What Are the Health Benefits of Gurnard (Sea Robin)?

Medically Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on June 17, 2024
4 min read

Gurnard, or sea robin, is an odd-looking fish that resembles a bird or a flying fish because of how it swims. In the past, the fish was not as popular, but now, it has become an excellent choice for those seeking a lower-cost nutritious fish.

The sea robin is a fish found at the bottom of the sea. They have historically been branded a nuisance by anglers because they tended to snatch bait meant for catching other types of fish. 

Sea robins have large eyes, a bulbous head on a tapered body, and spiny legs. Their pectoral fins make wing-like movements during swimming, thus their signature birdlike movement.

Gurnards can grow up to a foot or longer in length. Another distinct feature of the sea robin is that it croaks like a frog, using a muscle connected to its swim bladder. The fish was also commonly used by anglers as bait to catch other more desirable types of fish. In recent days, more people are developing a taste for the sea robin itself.

Gurnard meat has a firm texture and mildly sweet flavor, making it an excellent dietary substitute.

There are several gurnard varieties all over the tropical and temperate waters worldwide. You can find gurnards anywhere between Cape Cod and the Gulf of Mexico. This fish thrives in tropical and temperate water around the world.  

Gurnards feed at the bottom of the sea, and you can find them at depths of up to 660 feet.

Although gurnard meat is not poisonous, the fish has sharp spines around their gills and dorsal fins that can release poison. Their poison is considered to be mild. If injected with sea robin poison, you may only get some mild pain that goes away after two or three days.

Low cholesterol. Compared to red meat, white fish is a healthier option for lowering cholesterol levels. Its firm white meat ensures you are enjoying a low-fat content meal. 

Muscle strengthening. Gurnards contain numerous amounts of proteins. Proteins help your cells structure and regulate themselves at their highest level. Including sufficient protein levels in your diet will help your organs to function correctly and eventually improve your general well-being. 

Pregnancy health. Consider including gurnard fish in your diet during pregnancy. Fish contains DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), Omega 3, and other nutrients vital for the development of the infant brain and vision.  

Healthy brain function. Whitefish contains nutrients that help your brain create new neural pathways necessary for retaining new skills and information. Including fish in your diet might make your brain more efficient at learning new information. 

Strong bone structure. Gurnards contain calcium which helps strengthen bones, maintain bone structure and density, and help bones heal. Consider eating fish regularly to improve your bone structure.

Heart Health. Omega-3 fatty acids lower "bad cholesterol" levels while raising the "good cholesterol" levels. They regulate blood pressure, prevent irregular heartbeats, and reduce artery hardening and blockages. Whitefish consumption has been found to lower inflammation and cardiovascular risks in people with diabetes.

Cognitive function. Like most fish, gurnards also have DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid. The compounds are helpful in preventing some forms of Alzheimer's disease, strokes, and dementia.

Mercury poisoning. It's more likely that sea robins, like most white fish, can potentially cause mercury poisoning. Pregnant women should take precautions while consuming fish. To limit exposure to mercury poisoning, consider buying fish from reputable fish markets. Most reputable markets get fish from environmentally safe regions.

Food poisoning. When buying cooked fish, avoid picking the ones close to the raw fish. Doing so can avoid contamination, thus preventing food poisoning. 

Fish allergies. These allergies are pretty common. Suppose you have experienced fish allergies to other fish. In that case, you are more likely to get one with sea robins.

Sea robins are gaining popularity as a delicacy in the European and U.S markets. If you're looking to prepare a gurnard fish, note that it might be bonier than other types of fish. Consider fileting it to enjoy its firm texture or prepare it as is.

You can prepare gurnard the same way you do flounder or blackfish. Other popular ways to do it are frying and baking.

You can expect to get the following nutrients:

  • Carbs. Gurnards do not contain any carbohydrates, fiber, or sugar.
  • Fats. The oils in sea robins are high in omega-3 fatty acids, commonly referred to as healthy fats. A serving of one serving of 100g of sea robin has approximately 4 grams of fats. 
  • Protein. Sea robins are a healthy way to boost your protein intake. One serving of 100g of a sea robin has nearly 19 grams of complete protein, including all essential amino acids.
  • Vitamins and minerals. Sea robins are also a good source of essential minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin B6, selenium, and proteins.

In one serving of 100g or 3.5 oz, you get about 122 calories. 

Food safety rules for gurnard are the same as for any other type of fish. 

If you buy fresh sea robins, make sure they've been stored at cold temperatures or packed on ice. Fresh gurnard should smell fresh and not overly fishy. 

Hands and any tools or cutting boards used to prepare raw gurnard should be well cleaned. The internal temperature of the fish should be maintained at 145 F. Always try to avoid leaving fish out at room temperature for more than an hour during serving. Refrigerate fresh gurnard fish and cook or freeze it within two days of purchase.