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Crab stick nutrition facts, calories and full health analysis

Crustaceans, crab, alaska king, imitation, made from surimi
*all the values are displayed for the amount of 100 grams

Crab stick nutrition infographic

Crab stick nutrition infographic
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Complete nutrition and health benefits analysis for Crab stick

Crab stick

Introduction

Crab sticks have many names: seafood sticks, imitation crab meat, surimi, krab sticks or kanikama in Japanese. A crab stick despite its name doesn’t actually contain real crab meat. It is a highly processed food, made of white fish meat or surimi to imitate the texture, shape and flavor of the leg meat of a crab. This food originated in Japan in 1974 and later found popularity in Western countries, especially in the USA. 

Surimi is a paste made from fish meat and in Japanese it literally means “ground fish”. White fish is a term for several species of fish, such as Atlantic cod, pollock and others. Surimi has been used in Japanese culture for centuries, mainly as a kind of seafood called kamaboko, commonly added to soups. Katsuichi Osaki, the son of the founder of a company producing kamaboko products, figured that adding red colouring to kamaboko and slicing it into a stick shape can make it resemble real crab meat, without the expensive price (1).

The most common fish used in surimi, and therefore in crab sticks, is the Alaska pollock or walleye polock. The myofibrillar proteins of the fish form a gel, and sugars like sucrose and sorbitol are added as cryoprotectants, to keep the gel from degradation in low temperatures. To improve the texture and stabilize the gel, wheat starch and egg whites are added. Vegetable oil is also used to better its texture and appearance. To achieve the taste of crab meat, natural and artificial flavourings are added. The natural flavoring is usually made from aqueous extraction of edible crab. Finally seasonings, such as monosodium glutamate, vegetable protein and mirin are added. The red coloring is achieved by adding natural dyes like carmine, caramel, paprika and annatto extract (2).

Crab sticks are commonly used in seafood salads and are the main ingredient in many types of sushi, the most popular ones being California rolls, Kani maki sushi rolls, Kimbap Korean sushi and Kanikama sushi or Nigiri.

Nutrition

Checkout our Crab stick nutrition infographic below

The nutrition of crab sticks is based on the main ingredient fish and the added components: sugars, starch, egg whites, vegetable oil, flavourings and seasonings.

Macronutrients and Calories

The predominant macronutrient of crab sticks are carbohydrates, consisting mainly of sugars: sucrose, glucose and fructose. The rest of the carbohydrates are made up from mostly starch and some dietary fiber.

The fish meat in crab sticks makes up the protein, which is about 8% of a crab stick’s nutrition. This protein includes all essential amino acids and is particularly rich in lysine, threonine and tryptophan. Of the non essential amino acids crab stick is high in aspartic and glutamic acids.

Imitation crab contains very little fats, however it does contain some cholesterol and trans fats. The fat composition is dominated by monounsaturated fatty acids, followed by saturated fatty acids, leaving polyunsaturated fatty acids in last place.

Crab sticks are a low calorie food, containing only 95 calories per a 100g serving.

Vitamins

Crab sticks contain some cardinal vitamins, being very rich in vitamin B12 and vitamin B6. It also contains moderate amounts of vitamins B1, B2, B3, vitamin E and vitamin K. However crab sticks completely lack vitamin B5 and folic acid (B9), as well as vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin D.

Minerals

Crab sticks are very rich in selenium, phosphorus and magnesium. Crab sticks also contain calcium, zinc, iron, choline, potassium, copper and manganese. This food is very high in sodium.

Comparison to Crab Meat

Real crab meat is much richer in protein compared to crab sticks. It also has fewer calories, due to the fact that it contains no carbohydrates, as opposed to crab sticks that are high in both sugars and starch. Crab meat is low in fats, but still contains more of it than crab sticks, therefore has a higher level of cholesterol. However the predominant fats in crab meat are polyunsaturated fats with a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids.

As opposed to crab sticks, crab meat contains vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin B5. It is also higher in vitamins B12, B2, B2, B6 and vitamin E. However crab sticks contain higher levels of vitamin B1 and vitamin K.

Crab meat is also richer in iron, calcium, potassium, copper and zinc, whereas crab sticks are higher in magnesium and phosphorus. The sodium concentration in crab sticks is slightly lower.

Health Impact

Allergy

Fish allergies are one of the most common allergies among adults. Surimi, even after the thorough processing, can retain the allergens found in the fish, since approximately 75% of the fish’s original protein content remains. Therefore, consuming crab sticks can pose a serious threat to people who are allergic to certain types of fish, pollock in particular (3).

