What Are the Health Benefits of Smelt?

Although their name may not tempt your taste buds, don't let that fool you. Smelt are known for their fine flavor. These small, silvery-green fish, also known as rainbow smelt, are similar in appearance to sardines and anchovies. Most adult fish are 7 to 9 inches long and weigh up to 6 ounces. Smelt are not only loaded with healthy nutrients, but also are low in mercury. You can enjoy the plentiful health benefits of smelt by serving them baked, broiled or lightly fried.

Smelt fish. (Image: Valeriy Kirsanov/Hemera/Getty Images)

Vitamin and Mineral Rich

Smelt are high in important vitamins and minerals. They contain minerals like calcium, which helps build and protect healthy bones and teeth and aids in proper muscle contractions; phosphorus, which helps convert food into energy and helps carry nutrients in and out of your cells; and potassium, which helps maintain a steady heartbeat. These tiny fish also contain vitamin D, which helps strengthen your teeth and bones and B vitamins that help convert food into energy needed to support healthy skin, hair and blood and brain functions.

Weight Management

Smelt, like most other fish, make an excellent addition to a weight management program. A 3-ounce serving of smelt is only 82 calories. Maintaining a healthy weight is vital to long-lasting health and is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. When you carry excess weight on your body, you put yourself at risk for high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. Whether you are dieting to lose weight or eating to maintain your current weight, including low-calorie, low-fat fish like smelt in your food plan is a smart choice.

Strong Bodies

Proteins regulate thousands of chemical reactions in your body and play and important role in building your body. Your body needs proteins for growth, tissue repair and maintaining lean muscle mass. They're also essential for a strong immune system and proper cell division, which is vital for normal growth, reproduction and healing. Protein-rich smelt contains 15 grams of protein per 3-ounce serving. The best animal protein sources are fish and poultry, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.

Heart Healthy

Fish are an important part of a heart-healthy diet. High in unsaturated fatty acids and low in saturated fat and cholesterol; a 3-ounce serving of smelt contains only 2 grams of total fat. According to the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide, good fats -- monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats -- come mostly from fish and vegetable products. Smelt are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in polyunsaturated fats. While polyunsaturated fats are vital to blood clotting and reduce blood cholesterol levels and lower triglycerides, omega-3 fatty acids help prevent heart disease.

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