Benefits Of Cod

Cod:

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.

Nutritional Benefits

Cod is an excellent source of protein and selenium. It is also a very good source of vitamin B6 and phosphorus. In addition, cod is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, potassium, and niacin.

In-Depth Nutritional Profile
In addition to the nutrients highlighted in our ratings chart, an in-depth nutritional profile for Cod is also available. This profile includes information on a full array of nutrients, including carbohydrates, sugar, soluble and insoluble fiber, sodium, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids and more.

Introduction to Food Rating System Chart
In order to better help you identify foods that feature a high concentration of nutrients for the calories they contain, we created a Food Rating System. This system allows us to highlight the foods that are especially rich in particular nutrients. The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good, or good source (below the chart you will find a table that explains these qualifications). If a nutrient is not listed in the chart, it does not necessarily mean that the food doesn't contain it. It simply means that the nutrient is not provided in a sufficient amount or concentration to meet our rating criteria. (To view this food's in-depth nutritional profile that includes values for dozens of nutrients - not just the ones rated as excellent, very good, or good - please use the link below the chart.) To read this chart accurately, you'll need to glance up in the top left corner where you will find the name of the food and the serving size we used to calculate the food's nutrient composition.

This serving size will tell you how much of the food you need to eat to obtain the amount of nutrients found in the chart. Now, returning to the chart itself, you can look next to the nutrient name in order to find the nutrient amount it offers, the percent Daily Value (DV%) that this amount represents, the nutrient density that we calculated for this food and nutrient, and the rating we established in our rating system. For most of our nutrient ratings, we adopted the government standards for food labeling that are found in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's "Reference Values for Nutrition Labeling."

Cod
4.00 oz-wt
113.40 grams
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 26.02 g 52.0 7.9 excellent
vitamin B6 0.52 mg 26.0 3.9 very good
phosphorus 252.88 mg 25.3 3.8 very good
vitamin B12 1.18 mcg 19.7 3.0 good
potassium 586.27 mg 16.8 2.5 good
vitamin B3 2.82 mg 14.1 2.1 good
omega-3 fats 0.32 g 13.3 2.0 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%

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.

Increases Heart Rate Variabilityâ€"A Measure of Heart Muscle Function
One of the ways in which consuming fish rich in omega-3 fats, such as salmon, promotes cardiovascular health is by increasing heart rate variability (HRV), a measure of cardiac function, in as little as three weeks, according to a study published in the April 2005 issue of Chest.

By providing greater variability between beats, the marine omega 3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, reduce the risk of arrhythmia and/or sudden death.

Researchers from Atlanta, GA, Boston, MA, and Cuernavaca, Mexico, took the HRV of 58 elderly patients every other day for two months to establish an HRV baseline for each participant. For the next 11 weeks, half of the study participants took a daily 2 gram supplement of fish oil and the other half took a daily 2 gram supplement of soy oil.

Patients in both groups experienced a significant increase in HRV, with those who took fish oil achieving a greater increase in a shorter time period. Patients who received fish oil experienced increased HRV within the first 2.7 weeks, whereas it took 8.1 weeks for a significant increase in HRV to be seen in the group taking soy oil.

On the other hand, while none of the study participants experienced significant negative side effects, 41% of participants in the fish oil group reported belching, compared to 16% in the soy oil group.

"Our findings contradict the current belief in the medical community that increasing the intake of omega-3 fatty acids produces only long-term cardiac benefits," said the study's lead author, Fernando Holguin, MD, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA. "In fact, our study group showed improvements in heart function in as little as two weeks."

"Studies like this demonstrate that there are additional approaches we can take to protect ourselves from heart attacks," said Paul A. Kvale, MD, FCCP, President of the American College of Chest Physicians. "It's exciting to see the potential for omega-3 fatty acids in improving heart function when it complements a healthy lifestyle of exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting eight hours of sleep."

We'd add eating healthful foods to this proactive list. Rather than pop a daily pill, we'd rather enjoy a daily "dose" of delicious cod, soyfoods, or tuna. For recipes certain to not only increase your heart rate variability but also your delight in eating, click Recipes.

Protection against Fatal Heart Arrhythmia
A healthy way of eating that includes at least 10 ounces of omega-3-rich fish each week improves the electrical properties of heart cells, protecting against fatal abnormal heart rhythms, suggests a study from Greece.

"Long-term consumption of fish is associated with lower QT interval in free-eating people without any evidence of cardiovascular disease. Thus, fish intake seems to provide anti-arrhythmic protection at a population level," wrote the authors in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. (Chrysohoou C, et al.)

The QT interval is a measure of the heart's electrical cycle, from the beginning of ventricular depolarization, the Q wave, to the end of the T wave, at which point cardiac repolarization is complete.

A lower QT score indicates a lower resting heart rate. As a higher resting heart rate has been linked to an increased risk of sudden death, the result of approximately 50% of heart attacks, lowering the resting heart rate provides significant health benefit.

Researchers at the University of Athens enrolled 3,042 people (1,514 men, aged 18-87, and 1,528 women, aged 18-89), who used a validated food frequency questionnaire to record their food intake of 156 different foods. Along with alcohol consumption and physical activity were also recorded, and electrocardiography was used to measure several indexes of study participants' heart rate.

