Cod is a fish with flaky, white flesh and a mild flavor.
It’s packed with protein, B vitamins, and minerals.
However — unlike many other types of seafood — cod is not often promoted as a health food, so you may wonder whether it’s good for you.
This article tells you everything you need to know about cod, including its nutrition content and health benefits.
Cod is a popular, widely harvested fish because of its flaky, white flesh and mild taste.
Several species of fish within the genus Gadus are considered cod, including the Atlantic, Pacific, and Greenland cod varieties (, ).
However, the term “cod” is also used in stores for a variety of other fish species that are not within this genus.
For this reason, it can be difficult to know the exact type of fish you’re getting when you purchase cod — unless the label includes a clear identification.
Summary While there are several different types of cod, this name is also used for some fish that may or may not be directly related to cod. In general, cod have soft, white flesh that makes them a popular seafood item.
Cod contains several important nutrients your body needs.
The nutrition information listed below pertains to Atlantic and Pacific cod. Keep in mind that the exact nutrient content of fish labeled “cod” can vary, as some may be different species entirely.
High in Lean Protein
Cod is high in protein but low in calories, fat, and carbs.
A 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of cooked Atlantic cod has only 90 calories and around 1 gram of fat. However, it is packed with 19 grams of protein ().
Similarly, the same serving size of cooked Pacific cod provides about 85 calories, less than 1 gram of fat, and 20 grams of protein ().
A Good Source of Some B Vitamins
B vitamins have many essential functions in your body, including metabolizing nutrients and releasing energy from food ().
Both Atlantic and Pacific cod are good sources of several B vitamins.
One 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of cooked cod provides over 30% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for vitamin B12 for adults (, 5).
In addition to other vital functions, vitamin B12 helps form red blood cells and DNA (5).
Rich in Phosphorus and Selenium
In addition to its vitamin content, cod provides several important minerals, including phosphorus and selenium.
Cod contains approximately 20% or more of the RDI for phosphorus in a 3-ounce (85-gram) serving (, 10).
This fish is an especially good source of selenium, too, with a single 3-ounce (85-gram) serving often giving 40% or more of the RDI for adults (, 10).
Thus, cod goes a long way to fulfilling your mineral requirements.
Summary Cod generally provides a lean source of protein, several B vitamins, and multiple important minerals for your body.
There are several potential benefits of adding cod to your diet.
May Promote Heart Health and a Healthy Weight
Fish consumption is associated with a variety of health benefits, including lower heart disease risk and brain function support (, , ).
However, it is important to note that cod and other lean fish are lower in omega-3 fatty acids than fatty fish like salmon ().
These fats are presumed responsible for many health benefits.
Nonetheless, cod is nutrient-dense, meaning that it contains many beneficial nutrients in relatively few calories. Thus, lean fish like cod can still promote good health and may even be weight-loss-friendly (, ).
As mentioned previously, cod is also a good source of high-quality protein (, ).
Low in Mercury
One potential health concern associated with fish consumption is mercury exposure.
Water sources can be contaminated with mercury, a toxic heavy metal, that accumulates in fish. When humans eat these fish, the mercury can lead to health problems (17).
In fish, the highest levels of mercury are often found in species that have longer lifespans and are relatively high on the food chain.
Fish with the highest mercury content include shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, orange roughy, and marlin. Common fish like tuna, halibut, and bass also contain mercury (19).
Cod is lower in mercury than these fish, making it a better choice for those looking to avoid toxins (19).
Cod Liver Oil
Some cod byproducts are utilized in dietary supplements. The most popular of these is cod liver oil.
Cod liver oil is an excellent source of vitamin D and gives higher concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids than cod filets ().
Summary Fish consumption is associated with improved health and reduced disease risk. Although cod does not contain the high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish, it is relatively low in mercury and can be a nutritious part of a healthy diet.
Although cod can be part of a nutritious diet, it may also have some downsides.
While these precautions are worth keeping in mind, they should not necessarily discourage you from eating cod.
Lower Omega-3 Content Than Fatty Fish
Cod does not possess the high levels of omega-3 fatty acids that fatty fish do.
These important fatty acids may be responsible for some of the health benefits of fish (20).
For this reason, it may be best to regularly consume fatty fish in addition to lean fish like cod.
As with many other fish, cod may harbor parasites if it’s consumed raw without previously being frozen (21).
Parasites in food can cause foodborne illness and unpleasant symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, and muscle pain ().
However, consuming fully cooked or previously frozen cod removes this concern.
Atlantic cod is now considered a vulnerable species, meaning that it is likely to become endangered if the circumstances threatening its survival do not improve (25).
Summary Although there are several health and environmental concerns related to cod consumption, these do not indicate that cod should be avoided altogether. Sustainable, properly prepared cod can be a safe and nutritious part of your diet.
Cod can be prepared in a number of ways, including baking, grilling, broiling, and pan-frying.
Although it is important to fully cook cod, particularly if it has not previously been frozen, overcooking cod may cause it to dry out and become tough.
It’s often recommended to cook cod in moist heat to avoid drying. To do so, wrap the fish in aluminum foil before cooking.
Cooking times vary based on the method, but cod is appropriately cooked when the flesh turns opaque and flakes easily upon being scraped gently with a fork.
Summary Cod can be prepared in numerous ways, and its mild flesh easily absorbs spices. To ensure that it doesn’t dry out, wrap cod in aluminum foil during cooking.
Cod is both a nutritious and flavorful fish loaded with lean protein, vitamins, and minerals.
Although lower in omega-3s than fatty fish, cod can still be part of a healthy diet.
Cod contains less mercury than some seafood, including popular fish like tuna, and can be prepared in multiple ways.
If you want to add something new to your plate, cod is easy to prepare at home.