for any of you and SUSHI was vegetarian food,……,

Imitation Crab Meat May Be Even Worse Than You Think

By Rachael Link, MS, RD

September 3, 2019 Dr. Axe on Facebook2176  Dr. Axe on Twitter4  Dr. Axe on Pintrest47  Share on EmailPrint Article

Imitation crab meat - Dr. Axe

Have you ever eaten at a sushi restaurant or ordered Chinese takeout? If so, then there’s a pretty good chance you’ve tried imitation crab meat at one point or another, regardless of whether you knew it or not.

Thanks to its versatility, ease of preparation and budget-friendly benefits, imitation crab has become a prominent ingredient featured in restaurants, grocery stores and home kitchens alike.

Is imitation crab vegan?

Contrary to popular belief, imitation crab meat is not actually vegan — or even vegetarian.

Even more surprising, it often doesn’t even contain any crab meat at all and actually contains more starch and carbohydrates than protein.

So what is imitation crab made of, and should you reconsider this controversial ingredient?

Let’s take a look at what’s really in your favorite sushi rolls and why you may want to think twice about your takeout order.

What Is Imitation Crab Meat? Why Was It Created?

Imitation crab meat, or kanikama, is a product typically found in popular foods like California rolls, crab rangoons and crab cakes.

So what exactly is imitation crab? And is imitation crab meat real meat?

The primary ingredient of imitation crab is a type of gel-like substance known as kani surimi, which is made by grinding different types of fish into a thick paste, then adding in starch, fillers, artificial flavoring and food coloring to mimic the taste, texture and appearance of real crab.

Imitation crab was first produced and patented by Sugiyo, a Japanese company, in 1973. Just one year later, the product began gaining traction as other companies began making imitation crab in its popular crab stick form.

A few years later in 1976, Sugiyo began working with a U.S.-based company to introduce imitation crab to the United States along with the rest of the world.

Today, imitation crab meat is widely consumed across the globe and has become a staple ingredient in many dishes.

It’s estimated that 2 million to 3 million tons of fish around the world, or about 2 percent to 3 percent of the world fisheries supply, are used to produce surimi-based products, such as imitation crab meat.

Pollock is the most common fish used to produce imitation crab meat due to its lack of flavor, abundance and ready availability, but other types of fish like cod, mackerel and barracuda are sometimes used as well.

Because of its sparse nutrient profile and long list of additives, many people consider it to be the seafood equivalent of the hot dog, made of fish parts and questionable ingredients that have been ground up into a cheap, highly processed convenience food.

Still, it remains a common ingredient in many types of cuisine, favored for its versatility, low cost and ease of preparation.

In fact, because it is significantly cheaper than regular crab meat, it has become a popular choice for everyone from food manufacturers to restaurants and consumers.

Is It Good for You? Imitation Crab Nutrition vs. Real Crab Nutrition

Imitation crab nutrition is relatively low in calories but contains some protein, carbohydrates and sodium.

A three-ounce serving of imitation crab meat contains approximately:

  • 81 calories
  • 13 grams carbohydrates
  • 6 grams protein
  • 0.4 gram fat
  • 0.4 grams dietary fiber
  • 37 milligrams magnesium (9 percent DV)
  • 0.5 microgram vitamin B12 (8 percent DV)
  • 0.1 milligram vitamin B6 (5 percent DV)

Compared to real crab, imitation crab is significantly lower in many nutrients, including protein, vitamin B12 and selenium. Crab also provides a much wider range of nutrition than imitation crab meat.

For comparison, a three-ounce serving of cooked queen crab contains approximately:

  • 98 calories
  • 20.2 grams protein
  • 1.3 grams fat
  • 8.8 micrograms vitamin B12 (147 percent DV)
  • 37.7 micrograms selenium (54 percent DV)
  • 0.5 milligram copper (26 percent DV)
  • 587 milligrams sodium (24 percent DV)
  • 3.1 milligrams zinc (20 percent DV)
  • 2.4 milligrams iron (14 percent DV)
  • 53.5 milligrams magnesium (13 percent DV)
  • 0.2 milligram riboflavin (12 percent DV)
  • 2.5 milligrams niacin (12 percent DV)
  • 109 milligrams phosphorus (11 percent DV)
  • 6.1 milligrams vitamin C (10 percent DV)
  • 35.7 micrograms folate (9 percent DV)
  • 0.1 milligram vitamin B6 (7 percent DV)

In addition to the nutrients listed above, cooked crab also contains some thiamine, vitamin A, pantothenic acid, calcium, potassium and manganese.