Imitation crab, or the red and white crab stick, may taste like crab but hardly contains any. So, what is Imitation Crab actually made of? Known as ‘Surimi’ in Japanese, the imitation crab is essentially nothing but a paste of different types of fish ground together.
Imitation crab is popularly known as the poor man’s crab meat, and is often served by restaurants in sushi because of its inexpensive nature. But when you are pregnant, you cannot help but wonder, whether imitation crab during pregnancy is safe or not! This question could bother you, especially when you are really craving that Californian roll from your favourite sushi place. This article draws a list of pros and cons of imitation crab and its nutritional benefits, to enable you to make a better choice.
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A Guide for Imitation Crab During Pregnancy
Benefits of imitation crab during pregnancy
Low in mercury
Fish is often a source of mercury, for they absorb nutrients from the water bodies that contain some amounts of the metal. Mercury can hinder the brain development of the foetus and lead to complications at birth. In fact, most doctors suggest consuming foods that contain less amounts of mercury, when pregnant, and even when you plan on a pregnancy.
But seafood such as shrimp, clams, catfish and salmon contain less amounts of mercury. Since imitation crab is a combination of various sea foods such as shrimps and crabs, they contain very little amounts of mercury, and are safe to consume on that front.
High in phosphorus
Imitation crab is rich in phosphorus, providing about 24 percent of the daily requirement and thus increasing its nutritional value. Phosphorus is required during pregnancy to ensure the proper bone and teeth development of the foetus, and is responsible for its strong foundation. Phosphorus, in balanced amounts, also aids in the brain development of the foetus.
Low in calories and fat
Imitation crab has very little amounts of fat and calories, containing a meagre 162 calories in a generous serving of around 170 gm. This means that an inclusion of imitation crab in your diet could help you keep in check your cholesterol levels, and prevent heart diseases and other chronic ailments.
Read More: Can Pregnant Women Eat Shrimp?
Imitation crab remains a food source of vitamin b-6 and b-12, with a single serving providing for around 23 percent of the daily required intake. Vitamin B is known to work with folic acid to improve the health of your body system. It is an important nutrient required to keep in check the nervous systems, and helps prevent spina bifida and other neuro disorders in the foetus.
Disadvantages of imitation crab during pregnancy
Not gluten free
Imitation crab has significant traces of gluten, which is often hidden. Sensitivity to gluten may heighten during pregnancy, and can make digesting food a pain. Not only does it lead to bloating, abdominal pain and inflammation, but it also leads to diarrhoea and can build up over the course of time to create further complications later in your pregnancy.
High sodium content
Imitation crab has a significant portion of sodium in it, which is around 715 milligrams. This is because of the use of salt to make it last longer. High level of sodium is associated with high blood pressure which can further lead to heart problems, and renal ailments.
Imitation crab has a very insignificant serving of protein in it. Protein is essential to build new cells and repair damaged tissues, and is of crucial importance during pregnancy to enable the birth of a strong, healthy baby. Since imitation crab has a low amount of protein, it is suggested to complement your diet.
High Sugar content
Imitation crab, being a mixture of different fishes, makes use of starch and sugar to bind the ingredients. And help retain the shape the user desires. As a consequence, it contains high amounts of carbs and low fibre, which further slows sugar absorption by the blood. Ultimately, with high blood sugar, it paves the way for diabetes and other insulin diseases, causing immense harm during pregnancy.
Preservatives and additives
The flak surrounding imitation crab actually emanates from its highly processed nature- it is loaded with different preservatives and additives to make it last longer, while adding flavour to the dish. Monosodium Glutamate, or MSG, is one of the chief additives that are incorporated in imitation crab to enhance its flavour. MSG is also one of the controversial ingredients that are popularly used in Chinese cuisine- sensitivity to MSG leads to problems like headaches and muscle cramps, and its usage is heavily regulated.
Artificial flavourings are also added to imitation crab meat to help induce the look of real crab meat, in the form of caramel, paprika and carmine, which may or may not be natural to begin with.
While we’ve prepared a list of pros and cons to help you make a better choice, do keep the following in mind
Avoid raw fish
It is best to avoid raw fish in any form during your pregnancy. While the National Health Services of the United Kingdom does establish that it is safe to consume raw fish during pregnancy. It also warns that raw fish can contain certain parasitic worms that could cause allergies and can be very unpleasant with nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea as symptoms. It is also suggested to consume fish that has been frozen for at least four days to make it safe for consumption.
Preferable to eat real crab or shrimp
Imitation crab has certain nutritional benefits simply because of the base of the fish being used, which could be Pollock, or in some cases cod and mackerel as well. If affording real crab meat is problematic, it is best to substitute imitation crab with its base ingredients to avoid the excessive colouring, sugars, salts and other preservatives and additives. Not only are nutritionally much superior, they are safer to consume.
Check for allergens
More importantly, it is suggested to check whether you are allergic to certain ingredients into your pregnancy, as changing hormones can often create new ones. It not only makes your food consumption a lot safer but also helps you to make a diet and accordingly source vital nutrients from other foods.
All in all, if you are not allergic to gluten and are not diabetic, it is safe to consume imitation crab during your pregnancy, in moderation. While it may be a good source of certain nutrients, the same can be found in other foods that are not ridden with as much preservatives and additives as compared to imitation crab. So, you can now indulge in those sushi rolls, once in a while!