The codfish that surimi is made from usually contains several allergic proteins, whereas surimi contains only a single allergic protein (4). Thus, surimi in general is less allergenic compared to the fish it is made from.

The symptoms of a crab stick allergy are the same as most food allergens cause: oral allergy syndrome, an itching, tingling or swelling feeling in the mouth, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and in some rare cases anaphylactic shock.

Crab sticks do not contain crab meat, however some added proteins may come from the aqueous extract of crabs, so for people allergic to shellfish and crabs it is better to read the label or avoid it as a whole.

In the production of crab sticks egg whites and wheat starch are sometimes added, so it is usually not gluten free. For people who are allergic to egg whites or are gluten intolerant it is best to avoid crab sticks.

Diabetes

Real crab meat is a much better choice for diabetics, due to the fact that imitation crab contains added carbohydrates, both starch and sugars, whereas crab meat does not contain carbohydrates at all. There are not enough studies concerning the effect of imitation crab meat on the diabetic profile.

Even though imitation crab meat has a low glycemic index, there is a possibility that some of its dietary proteins react with the pancreatic islet cells, among with other low glycemic index seafood proteins, potentially causing an immune response harming the pancreatic beta cells, leading to latent autoimmune diabetes of adulthood (LADA), in people predisposed to it or with prior sensitization (5).

There is hope in future of processing and the development of surimi meat to use cryoprotectants other than sugars, such as amino acids, methylamines, carbohydrate polymers, synthetic polymers (polyethylene glycol), other proteins (bovine serum albumin) and even inorganic salts (potassium phosphate and ammonium sulfate) (6). This will, naturally, decrease the sugar concentration and consequently the glycemic index of crab sticks.

Cancer

There is some limited suggestive evidence that fish in general can decrease the risk of cancer (7). Some studies linked higher fish consumption with reduced risk of developing liver, breast and colon cancers in particular (8). Most of the anticancer quality of fish is related to the omega-3 fatty acid content. Imitation crab meat contains some polyunsaturated fatty acids, however fortifying surimi meat with omega-3 fatty acids could greatly improve its anticarcinogenic abilities. Fortifying surimi based seafood products with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids without affecting the taste or texture of the meat has been proven possible (9).

Cardiovascular

Fortifying surimi based seafood products with omega-3 fatty acids, does not only improve the anticarcinogenic qualities of the products, but also improves its potential to protect against arrhythmias, reduce blood pressure and generally benefit cardiovascular and diabetic conditions (10).

Something that people with cardiovascular conditions have to keep in mind while consuming imitation crab meat is that it is high in both salt and sugar.

Pregnancy

Imitation crab meat is cooked during its production so it is usually safe to eat for pregnant women, however it is best to ask whether there are other raw products in foods containing crab sticks, to avoid potential poisoning (11).

There is a potential risk of Listeria monocytogenes contamination of ready to eat foods, especially seafoods, however the bacteria are inactivated by thermal treatment in crab stick production (12). Use of starfish gelatin film containing vanillin in crab stick packaging with its antimicrobial qualities also decreases the risk of Listeria monocytogenes contamination (13).  

Glycemic Index

Fish in general have a glycemic index close to zero, however the added carbohydrates to imitation crab makes the glycemic index of this food estimated around 50. It falls under the classification of a low glycemic index food.

Acidity

The acidity of imitation crab meat, based on the Potential Renal Acid Load (PRAL) is 11 due to its protein and micronutrient composition, making the crab stick an acidic food.

Serving Size

The serving size of crab sticks is 3oz or 85g.

Cooking

Imitation crab meat is already cooked during production, so it is safe to eat as it is.

If you are to steam the crab sticks, it’s better to steam it for less than 10 minutes, otherwise the meat can disintegrate into pieces.

Microwave reheating is advised against due to the textural changes that may be caused (14).

Storing, Keeping & Conservation

Freezing imitation crab meat is not recommended. It is supposed to be refrigerated at a temperature between 32°F (0°C) to 38°F (3°C). Imitation crab meat should be discarded if kept at room temperature for longer than 2 hours (14).

Vacuum-sealed, pasteurized crab sticks can be kept in the refrigerator for 2 months, if the packaging is unopened. It should be used within three days after opening.

Imitation crab sold in loose forms in trays in fish cases should be kept for three to five days. If frozen it can be kept for up to six months (15).

It is not recommended to refreeze imitation crab.

