There are food products that are repeated every Christmas at our family lunches and dinners. But what if we told you that not all of them are what they seem?
Although we have quite assumed its presence within our Christmas menu, most products supposedly made with angulas, seafood and caviar that we see in our dishes are really substitutes, that is, a lower quality version derived from these exquisite foods from the sea.
In today’s post we tell you how to easily identify a substitute of seafood in the supermarket and we analyze what are its usual ingredients and nutritional properties so that you do not take unnecessary surprises.
Surimi is the key to everything
We usually think that the term surimi only refers to the classic sea mouths – also called crab sticks even if they do not carry crab even if they show it – but the truth is that the surimi covers much more than a single product.
Really, surimi is the raw material with which the different substitutes are made that we see in the market: crab sticks, gulas and other products that emulate different types of seafood.
Surimi is a mass made from the muscle of different white fish, mainly, and other ingredients such as starches, dyes, vegetable oils and sugars. That is, in practice It is an ultraprocessed sea.
Of course, surimi can be consumed without any concern because it goes through strict food safety controls – just like the rest of the supermarket’s food – but we cannot highlight their nutritional values at all.
The caviar that is not caviar
It is quite common that in our Christmas evenings we find small dark pearls adorning canapes with salmon and other delicacies. Nevertheless, in a few occasions we will be facing authentic caviar. And it is not for less, since the price of the original product is not suitable for all pockets.
According to Spanish legislation, it is prohibited to designate caviar to a product other than sturgeon roe or Acipenser sturio. Therefore, it is common to find caviar substitutes in the supermarket that are still the roe from other fish species, such as lumpo, cod, salmon or mullet, whose cost is markedly lower.
In the case of fish roe other than sturgeon, we must be attentive to the denomination of sale that should always indicate the specific species of origin of the roe, also accompanying the mention ‘caviar substitute’.
Crab sticks that don’t carry crab
The mouths of the sea – also mistakenly known by the nickname of crab sticks – they have become a classic within the food of many people, mainly thanks to its versatility in salads and cold dishes.
Crab sticks have great defenders who classify it as an ideal alternative to eating fish in the diet, but the truth is that it is not so at all since does not have good quality fats and proteins which usually contains the fish.
This product does not have a single gram of crab, and its composition consists mainly of surimi mixed with starches, sugar and refined oils that make it a bad nutritional option.
Glues that are not angular
Another classic of our gastronomy is the mythical gluttony, a product that has become popular in our country thanks to successful marketing campaigns.
For many consumers, gluttonies are synonymous with quality. A gastronomic preparation with garlic and chilli that at all can represent a problem for health and that only evokes pleasure and enjoyment for the palate.
We are sorry to tell you that glues are also derivatives of surimi. That is, they are made with the same raw material as sea sticks. The only difference between the two products lies in the form that the product acquires in the final stages of processing, where the surimi passes through molds or extruders that give it its final shape. Further, the accompaniment and ingredients also contribute that its flavor is quite well differentiated.
Tallarimis de surimi: the latest news in the sector
Recently it has been introduced in the market a product called ‘Tallarimis de surimi’, a novelty that makes its nature quite clear from the beginning and whose denomination does not give rise to errors thanks to the bombastic name that accompanies it.
In this case we find a kind of pasta whose nutritional composition remains equally bad than that of its substitute counterparts, since it has 63% surimi, rice starch that serves as a filling – and for consistency – as well as aromas and salt to enhance the organoleptic characteristics of the product.
On the other hand, and despite the fact that the denomination of sale does not give rise to error, the truth is that these ‘Tallarimis de surimi’ they have several controversial claims that stand out quickly above the rest: 0% fat and protein source – in addition to the usual ‘gluten free’ and ‘lactose free’.
Both claims are regulated by European Union Regulation 1924/2006 regarding nutritional claims and healthy properties. This, of course, does not automatically make the product healthy.
In order to label 0% fat, The product should not contain more than 0.5 grams of fat per 100 grams of product. As we told you in Vitónica, not all fats are harmful to health. Therefore, these types of mentions do not guarantee you to be in front of a healthy product.
On the other hand, the ‘Source of protein’ statement can only be used if proteins provide at least 12% of the energy value of food. This mention also does not guarantee nutritional success, since not all proteins are equal. And, in this case, the proteins from surimi are of a very poor nutritional quality.
How to easily identify a substitute
It may seem like a complicated task, but the truth is that identify when we are facing a surimi surrogate It is quite simple.
It is enough to review the field destined to the denomination of product within the labeling of the food. This mention is usually found on the back of the container, near the net weight and other elements such as the ingredients and the nutritional composition table.
If we find terms such as ‘derivative of surimi’, ‘product of processed fishing’ or the like, we will undoubtedly face a surimi substitute. We must not rely on frontal labeling, where terms that sound very good but that do not necessarily have to be included in the legislation are usually used, so in practice they mean absolutely nothing.
This is the case of fantasy names such as ‘sea delicacies’, ‘sea sticks’ or ‘fish pearls’. If you find them in a product, most likely you are facing a substitute of surimi or caviar.
In general, they are not healthy products
If we talk about surimi-based substitutes such as sea sticks, gulas or tallarimis, the truth is that we should not expect a high nutrient content within its composition.
These products usually have high amounts of sugar, salt and refined oils among its ingredients. The purpose of the use of these ingredients, in addition to technology, is to achieve a notable increase in the palatability of the food, that is, to make it more palatable.
On the other hand, the substitutes of caviar do not pose a problem that is too big with respect to their nutritional properties. The only difference in this case is the variety of fish from which their eggs are obtained, as we have already seen. Further, the amounts of caviar substitute that we usually eat are minimal, so these small nutritional variations according to the species are hardly relevant.
Vitónica | What is the biological value of proteins and why you should care about your diet
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