Atlantic cod are a oceanic, medium to large white-fleshed fish found in colder waters on either side of the Northern Atlantic coasts.
Atlantic cod belongs to the Cod (Gadidae) family of benthic (groundfish) fish living in deep offshore waters, typically at depths less than 500 meters.
Scientific name: Gadus morhua. Genus: Gadus.
It is also known by many local names simply as cod in English, torsk in Danish, morue franche in French, and ogac (Nunavut) in Inuktitut and Bacalhau in Portuguese.
|Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua). Photo credit: Per Harald Olsen|
Atlantic cod is deep-oceanic, bottom-dwelling fish in the cod family that also includes the Pacific cod, Greenland cod, and Alaska pollock.
Morphologically, the feature that distinguishes cod from most other Gadus genus is the presence of three dorsal fins and two anal fins on their body. Otherwise, it features similar to other fellow cod members; streamlined, fusiform shaped body and a distinct white lateral line running from the gill slit above the pectoral fin to the base of the tail fin.
Atlantic cod is a benthic (demersal) fish, lives close to gravels/ cobble substrate on the ocean bed in deep waters at a depth of 200-500 meters. It does not make long-distance mass migrations.
They change their color depending on their surroundings. They predate on a variety of bottom-dwelling creatures, including mollusks, worms, crustaceans, sea stars, fish eggs, and small fish like sardines, anchovy, and herring.
Atlantic cod are batch spawners. At maturity, it typically reaches about 3 feet long and weighs between 15-30 pounds.
Its life span is about 25 years, but a typical catch is anywhere between 5 and 15 years.
Atlantic cod is one of the finest sources of essential fatty acids, protein, minerals, and fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A, E, and D.
It is non-oily, deep water fish, and therefore, low in calories and saturated fats; 100 g holds just 82 calories in comparison to 91 calories in halibut.
It composes lean, flaky white meat that composes a good amino-acids profile. 100g fish provides 17.81 g/100 g (32% of RDI). Protein composition is complete in the sense that all essential amino acids in a healthy proportion.
Science-backed studies suggest that eating seafood can help decrease the risk of heart attack, stroke, obesity, and hypertension. Seafood is low in saturated fat and higher in “heart-healthy” polyunsaturated fat, including omega-3 fatty acids.
Cod liver oil is a dietary supplement derived from the liver of codfish (Gadidae). It contains the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Research studies suggest that omega 3's, particularly DHA, play an important role in the development of the nervous system, especially in infants and children.
Cod liver oil also contains vitamin-A and vitamin-D. It is given to children to prevent rickets and dry eyes conditions that result from the deficiencies of vitamin-D, and vitamin-A respectively.
According to Cornell University and the New York Sea Grant Extension Program. 2012- the fatty acids play crucial role in decreasing blood pressure and heart rate and help improve cardiovascular function. For example, research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeats) that can lead to sudden death.
In adults, several large trials have evaluated the effect of fish or fish oils on heart disease. In the "GISSI Prevention Trial, heart attack survivors who took a 1-gram capsule of omega-3 fats every day for three years were less likely to have a repeat heart attack, stroke, or die of sudden death than those who took a placebo".
Being a deep-water fish, cod contains little vitamin-A in its flesh. Nonetheless, its liver carries ample amounts of omega-3's such as ALA, DHA, and DPA to help keep hair, mucosa, and skin healthy.
Atlantic cod fillet composes B-complex vitamins such as niacin, pyridoxine (B-6). It is also a good source of vitamin-E, vitamin-B12, thiamin, and riboflavin.
Its flesh contains just 0.111 ppm of mercury in its flesh. US FDA categorizes atlantic cod in the "best choice" section considering mercury levels in its flesh. The recommended consumption is 2-3 serving (8-12 ounces) per week for cod.
Further, it is a natural source of rich minerals including iodine, calcium, zinc, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium. Iodine is an important trace element in human nutrition and is essential for thyroid hormone synthesis.
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||0.67 g||3.4%|
|Dietary Fiber||0 g||0%|
|Folate total||7 μg||1.75%|
Atlantic cod is canned, air-dried (stockfish), or salt-cured (kipper). Codfish roe is eaten fresh, smoked, or salted. Its tongue, cheek, and liver are also edible.
Atlantic cod products are available year-round. However, fresh cod are at their best from June to October when they fully recovered from spawning, that is when the fish are plump and the flesh is sweet and firm.
If you are looking for fresh cod, check for bright, firm fish with clean skin, pink gills, and clear eyes. The fillets may be marketed with or without skin. Avoid soft fillets which tend to disintegrate while cooking.
At home, store fish and fillets in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. For extended use, scale, and gut whole before storing in the deep freezer below -30°C.
To prepare, soak dried, salted cod in cold-water before cooking. To desalt, place it in a strainer, skin side up (if it has skin) so that the salt does not get accumulated between the flesh and skin. Place the strainer in a large container filled with water, allowing salt to gather at the bottom.
Atlantic cod is sweet-flavored fish that absorbs surrounding flavors in a dish. Its non-oily, flaky, white flesh is similar to other cod members like hake, haddock, and alaska pollock, and hence, employed in many dishes that call for white fish.
Atlantic Cod is an extremely versatile fish to prepare. Grill, bake, steam, pan-searing, broil, poaching, or sautéing are some of the ideal cooking methods for enjoying it.
Here are some serving ideas:
|Fish n Chips. Photo credit: david pursehouse|
Fry it in a light batter for a delicious 'Fish n Chips' recipe.
Smoked Atlantic cod also makes excellent fish lasagna and pie, especially when mixed with an equal quantity of fresh white fish like hake.
Bacalhau is the Portuguese word for dried and salted cod. Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá is a casserole prepared with dried salted cod, potatoes, eggs, olives, and onion specialty dish from Northern Portugal.
The mean mercury concentration in atlantic cod is 0.111 ppm. Accordingly, the U.S FDA final guidelines on how much fish expectant as well as breastfeeding mothers can eat, along with lists of specific options that are safe or should be avoided, places it in "the best choice" category. By this yardstick, they can consume 2-3 serving (8-12 ounces) of it in a week. (Medical disclaimer).
Also read <<-Salmon nutrition facts and health benefits.
Further reading (Links opens in new window):
Species Fact Sheets -Gadus morhua.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Contribution.