What is Imitation Crab Meat Made Of?

Imitation crab is made from fish called surimi. However, is it healthier real crab?

Imitation Crab

Have you ever questioned what is in that California roll that you’re eating? It may look like it’s a crab, but it actually isn’t. This imitation crab is actually made from fish. So, how is it made? Plus, is it healthy to consume?


What Is Imitation Crab?

As mentioned, imitation crab is sourced from fish called surimi. The flesh of the fish which has been deboned is then washed and minced. Once it has been minced into a paste, it is blended with a variety of ingredients. Color, flavoring, and fillers are then added to mimic the color, texture, and taste of authentic crab meat.

The extract added to make it taste and smell like the crab is made from a fish called Pollock. It is also a kind of fish that’s used in breaded fish products and fish sticks. Other types of fish that is used include barracuda, mackerel, and cod.

So, how would you know if the menu is serving fake crab? In the packaging, it should state surimi seafood or crab-flavored seafood. On menus, the spelling of crab is “krab,” which basically means its fake crab meat. In other countries such as in Japan, the imitation crab is known as kamaboko.


What Is It Made Of?

As mentioned, the main ingredient used in imitation crab is surimi. It makes up 35 to 50 percent of the product’s weight. Other ingredients that make up the fake crab include the following:

  • Water

This helps in capturing the right texture of crab meat. Moreover, manufacturers add most of this in the “meat” to control the costs of production.

  • Starch

When it comes to firming the “krab” meat, tapioca starch, corn, wheat, or potato is used. This also helps to make the product freezable. Some manufacturers add to much starch to cut down on costs of production. This results in a product that is either too soft or too sticky.

  • Protein

Soy and egg-white are proteins commonly used in making imitation crab meat. These not only boost the amount of protein but help in improving the glossiness, color, and texture of the meat.

  • Sorbitol and Sugar

The sweetness in surimi is attributed to these ingredients. Moreover, sugar and sorbitol aid the product in maintaining its firmness even when frozen or thawed.

  • Vegetable Oil

Vegetable, soybean, or sunflower oil is added to improve the shelf life, white color, and texture of the meat.

  • Sodium Chloride

Apart from the other flavors and extracts added to the meat, salt is mixed to minced surimi. This forms a tough gel. Other than sodium chloride, potassium chloride is also used as a substitute.

Additives and preservatives are added to the mix before the mixture is pressed and cooked into its desired shape. Packaging involves vacuum sealing and pasteurizing to destroy bacteria.


Is It Healthy?

So, is imitation crab healthy? If you’re on a diet, then this meat is a great alternative since it is low on fat and calories and a high amount of phosphorus. The only drawbacks to this meat are its high sodium content and lack of fiber.

  • Sodium

The recommended dietary intake (RDI) of sodium is from 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams in a day. For “krab” meat, every 3 ounces of it carries 715 milligrams of salt. Take note that excess in salt increases your risk for high blood pressure, stroke, and kidney disease. So, it is best to consume this in moderation.

  • Phosphorus

There’s a healthy amount of phosphorus in “krab” meat. This nutrient plays an important part in the proper functioning of the muscles and kidneys. Moreover, it keeps your bones and teeth healthy, supports the functions of nerves, and keeps the heart beating regularly. For every 3 ounces of “krab” meat, it contains 240 milligrams. The RDI of phosphorus is 700 milligrams in a day.

As for its calories and fat, every 3 ounces contains less than a gram of fat and 81 calories. It also offers only 17 milligrams of cholesterol which is a great option if your diet should be low in this nutrient.

On the other hand, people who are allergic to gluten or have a gluten sensitivity, this type of meat should be avoided. It may trigger symptoms such as fatigue, bloating, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Those who have allergies to seafood should also avoid consuming surimi.

Some manufacturers also add monosodium glutamate (MSG) to amp the taste of the “krab” meat. For some individuals, MSG can trigger an allergic reaction as well. Some of the symptoms manifested by people who have a sensitivity to MSG include numbness or tingling, weakness, muscle tightness, and headaches.

The combination of crab flavoring, egg whites, sugar, starch and fillers might not make it the most nutritious compared to real crab meat. However, it doesn’t stop everyone from consuming it. As long as it is taken in reasonable quality, there should be no drawbacks to one’s health.


How to Incorporate It into Diet

“Krab” meat is a versatile ingredient. Plus, it is a whole lot cheaper compared to real crab meat. You can easily incorporate this into a variety of meals and dishes.

1. Add to Soup or Salad

Chop the meat into small portions and add them to a salad. You can also opt to use huge chunks and add it to vegetable soup or seafood stew.

2. Add to Sandwich

Put a twist to your usual sandwich with the help of “krab” meat. Mince the meat and add it to low-fat mayo. Afterward, add in fresh herbs for that flavorful finish. You can even add in other vegetables like pickles, tomatoes, and lettuce.

3. Add to Cream

Skip the usual dips and try creating one made with surimi. Dice the meat and add to sour cream that’s low-fat. You can opt to add fresh herbs or pepper. It can be an accompanying dip for plain chips, whole-wheat crackers, or freshly sliced vegetables.

Take note to keep portions to a minimum as the sodium content is high per 3 ounces of the “krab” meat.

The bottom line here is that while imitation crab might not be the healthiest or the most nutritious, it still has nutritional value. As long as one practices self-control and consumes this meat in moderation, there should be no drawbacks to health.

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