After the raw data scan, those who ate more than 10 ounces (300 grams) of fish per week were found to have QT scores 13.6% lower than people who did not eat fish.

After adjusting the results for potentially confounding factors such as age, sex, physical activity status, BMI, smoking habits and intake of nuts, the reduction in QT scores in those eating 10 or more ounces of fish each week rose to 29.2%, compared to those who did not eat fish.

In an earlier study, Harvard researchers reported that among those consuming the most fish, heart rate was 2.3 beats per minute lower and likelihood of prolonged QT was 46% lower. Similar results were found in study participants taking 1 gram of omega-3s daily. The mechanism behind these benefits is thought to be omega-3 fats' effects on the flow of sodium and calcium in the ion channels, which are involved with electrical signaling in cells.

Practical Tip: A typical serving of fish is 4 ounces, so just 3 servings of omega-3-rich fish, such as cod, each week would provide 2 ounces more than the 10 ounces this research indicates confers significant protection against sudden death from a heart attack. For great, quick and easy recipe ideas, take a look at our Recipe Assistant.

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
Eating Fish Daily Provides Substantially More Protection against Heart Attack
While as little as a weekly serving of fish lowers risk of ischemic stroke, enjoying a daily serving omega-3-rich fish, such as cod, provides significantly greater reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease than eating fish even as frequently as a couple of times a week, show the findings of a study published in the January 17, 2006 issue of Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association.

Researchers in Japan followed 41,578 men and women aged 40 to 59, none of whom had cardiovascular disease or cancer when the study began, from 1990-1992 to 2001. Food frequency questionnaires completed at the beginning of the study and in 1995, provided information on weekly fish intake, which was analyzed for omega-3 content.

When individuals whose fish consumption was in the top one-fifth of participants at 8 times per week were compared to those whose intake was in the lowest fifth at once per week, they were found to have a 37% lower risk of developing coronary heart disease and a 56% percent lower risk of heart attack.

When the effect of omega-3 fatty acid intake on cardiovascular risk was analyzed, coronary heart disease risk was lowered by 42% among those whose intake was the highest at 2.1 grams per day or more compared to those whose intake was the lowest at 300 milligrams per day. Those whose intake of omega 3s was in the top fifth received a 65% reduction in the risk of heart attack compared to those whose omega 3 intake was lowest.

The authors theorize that daily fish consumption is highly protective largely due to the resulting daily supply of omega-3 fatty acids, which not only reduce platelet aggregation, but also decrease the production of pro-inflammatory compounds called leukotrienes. Lowering leukotrienes reduces damage to the endothelium (the lining of the blood vessels), a key factor in the development of atherosclerosis. "Our results suggest that a high fish intake may add a further beneficial effect for the prevention of coronary heart disease among middle-aged persons," note the study's authors.

Choose Broiled or Baked, but Not Fried Cod
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 moreâ€"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.

In further research to determine if the omega-3 fats found in fish oil were responsible for fish's beneficial effects on the heart's electrical circuitry, Dariush Mozaffarian and colleagues from Harvard Medical School analyzed data on fish intake and electrocardiogram results from 5096 adults, aged 65 or older, who were enrolled in the Cardiovascular Health Study from 1989-1990.

Eating tuna or other broiled or baked fish at least once a week was associated with lower heart rate (-3.2 beats/minute) and a 50% lower likelihood of prolonged ventricular repolarisation (the period of time it takes the heart to recharge after it beats, so it can beat again), compared to those consuming fish less than once a month.

Consuming 1 gram/day of omega-3 fatty acids from fish was associated with 2.3 beats/minutes lower heart rate and a 46% lower risk of prolonged ventricular repolarisation.

Eating fish at least 5 times per week was associated with an even healthier heart rhythm.

However, eating fried fish (typically sold in the U.S. as fish burgers or fish sticks) was not associated with increased blood levels of omega 3 fats or any beneficial electrocardiogram results.

In fact, a previous study led by the same researcher (Mozaffarian, Am J Cardiol 2006 Jan) found that while eating baked or broiled fish was linked to a slower but more powerful heart beat and lower blood pressure, eating fried fish was associated with heart muscle motion abnormalities, a reduced ejection fraction, lower cardiac output, and higher blood pressure.

Since irregular heart beats are a major precipitating factor in sudden death due to cardiac arrest, promoting a healthy heart rhythm by eating baked or broiledâ€"not friedâ€"fish several times a week makes very good sense. Happily, as our recipes, such Mediterranean Cod show, it's a quick, easy and most importantly, delicious prescription.

Consumption Tips

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 sauted 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.

Caution

Omega 3 fatty acids contained in cod can interfere with the ability of blood to clot, which increases the risk of hemorrhagic strokes.
While cod makes for a low cal food, cod liver oil is high on calories and therefore, its consumption needs to be moderate and well regulated. Large amount of cod consumption can prove dangerous for other reasons as well. As it is very rich in many vitamins, over-consumption can be risky.
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