10 Amazing Benefits of Smelt Fish

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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People are always looking for inexpensive and healthy fish to add to their diet. Smelt fish is a wonderful choice as it has a lot of health benefits like improving skin appearance, maintaining blood pressure, reducing sleep disorders and many more.

What is Smelt Fish?

The term smelt fish actually incorporates a number of different species and genera within the Osmeridae family. They are found in both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, as well as in the Great Lakes of North America and certain freshwater bodies in Europe. They spend most of their lives in saltwater but return to freshwater to spawn, as is the case with many fishes. While these fishes typically don’t grow more than a foot, some species can grow to as large as four feet. Uniquely enough, when preparing smaller smelt fish, the bones, skin, and scales are rarely removed, only the head and entrails are separated.

This fish is popular all around the world, from Japan and Korea to Europe and North America, due to its wide availability. It is popular street food in certain Asian countries, as they can easily be deep-fried or pan-fried for a savory, salty treat. Apart from the delicious taste, smelt fish also possesses a unique nutrient profile that makes it quite good for overall health.

Nutrition Facts

Fish, smelt, rainbow, cooked, dry heat
Serving Size :
Water [g]72.79
Energy [kcal]124
Energy [kJ]519
Protein [g]22.6
Total lipid (fat) [g]3.1
Ash [g]1.79
Calcium, Ca [mg]77
Iron, Fe [mg]1.15
Magnesium, Mg [mg]38
Phosphorus, P [mg]295
Potassium, K [mg]372
Sodium, Na [mg]77
Zinc, Zn [mg]2.12
Copper, Cu [mg]0.18
Manganese, Mn [mg]0.9
Selenium, Se [µg]46.8
Thiamin [mg]0.01
Riboflavin [mg]0.15
Niacin [mg]1.77
Pantothenic acid [mg]0.74
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.17
Folate, total [µg]5
Folate, food [µg]5
Folate, DFE [µg]5
Vitamin B-12 [µg]3.97
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]17
Retinol [µg]17
Vitamin A, IU [IU]58
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]0.58
12:0 [g]0
14:0 [g]0.1
16:0 [g]0.42
18:0 [g]0.05
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]0.82
16:1 [g]0.26
18:1 [g]0.52
20:1 [g]0.04
22:1 [g]0
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]1.14
18:2 [g]0.06
18:3 [g]0.06
18:4 [g]0.03
20:4 [g]0.07
20:5 n-3 (EPA) [g]0.35
22:5 n-3 (DPA) [g]0.02
22:6 n-3 (DHA) [g]0.54
Cholesterol [mg]90
Tryptophan [g]0.25
Threonine [g]0.99
Isoleucine [g]1.04
Leucine [g]1.84
Lysine [g]2.08
Methionine [g]0.67
Cystine [g]0.24
Phenylalanine [g]0.88
Tyrosine [g]0.76
Valine [g]1.16
Arginine [g]1.35
Histidine [g]0.67
Alanine [g]1.37
Aspartic acid [g]2.31
Glutamic acid [g]3.37
Glycine [g]1.09
Proline [g]0.8
Serine [g]0.92
Sources include : USDA

Nutrition Facts of Smelt Fish

Smelt fish are rich sources of phosphorus, selenium, vitamin B12, manganese, and omega-3 fatty acids, and they have moderate levels of copper, zinc, magnesium, and calcium. Additionally, these fish offer various B vitamins and a significant level of protein, nearly 30% of your daily requirement in a 3-ounce serving. With low levels of calories and saturated fat, smelt fishes are a great addition to your diet.

Health Benefits of Smelt Fish

Some of the most notable benefits of smelt fish include its ability to protect the hair, revitalize the skin, increase energy, stimulate the nervous system, lower blood pressure and strengthen the bones, among others.

Skin Care

Many people overlook the importance of B vitamins, but they are critical to metabolic processes in the body, which can contribute to the growth and repair of the skin. In addition to omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce inflammatory conditions on the skin, these fish are also rich in selenium. It is an antioxidant mineral that can improve the appearance of the skin and reduce signs of aging.

Hair Care

When it comes to hair care, regularly eating smelt fish can provide the essential minerals and vitamins necessary to keep the hair looking and feeling healthy. The natural oils and omega-3 fatty acids in smelt fish are also good for improving the luster and shine of your hair while suppressing inflammation on the scalp from conditions like dandruff.

Increases Energy

Phosphorus is an essential mineral in the body and is a critical element in converting nutrients into usable energy. 20% of your daily requirement of this mineral is provided in a single serving of smelt fish, which can also help make the delivery of nutrients and energy in your cells efficiently.

Boosts Nervous System

Calcium is an electrolyte, and is, therefore, a key part of signaling within the nervous system. Smelt fish can provide calcium which ensures that your muscle contractions and other messages within the nervous system are communicated effectively.

Prevents Heart Diseases

There is a moderate amount of potassium in every smelt fish, and this mineral functions as a vasodilator, which means it can help to reduce tension in blood vessels and arteries. This may help lower the risk of various heart diseases such as heart attacks.

A plate filled with smelts kept atop a black granite platform

Smelts are a family of small fish found in North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Improves Cholesterol Balance

Not all fats are created equal, and not all are bad for the body. Smelt fish has high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which can improve your cholesterol balance and heart health by reducing the deposited plaque in the arteries.

Prevents Osteoporosis

Smelt fish has a variety of minerals, including manganese, phosphorus, calcium, copper, zinc, and iron, all of which are related to the bone mineral density in our body. As we age, this bone density begins to decline, so eating fish that is high in minerals can help reduce the early onset of osteoporosis.

Prevents Chronic Diseases

There is an impressively large amount of selenium found in smelt fish, nearly 45% of your daily requirement in each serving. This relatively rare mineral works as a powerful antioxidant. It can reduce oxidative stress in the body and reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases.

Induces Sleep

With a serious concentration of magnesium, this fish can help you find that elusive good night’s sleep. Magnesium is key to the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin, a feel-good hormone that can induce relaxation in the body and ease your path to healthy, restorative sleep.

Promotes Growth & Development

There is a good amount of protein in one serving of smelt fish, which takes care of 30% of your daily protein requirements. The amino acids in proteins can be reconstituted for the production of muscle tissue, while also help to speed up the metabolism and aid in weight loss efforts.

How to Cook Smelt Fish?

Smelt fish can be prepared in a number of ways, but it is most popular in a fried form. Pan-frying these fishes results in a rich, oily and delicious treat. It can also be rolled in breadcrumbs and deep-fried. As mentioned earlier, these fishes are generally eaten whole, including their skin, scales, bones and the head. The only preparation or processing that goes into eating these fishes is the removal of the entrails, although some people prefer to slice off the heads for a more palatable dish. Also, don’t worry about the bones, as they are quite soft and crunchy once cooked.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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