Crab meat is one of the favored delicacies when it comes to seafood. So, what is imitation crab meat made of and does it offer the flavor, texture, and healthy attributes of genuine crab meat? In order to know, it is important to understand what imitation crab meat is made of so that people who choose to order it will know what they are getting.
Sometimes called “crab sticks”, “krab”, or “seafood sticks”, this is processed seafood that comes in the form of kamaboko which is essentially white fish or surimi that has been pulverized to a very fine degree and combined with starch to help hold it together. At this point, the white fish shape and then cured to resemble the leg meat found in Japanese spider crab or snow crab. Imitation crab meat was first produced and patented in Japan in 1973. Called Kanikama at the time, this was more of flake-type processing than the current pulverizing of the meat that we see today. By the following year, the Osaki Suisan Co. Ltd. Started producing and patenting their own imitation crab meat and putting on the market in stick form.
What Is Imitation Crab?
By 1976, the imitation crab meat was introduced to the US by The Berelson Company located in San Francisco. It was at this point when the product started acquiring different names from Ocean Sticks to Sea Legs, Krab Sticks, and more.
What is Imitation Crab Meat Made of?
Although in Japan they use white fish, most imitation crab meat is made from Alaska Pollock which is found in the North Pacific and is crushed or pulverized. The meat is then mixed with a binding ingredient such as egg white, transglutaminase, or wheat which also contains gluten in order to hold the meat together
At this point, crab flavoring is added either directly from actual crab meat or by the use of artificial flavoring. Finally, red food coloring is usually applied to the outside of the meat in order to create an appearance that resembles crab meat.
Is Imitation Crab Meat Healthy?
When considering what imitation crab meat made of, it does offer a number of healthy benefits to the body. However, there are also some potential negative effects as well which start with the gluten used to hold the meat together. For those who have gluten intolerance, then they should avoid consuming imitation crab meat. However, actual crab meat has no gluten and is safe for those who have gluten intolerance to consume.
Low in Calories & Fat: For those looking to shed excess weight, imitation crab meat is low in fat and calories which make it an excellent choice when adding protein to the diet. In addition, it can reduce the risk of heart disease when consumed in the proper amount. Generally speaking, three ounces of imitation crab meat contains only 81 calories and under 1 gram of fat.
Low in Cholesterol: The same three ounces of imitation crab meat also offers just 17 milligrams of cholesterol which makes it perfect for those who are on a low cholesterol diet.
Plenty of Phosphorus: Phosphorus is a very important mineral for your teeth and bones and plays a very important role in the function of your muscles and kidneys. With three ounces of imitation crab meat offering a respectable 240 milligrams, you are well on your way to the goal of consuming the recommended 700 grams per day.
However, when you consider what imitation crab meat made of it also includes elements that are not healthy for you starting with the gluten that is added to keep the meat together.
Filler Materials: The fillers which usually include wheat or egg whites are actually okay for the diet as long as it is present in small quantities. However, depending on the source there may be other filler materials present that may not be the best for your health. It is important to check out the full ingredients before purchasing imitation crab meat.
High Sodium Levels: As with virtually all seafood products, imitation crab meat is loaded with sodium which may adversely affect your health. The recommended upper limit for sodium intake per day is 2,300 milligrams, but most people get far more than that. The same three ounce serving of imitation crab meat offers 715 milligrams of salt which means that you will need to consume it occasionally instead of regularly in order to avoid eating too much.
Imitation Crab Meat vs. Real Crab Meat
There are key differences between imitation and real crab meat because they are based on what imitation crab meat made of products that are not crab, but do mostly come from the ocean.
Different Taste and Texture: Although the ingredients in what is imitation crab meat made of will often include crab flavoring, it does not compare to the real thing. Actual crab meat has a flavor and texture that is quite different than the imitation. For those who love crab, there is no substitute.
Crab has more Nutrients: While the imitation variety does offer many good nutrients, actual crab meat is superior not only for the amount but also for the lack of gluten which makes it a healthier choice for those who are gluten intolerant. Because actual crab meat is not processed, it retains many of the healthy nutrients that are otherwise lost in the imitation variety.
Less Expensive: Imitation crab meat costs a fraction compared to the real thing which is why so many food companies love to sell it. It takes the fish product that might otherwise be wasted and creates a crab substitute that many people enjoy for far less money to create.
It is true that both versions suffer from having a high amount of sodium, so it should be restricted to a few times per week at most. It does help if you combine either meat product with salads or other dishes which will enhance their flavor while providing you with the many healthy benefits that comes from each product.
What is imitation crab meat made of is an important question that offers substantial results in terms of the nutrients that are included? In addition, the low cost of the product makes it a very economical substitute for real crab meat even if the taste is not the same.
Images used via the creative commons license v2.0 – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Image One by Calgary Reviews – https://www.flickr.com/photos/calgaryreviews/4874097259/
Image Two by Ben Sutherland – https://www.flickr.com/photos/bensutherland/7873373928/