Crab stick in Diets

 

Keto

Imitation crab stick is not ideal for this diet, due to the carbohydrates added during processing. One serving of crab sticks contains 15g of carbohydrates. Real crab meat is a better choice, since it has no carbs.

DASH

Both imitation crab and crab meat, as most seafoods are high in salt. It is better to avoid crab sticks on a DASH diet.

Atkins

During the Induction phase you can only have 20g of carbohydrates a day (16), so imitation crab meat is not advised in this phase. You can add crab sticks to your diet starting from the third Fine-tuning phase and use it throughout the Maintenance phase.

Mediterranean

Seafoods are a staple part in a Mediterranean diet, however imitation crab is a highly processed food with added sugars, so if available, real crab meat is the correct alternative.

Paleo

Imitation crab meat, being a highly processed food with additives, does not fit this diet (17).

Vegan/ Vegetarian/ Pescetarian

Even though imitation crab doesn’t contain actual crab meat, it is still made of fish, so it does not fit a vegetarian or a vegan diet. Crab sticks also often contain eggs and a natural dye called carmine that is made using insects (18). Crab sticks do suit the pescetarian diet.

Dukan

Although imitation crab is rich in protein it also contains sugars. You can start eating crab sticks in moderation starting from the Consolidation phase.

Intermittent Fasting

As with most foods, you can eat imitation crab during the eating periods and refrain from it during the fasting periods.

Low Fat & Low Calorie

Crab sticks fit a low fat and a low calorie diet, containing only 95 calories and less than a gram of fats in a single serving.

Low Carb

Crab sticks contain 15g of carbohydrates per serving, which is not ideal for a low carb diet. Real crab meat is the better alternative for this.

Anti Inflammatory

Real crab meat may have anti inflammatory qualities due to its omega-3 fatty acid content (19), however there is not enough research on this topic when it comes to imitation crab.

BRAT

Seafoods full of proteins are advised to be avoided on a BRAT diet (20), so imitation crab is not suitable for this diet.

Consumption & Production

Originating in Japan in the seventies, imitation crab quickly spread to the West and became a very popular food in the United States.

Imitation crab meat is the most common product in the world made from surimi. Crab sticks usually contain about 35 to 40 percent fish meat. However some crab sticks’ fish content can be up to 85 percent (21).

Countries that produce a significant percentage of the world’s surimi based products are Japan, the Republic of Korea, France, Spain, Italy and the USA. Thailand, China, Lithuania and India produce surimi based products mainly for export. The Russian Federation is also becoming a major market for surimi based products (21).

Eighty percent of the surimi based products in France are imitation crab sticks.

From the years 2000 to 2004 the export of imitation crab meat from South Korea dramatically decreased by double, however seafood consumption in the Republic of Korea is increasing. This may be due to depletion of near and deep sea resources (21).

 

Sources.

  1. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2017/02/17/food/crab-sticks-imitating-genuine-article-since-1974/
  2. http://www.madehow.com/Volume-3/Imitation-Crab-Meat.html
  3. https://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(96)70104-5/fulltext#
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7521143/
  5. https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/34375135/5551512.pdf?sequence=1
  6. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/257653670
  7. https://www.wcrf-uk.org/sites/default/files/Meat-Fish-and-Dairy-products.pdf
  8. https://www.aicr.org/news/fish-and-cancer-risk-4-things-you-need-to-know/
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25212318/
  10. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/281761053
  11. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322137
  12. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11307883/
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6049121/
  14. https://www.louiskemp.com/faq/
  15. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1985-08-29-fo-23985-story.html
  16. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/atkins-diet-101#foods-to-avoid
  17. http://thepaleolist.com/2014/09/16/is-imitation-crabmeat-paleo
  18. https://www.livescience.com/36292-red-food-dye-bugs-cochineal-carmine.html
  19. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140624105235.htm
  20. https://www.healthline.com/health/brat-diet#food-list
  21. http://www.fao.org/3/a-bb244e.pdf

Important nutritional characteristics for Crab stick

Crab stick
Glycemic index ⓘ Gi values are taken from various sources including USDA and NHS. GI values less than 55 are considered as low. Values above 70 are considered as high.
50 (low)
Serving Size ⓘ Serving sizes are taken from FDA's Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed (RACCs)
3 oz (85 grams)
Acidity (Based on PRAL) ⓘ PRAL (Potential renal acid load) is calculated using a formula.On PRAL scale the higher the positive value, the more is the acidifying effect on the body. The lower negative value is the more alkaline the effect is. 0 is neutral.
11 (acidic )
Calories
95
82% Phosphorus
81% Sodium
76% Magnesium
59% Carbs
58% Selenium
Explanation: This food contains more Phosphorus than 82% of foods. More importantly, although there are several foods (18%) which contain more Phosphorus, this food itself is rich in Phosphorus more than it is in any other nutrient. Similarly it is relatively rich in Sodium, Magnesium, Carbs and Selenium

