What Are the Health Benefits of Red Snapper?

Medically Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, RD, LD, MPH on May 22, 2022
5 min read

Depending on where you live, seafood may be a constant source of protein in your diet. Seafood, overall, is healthy and often easy to purchase. Fish is, in fact, very common in the American diet. 

One popular fish is the red snapper. The red snapper is rosy red with a dark fringe on the fins. Most commonly, adult snappers around 4 pounds, but they can get up to 50 pounds. 

For some, eating snapper is commonplace, but for those who don’t eat it often, there is quite a story that goes with this fish. 

Red snapper is found in the Atlantic Ocean. They usually range from 1.5–2 feet in length. This fish is a popular game fish that has flaky skin and is mildly sweet with a pink color. Red snapper is safe to eat occasionally, about 1–2 times a week, though with restraint because there is some concern regarding mercury levels in the fish. Most of the time, red snapper is a healthy choice overall because of its number of nutritional aspects.   

In deep waters, red snapper is red and darker than when it is caught in shallow water. Faces are triangular and long, with the top part having a more pronounced slope than the lower. Their jaws project slightly and are equal in size. Their mouths house large canine teeth, which led to them being called snappers. 

Red snapper can live a long life. Specimens have been estimated to reach 57 years old in the Gulf and 51 in the South Atlantic. To reach this ripe age, however, snappers must avoid larger carnivorous fish, as well as marine mammals and turtles, which eat younger red snapper for nourishment. 

Wild-caught US snapper is available throughout the year from North Carolina to Texas. In areas of the Gulf of Mexico and other North American coastal areas, in fact, commercial fishing of red snapper is extremely popular. 

Breeding occurs June through September among adult fish that are about two years old. Younger fish are found in muddy or sandy bottoms and are plentifully caught during shrimping operations. They grow pretty fast, averaging about 8 inches in year one and they grow about 4 inches every year after that.

In recent years, the snapper population level has been below target numbers. The same is true for the South Atlantic.  Both areas have rebuilding plans. Modified fishing gear is now regulated to reduce the bycatch. Sealife release techniques are in play to increase the survival rate of fish that are caught unintentionally.

Mislabeling of seafood is a large problem and happens in all aspects of the supply chain. Mistakenly mislabeling can happen when there is a loss of information in the supply chain. 

Misinformation occurs too, such as assigning closely similar species to a common name. Previous studies have found that red snapper is one of the most mislabeled species in the US. Intentional mislabeling often hides the identification of an illegally caught species or increases the price of cheaper species like tilapia.  

Mislabeling (i.e., the substitution of fish species) can lead to overexploitation of fish populations that are at risk. This is especially true when misinformation masks the sale of fish that was illegally caught. 

Red snapper is very healthy and full of nutritional elements. Red snapper contains:

170 calories and 35 grams of protein can be measured in a 6-ounce serving of red snapper. Each serving also contains beneficial amounts of potassium. 

There are numerous health benefits of red snapper. It is low in sodium and saturated fat. It is a good source of protein. It aids in weight control and lowers heart disease risk, and it also:

  • Can support thyroid health due to high selenium content
  • Can increase white blood cells in the body due to high selenium content
  • Can prevent heart disease due to high levels of omega-3 fatty acids
  • Can prevent osteoporosis and strengthen bone mineral density due to high potassium levels 
  • Can decrease the risk for coronary heart disease atherosclerosis and strokes and bring blood pressure down due to high levels of omega-3 fatty acids 
  • Can help in weight management because of protein density and high potassium levels
  • Can help to lower the risk of megaloblastic anemia due to high selenium levels
  • Can improve cognitive function and boost nervous system health due to high levels of Vitamin A, selenium, Omega-3 fatty acids and potassium
  • Can decrease the chances of cataract development and macular degeneration due to vitamin contents

As young fish, red snapper can be found inshore or on muddy bottoms. However, adults are found near structures in deep water. Specifically, red snappers are found in rigs, reefs, and banks along the coast. 

Fishermen use manual and electric reels and hard lines to catch them. They are all equipped with multiple hooks and heavy weights. They are baited with cigar minnows, fresh squid, and pinfish or pigfish to catch the larger ones.  

Red snapper has to be a certain size to be legally caught. There is also a limit on how many can be caught and kept by fishers per day. 

According to the City Fresh Market restaurant chain in Connecticut, red snapper is lean and versatile, and seafood fans love it. The fish is moist with a firm texture and holds up against strong flavors. It can be versatilely cooked whether it is steamed, grilled, broiled, sauteed, baked, or poached. 

According to the NOAA fisheries database, commercial landings of red snapper were about 7.7 million pounds in 2020, and were worth about 31.5 million. Red snapper has pink meat with tones of yellow when raw. When cooked, it turns lighter. It has a sweet, mild but unique flavor. It has a peculiarly fresh, almost nutty flavor. 

Red snapper flesh is considered delicious and the throats are considered a delicacy. It is one of the most sought-after offshore fish.