Is Eating Imitation Crab Meat Good for You?

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Imitation crab meat, or known as kanikama, is a product typically found in popular foods such as California rolls, crab cakes and crab rangoons. It is made with a type of fish known as surimi. Manufacturers add flavoring, fillers, and color to surimi to mimic the color, taste, and texture of real crab legs.

Imitation crab meat is a versatile ingredient which costs far less than the real thing. Its meat can be used in many dishes and contains certain nutrients that are important in a healthy diet. But, imitation crab contains nutritional drawbacks that decrease its overall nutritional value.

Imitation Crab Meat Nutrition:

Imitation crab nutrition is relatively low in calories, but, it contains some carbohydrates, and sodium. A 3-ounce serving of imitation crab meat contains approximately:

  • 81 calories
  • 0.4 gram fat
  • 0.4 grams dietary fiber
  • 13 grams carbohydrates
  • 6 grams protein
  • 0.1 milligram vitamin B6 (5 percent DV)
  • 450 milligrams sodium (19 percent DV)
  • 37 milligrams magnesium (9 percent DV)
  • 0.5 microgram vitamin B12 (8 percent DV)

Cholesterol, Calories, and Fat

Imitation crab is low in fat and calories, which makes it a good addition to your diet if you are watching your weight or trying to loose those excess pounds.

Choosing low-fat and low-calorie foods is also a healthy way to protect yourself from chronic illnesses such as heart disease. A 3-ounce serving of imitation crab meat contains approximately 81 calories and less than 1 gram of fat. The same serving of imitation crab contains 17 milligrams of cholesterol, which makes it a useful option if you are on a low-cholesterol diet.


Imitation crab meat has a healthy dose of phosphorus. 1% of your body weight is made up of phosphorus, that is found in every part of your body, most of it in your bones and teeth.

Phosphorus plays a role in the health of your teeth, bones, and the proper function of your muscles and kidneys. Also, it supports healthy nerve function and keeps your heart beating regularly.

You need at least 700 milligrams of phosphorus daily, and 3 ounces of imitation crab meat contains 240 milligrams.

Vitamin Content

Eating imitation crab boosts your vitamin intake, most especially your vitamin B-12 and B-6 consumption. Both of these vitamins play a role in the health of your nervous system, since they help you make neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that facilitate nerve cell communication.

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Also, both of these vitamins help support red blood cell production, which is a process essential for oxygen transport. A 6-ounce portion of imitation crab contains 0.22 milligram of vitamin B-6, which is 17% of the recommended daily intake, and 0.97 of a microgram of vitamin B-12, or 40% of your daily B-12 intake recommendation.


Imitation crab helps you consume more phosphorus and selenium, 2 minerals essential for good health. Every cell in your body needs phosphorus, since it’s required for DNA synthesis, plays a role in cell communication and controls enzyme activity. While selenium promotes cardiovascular health by supporting blood vessel function, activates proteins linked to cancer prevention and regulates your immune system.

A serving of imitation crab contains 479 milligrams of phosphorus, or about 68% of the recommended daily intake, and 38 micrograms of selenium, or 69% of your daily recommended selenium intake.


Sodium and Sugar

Imitation crab has 2 major nutritional drawbacks, its salt and sugar content. Each serving of imitation crab contains about 10.6 grams of sugar. The sugar that is added to the crab improves its flavor, while increasing your calorie intake. You should limit your overall sugar consumption to avoid cardiovascular disease and obesity, according to the American Heart Association.

Also, a 6-ounce portion of imitation crab contains 899 milligrams of sodium, which is 39% of the 2,300-milligram daily limit recommended in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, as reported by Colorado State University Extension. And that amount of sodium is about 60% of the 1,500-milligram limit recommended for African-Americans, for those over 51 years of age and people who have high blood pressure.

A diet high in sodium contributes to a range of diseases, from osteoporosis to stomach cancer, and increases the workload on your kidneys.

Healthyeating SFGate
Dr. Axe

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photo credit: istock

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