Crab stick Glycemic index (GI)

50
Similar food data
0 Crab Crab
27 Clam Clam
50 Mussel Mussel

Check out similar food or compare with current

Macronutrients chart

Protein:
Daily Value: 15%
7.62 g of 50 g
15%
Fats:
Daily Value: 1%
0.46 g of 65 g
1%
Carbs:
Daily Value: 5%
15 g of 300 g
5%
Water:
Daily Value: 4%
74.66 g of 2,000 g
4%
Other:
2.26 g

NEW NUTRITION FACTS LABEL

Nutrition Facts
___ servings per container
Serving Size ______________
Amount Per Serving
Calories 95
% Daily Value*
0%
Total Fat 0g
0%
Saturated Fat 0g
Trans Fat g
7%
Cholesterol 20mg
22%
Sodium 529mg
5%
TotalCarbohydrate 15g
4%
Dietary Fiber 1g
Total Sugars 6g
Includes ? g Added Sugars
Protein 8g
Vitamin D 0mcg 0%

Calcium 13mg 1%

Iron 0mg 0%

Potassium 90mg 3%

*
The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.

Health checks

Low in Cholesterol
ok
details
High level of Cholesterol may be dangerous for your health, especially if you suffer from cardio-vascular deseases.
No Trans Fats
limit break
details
Trans fats tend to increase risk of coronary heart disease according to various studies. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) states that trans fats increase levels of LDL and decrease levels of HDL. According to NAS trans fatty acid consumption should be as low as possible while consuming a nutritionally adequate diet.
Low in Saturated Fats
ok
details
Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 recommends using less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fats link
Low in Sodium
ok
details
Extensive usage of sodium is not recommended for the people suffering from hypertonia.
Low in Sugars
ok
details
Using too much sugars can lead to weight gain or diabetes.

Mineral coverage chart

Calcium: 13 mg of 1,000 mg 1%
Iron: 0.39 mg of 18 mg 2%
Magnesium: 43 mg of 400 mg 11%
Phosphorus: 282 mg of 1,000 mg 28%
Potassium: 90 mg of 3,500 mg 3%
Sodium: 529 mg of 2,400 mg 22%
Zinc: 0.33 mg of 15 mg 2%
Copper: 0.032 mg of 2 mg 2%
Manganese: 0.011 mg of 2 mg 1%
Selenium: 22.3 µg of 70 µg 32%
Choline: 13 mg of 550 mg 2%

Mineral chart - relative view

Phosphorus
282 mg
TOP 18%
Sodium
529 mg
TOP 19%
Magnesium
43 mg
TOP 24%
Selenium
22.3 mg
TOP 42%
Calcium
13 mg
TOP 68%
Zinc
0.33 mg
TOP 78%
Iron
0.39 mg
TOP 81%
Choline
13 mg
TOP 82%
Potassium
90 mg
TOP 85%
Copper
0.032 mg
TOP 88%
Manganese
0.011 mg
TOP 89%

Vitamin coverage chart

Vitamin A: 0 IU of 5,000 IU 0%
Vitamin E : 0.17 mg of 20 mg 1%
Vitamin D: 0 µg of 10 µg 0%
Vitamin C: 0 mg of 60 mg 0%
Vitamin B1: 0.03 mg of 2 mg 2%
Vitamin B2: 0.08 mg of 2 mg 5%
Vitamin B3: 0.62 mg of 20 mg 3%
Vitamin B5: 0 mg of 10 mg 0%
Vitamin B6: 0.13 mg of 2 mg 7%
Folate, total: 0 µg of 400 µg 0%
Vitamin B12: 0.57 µg of 6 µg 10%
Vitamin K: 0.4 µg of 80 µg 1%
Folic acid (B9): 0 µg of 400 µg 0%

Vitamin chart - relative view

Vitamin B12
0.57 µg
TOP 47%
Vitamin B6
0.13 µg
TOP 59%
Vitamin B2
0.08 µg
TOP 73%
Vitamin B3
0.62 µg
TOP 75%
Vitamin E
0.17 µg
TOP 79%
Vitamin K
0.4 µg
TOP 82%
Vitamin B1
0.03 µg
TOP 82%
Vitamin B5
0 µg
TOP 100%
Folate, total
0 µg
TOP 100%
Vitamin C
0 µg
TOP 100%
Folic acid (B9)
0 µg
TOP 100%
Vitamin A
0 µg
TOP 100%
Vitamin D
0 µg
TOP 100%

