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What Are the Health Benefits of Hake?

Reviewed by Kathleen Zelman on May 23, 2022

Hake is known for being cheap and readily available in most parts of the country. However, not many people know that it provides valuable nutrients while also being less caloric than other meats. 

Here’s everything you need to know.

What Is Hake Fish?

Hake is a type of groundfish known for being affordable in addition to having multiple nutritional benefits. It makes for a fantastic choice when eating seafood, as its harvest is sustainably managed.

While some details of their appearance change depending on the species, hake are recognizable for their big heads and large mouths. Another key characteristic is their elongated fins, especially the pectoral and dorsal fins. Their color varies, but most hake range from brown to silver.

The hake taste is mild and may be perceived as slightly sweet. This makes it highly versatile — perfect for using in any recipe that calls for fish. Plus, its texture is usually firmer and softer than that of other whitefish such as haddock. 

What Are the Benefits of Eating Hake?

Like most fish, hake provides great nutritional values that contribute to a balanced diet. Plus, it’s a fantastic option due to its low concentration of mercury and affordable pricing.

Low in calories. A single 100-gram portion of hake contains only about 90 calories, making it ideal for people who are seeking to lose weight. In comparison, an equal-sized piece of pork has about 260 calories. 

Good source of selenium. Selenium is a micronutrient that’s vital for a strong immune system. It also has antioxidant, protective, and anti-inflammatory properties. A portion of hake provides almost half of the recommended daily value of selenium.

High in magnesium. Magnesium is commonly found in green leafy vegetables, whole grains, and nuts. It’s a key component of enzymes and plays a role in the correct functioning of muscles and nerves. 

Provides vitamin B. Fish are a fantastic source of vitamin B12 — a nutrient that’s crucial for cell metabolism and nerve function. While most other meats can also provide it, hake makes for a great, low-calorie alternative.

High in protein. A 100-gram serving of hake provides about 18 grams of protein, which is about 15% of the recommended daily value. Proteins make up structural components of the cells, tissues, enzymes, and organs of our bodies.

What Are Some Other Benefits of Eating Seafood?

Fish is known for being one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids — a famous “good” fat. Even though it’s possible to get omega-3s from other sources such as walnuts, seafood and fish oil remain the best ways to get the recommended intake.

Omega-3 collaborates in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and blood clots while also being key to lowering blood pressure. Other benefits of these fats are:

Is Hake Safe to Eat?

Yes, the hake fish is mostly safe to eat. However, it does contain some mercury — a naturally-occurring metal that can damage lungs and kidneys when taken in large quantities. Fish absorb mercury when they are alive, especially when swimming in water that has an increased amount of it due to human activity such as waste burning. 

Still, hake is known having low levels of mercury — a 100 gram portion only carries between 7 and 38 milligrams. While this amount of mercury is regarded as safe for most people, some pregnant women, seniors, and young children may want to avoid it. Check with a doctor before making any changes to your diet.

Should I Buy Wild-Caught or Farm-Raised Hake?

Many people advocate for buying and eating only wild-caught fish, claiming that they have a reduced amount of contaminants. While this is true to some extent, there are a few more considerations to keep in mind.

Mercury. Surprisingly, research has shown that mercury levels are pretty similar between wild-caught and farm-raised seafood. This is due to the large amount of pollution that finds its way into the water, affecting both kinds of fish.

Contaminants and diseases. Farm-raised fish are exposed to certain diseases that wild seafood is not. Similarly, they also often show higher levels of contaminants.

Price. Usually, stores price wild-caught seafood higher than farm-raised. However, buying frozen or canned products can be more affordable.

What Should I Check When Buying Hake?

Mainly, you should check whether the fish is fresh or not before buying any kind of seafood. Spoiled fish can lead to food poisoning, which causes nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps.

Fresh fish is firm to the touch. If the flesh is too soft, make sure to stay away. Another good way of telling is by smelling — while fish will always smell like fish, spoiled ones will have a stale and sour scent.

Make sure to also check if the product is eco-friendly, as many species suffer from aggressive fishing strategies. While hake is usually a sustainable fish to buy, it’s always best to double-check just in case.

How to Cook Hake

Hake is a versatile and affordable alternative to other fishes such as cod. Due to its mild flavor, you can incorporate it into almost any recipe that calls for seafood. This has earned it a fair reputation in Spain, China, and Lithuania, where it’s one of the most widely consumed fish.

As with most other whitefish, you can cook hake by grilling, baking, frying, or braising it. Try mixing it in with sauces or side dishes such as fries to make for a delicious and quick meal. Otherwise, try using it in soups and stews to get that characteristic seafood taste for an affordable price.

However, keep in mind that hake needs to be fresh, as its flesh deteriorates quickly. Otherwise, your hake may turn out to be mushy instead of firm.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Agricultural Research Service: “Pork, fresh, ground, raw.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Omega-3 Fatty Acids.”

Colorado State University: “Wild caught vs. farm raised seafood.”

Environmental Defense Fund: “Buying fish? What you need to know,” “The benefits of eating fish.”

EUFIC: “What Are Proteins and What Is Their Function in the Body?”

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: “Fish Handling and Distribution.”

HealthLink British Columbia: “Mercury in Fish.”

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Fish Poisoning.”

LocalFish: “Silver Hake.”

March of Dimes: “Mercury and Pregnancy.”

Marine Stewardship Council: “A foodie's guide to sustainable hake.”

Mayo Clinic: “Vitamin B-12.”

NOAA Fisheries: “Silver Hake,” “White Hake.”

Physicians Association for Nutrition: “Magnesium,” Selenium.”

U.S. Food & Drug Administration: “Mercury Levels in Commercial Fish and Shellfish (1990-2012).”

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