized and apply to both men and women. However, when unavailable, we've used other science-based research to establish nutritional standards. Underneath the chart is a table that summarizes how the ratings were devised. Read more about our Food and Recipe Rating System.

 

Cod, Pacific, Fillet, Baked, Broiled
4.00 oz-wt
119.07 calories
Nutrient Amount DV
(%)
Nutrient
Density
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
tryptophan 0.29 g 90.6 13.7 excellent
selenium 53.07 mcg 75.8 11.5 excellent
protein 26.03 g 52.1 7.9 excellent
vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) 0.52 mg 26.0 3.9 very good
phosphorus 252.88 mg 25.3 3.8 very good
vitamin B12 (cobalamin) 1.18 mcg 19.7 3.0 good
potassium 586.28 mg 16.8 2.5 good
vitamin D 63.50 IU 15.9 2.4 good
vitamin B3 (niacin) 2.82 mg 14.1 2.1 good
omega 3 fatty acids 0.32 g 12.8 1.9 good
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
Rule
excellent DV>=75% OR Density>=7.6 AND DV>=10%
very good DV>=50% OR Density>=3.4 AND DV>=5%
good DV>=25% OR Density>=1.5 AND DV>=2.5%

In Depth Nutritional Profile for Cod

References

  • Dhonukshe-Rutten RA, Lips M, de Jong N et al. Vitamin B-12 status is associated with bone mineral content and bone mineral density in frail elderly women but not in men. J Nutr. 2003 Mar; 133(3):801-7.
  • Ensminger AH, Esminger M. K. J. e. al. Food for Health: A Nutrition Encyclopedia. Clovis, California: Pegus Press; 1986.
  • Fritschi L, Ambrosini GL, Kliewer EV, Johnson KC; Canadian Cancer Registries Epidemiologic Research Group. Dietary fish intake and risk of leukaemia, multiple myeloma, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2004 Apr;13(4):532-7.
  • He K, Song Y, Daviglus ML, Liu K, Van Horn L, Dyer AR, Goldbourt U, Greenland P. Fish consumption and incidence of stroke: a meta-analysis of cohort studies. Stroke. 2004 Jul;35(7):1538-42.
  • Mozaffarian D, Psaty BM, Rimm EB, Lemaitre RN, Burke GL, Lyles MF, Lefkowitz D, Siscovick DS. Fish intake and risk of incident atrial fibrillation. Circulation. 2004 Jul 27;110(4):368-73.
  • Wood, Rebecca. The Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Prentice-Hall Press; 1988.

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