Protein quality breakdown

Tryptophan: 75 mg of 280 mg 27%
Threonine: 285 mg of 1,050 mg 27%
Isoleucine: 230 mg of 1,400 mg 16%
Leucine: 607 mg of 2,730 mg 22%
Lysine: 707 mg of 2,100 mg 34%
Methionine: 261 mg of 1,050 mg 25%
Phenylalanine: 260 mg of 1,750 mg 15%
Valine: 286 mg of 1,820 mg 16%
Histidine: 156 mg of 700 mg 22%

Fat type information

Saturated Fat: 0.216 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 0.275 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 0.143 g

Carbohyrates breakdown for Crab stick

Starch: 3.5 g
Sucrose: 2.95 g
Glucose: 2.68 g
Fructose: 0.62 g
Lactose: 0 g
Maltose: 0 g
Galactose: 0 g

Fiber content / ratio for Crab stick

Sugars: 6.25 g
Fiber: 0.5 g

All nutrients for Crab stick per 100g

Nutrient DV% In TOP % of foods Value Comparison
Protein 18% 51% 7.62g 2.7 times more than Broccoli
Fats 1% 81% 0.46g 72.4 times less than Cheese
Carbs 5% 41% 15g 1.9 times less than Rice
Calories 4% 74% 95kcal 2 times more than Orange
Starch 1% 95% 3.5g 4.4 times less than Potato
Fructose 1% 88% 0.62g 9.5 times less than Apple
Sugars 7% 46% 6.25g 1.4 times less than Coca-Cola
Fiber 1% 56% 0.5g 4.8 times less than Orange
Calcium 1% 68% 13mg 9.6 times less than Milk
Iron 2% 81% 0.39mg 6.7 times less than Beef
Magnesium 11% 24% 43mg 3.3 times less than Kidney bean
Phosphorus 40% 18% 282mg 1.5 times more than Chicken meat
Potassium 2% 85% 90mg 1.6 times less than Cucumber
Sodium 22% 19% 529mg 1.1 times more than White Bread
Zinc 3% 78% 0.33mg 19.1 times less than Beef
Copper 0% 88% 0.03mg 4.4 times less than Shiitake
Vitamin A 0% 100% 0IU N/A
Vitamin E 1% 79% 0.17mg 8.6 times less than Kiwifruit
Vitamin D 0% 100% 0µg N/A
Vitamin C 0% 100% 0mg N/A
Vitamin B1 2% 82% 0.03mg 8.9 times less than Pea
Vitamin B2 5% 73% 0.08mg 1.6 times less than Avocado
Vitamin B3 3% 75% 0.62mg 15.4 times less than Turkey meat
Vitamin B5 0% 100% 0mg N/A
Vitamin B6 7% 59% 0.13mg 1.1 times more than Oat
Folate, total 0% 100% 0µg N/A
Vitamin B12 10% 47% 0.57µg 1.2 times less than Pork
Vitamin K 1% 82% 0.4µg 254 times less than Broccoli
Folic acid (B9) 0% 100% 0µg N/A
Tryptophan 0% 82% 0.08mg 4.1 times less than Chicken meat
Threonine 0% 79% 0.29mg 2.5 times less than Beef
Isoleucine 0% 84% 0.23mg 4 times less than Salmon
Leucine 0% 80% 0.61mg 4 times less than Tuna
Lysine 0% 74% 0.71mg 1.6 times more than Tofu
Methionine 0% 73% 0.26mg 2.7 times more than Quinoa, cooked
Phenylalanine 0% 84% 0.26mg 2.6 times less than Egg
Valine 0% 83% 0.29mg 7.1 times less than Soybean
Histidine 0% 82% 0.16mg 4.8 times less than Turkey meat
Cholesterol 7% 43% 20mg 18.7 times less than Egg
Trans Fat 0% 71% 0.01g 1861.3 times less than Margarine
Saturated Fat 1% 76% 0.22g 27.3 times less than Beef
Monounsaturated Fat 0% 76% 0.28g 35.6 times less than Avocado
Polyunsaturated fat 0% 82% 0.14g 329.9 times less than Walnut

The main source of information is USDA Food Composition Database (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
Dietary Guidelines for Americans is used as the primary source for advice in this web resource
Data provided by FoodStruct.com should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.