Fish is one of the most commonly consumed foods worldwide due to its high nutritional value and delicious taste. However, as you savor your favorite fish dish, you may have wondered whether you can eat the scales.
Fish scales are thin, bony plates that cover the skin of most fish species, and although they may not look appetizing, they serve an essential purpose in protecting the fish’s body from predators and environmental factors. But can you eat them?
Not to worry, because we will explore this question in detail, discussing the nutritional value of fish scales, the potential health benefits, and risks, and whether eating them is a common practice in different cultures around the world.
So, whether you are a seafood lover or just curious about the topic, let’s dive into the fascinating world of fish scales and find out if they are food worth trying.
Is It Safe To Eat Fish Scales?
Scales from fish are edible if they are cooked properly and cleaned thoroughly. Known to be a healthy protein, collagen is also found in fish scales.
Despite the fact that fish scales are edible, they are typically removed before eating. The scales of fish are crunchy and, in some cases, sharp, so they are not very appetizing.
In short, yes, fish scales are edible. Is it something I would recommend? Most likely not. Fish scales function like a suit of armor, shielding fish from harm by predators, parasites, and injuries.
These scales are constructed from materials resembling those found in bone or teeth and can possess sharp edges.
How Do Fish Scales Taste?
If you’re considering skipping the step of removing scales while cleaning fish for dinner, think again. Eating fish with scales still attached can be quite unpleasant, similar to eating popcorn with kernels that get stuck in your teeth.
While a single kernel can be bothersome, imagine having to deal with seven or eight with every bite. It’s not an enjoyable experience to have something hard constantly getting lodged between your teeth during a meal.
Therefore, when preparing fish for a special occasion, such as a date night, it’s essential to ensure all scales are removed to avoid any discomfort during the meal.
Is It Harmful To Eat Fish Scales?
In theory, no. If you get one in your mouth, it feels like chewing on a fingernail. Having fish scales in your mouth is the same as having fish bones in your mouth, to me.
Aside from being rather unappealing physically, they are slimy and covered in mucus (no thanks!). Taking fish scales into your mouth and throat can cause a lot of pain. They can also prevent you from getting to the best part of the fish, the meat!
The white flaky fillets are better than the skin or scales of some fish, aside from safety concerns.
The Different Types Of Fish Scales
You can identify fish based on the type of scales they have. In fish, there are four main types of scales: the cycloid, the ctenoid, the ganoid, and the placoid.
Scales on bony fish are ctenoid or cycloid, meaning they have the same number throughout their lifetimes and enlarge as the fish grows.
Fish like flounder, for example, don’t just have one type of scale. Their bodies are both covered in cycloid scales and ctenoid scales.
Bony fish typically possess cycloid and ctenoid scales, which are the most prevalent types of scales.
These scales have a higher degree of flexibility compared to other scales, owing to the overlapping of the anterior part of the scale by the posterior part in the front.
Ganoid scales are rhomboid in shape and feature articulating peg and socket joints. These scales are found on various fish species, including sturgeons, bowfin, and paddlefish, among others.
In terms of shape and size, cosmoid scales closely resemble placoid scales. These scales are typically found on fossil fish and lungfish.
They are characterized by their robust structure, comprising of two layers of bone, a layer of dentine, and a final layer of vitrodentine. Biting down on a cosmoid scale would not be a pleasant experience.
Placoid scales, which are commonly found on sharks and rays, are typically flattened and rectangular in shape.
Unlike other types of scales, placoid scales do not change in size as the fish grows. Instead, new scales grow to fill the empty spaces between the existing ones.
Is It Possible To Cook Fish With The Scales Still On?
It is not necessary to remove the scales before cooking most scaly fish since they are simply skinned or filleted before cooking.
For instance, snapper is quickly descaled and served whole, where the meat is picked from the skin with a fork.
Some soft fish, like tuna and trout, have delicate scales or little to no scales and can be cooked or eaten without removing the scales (eating the skin is optional).
Scales on fish aren’t inherently dangerous, but they are quite unpleasant to eat, which is why the majority of people prefer to descale their fish before cooking.
It is easy to peel the fish skin off a cooked fish, and since the scales are attached to the skin, they will slide right off as well.
Can You Eat Fried Fish Scales?
Some people say that frying fish with the scales on adds more flavor and texture as well as some extra crunch.
The skin can become rubbery, the scales harden, and it becomes unpalatable after other methods of cooking, such as steaming or boiling.
What Happens If You Eat Fish Scales?
Fish scales will likely make you feel unpleasant if you eat them. In addition to being sharp, hard, and crunchy, they have little nutritional value and can easily cause dental problems.
Health Benefits Of Fish Scales
It surprised me to learn that eating fish scales has some health benefits.
They contain a small amount of healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals along with collagen. Even though this is true, I would not eat them.
Fish Scales Have Nutritional Properties
Although the idea of consuming fish scales may not be appealing to some, it is worth noting that they possess a range of beneficial nutritional properties.
If you’re interested in including fish scales in your diet, it’s worth learning about their potential health benefits.
- Extra Omega-3 and Other Healthy Fats
Adding fish to one’s diet is a popular choice due to its rich content of healthy fats, particularly omega-3 fatty acids. Consuming fish with scales still attached can further increase the intake of these beneficial fats in your body.
Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial for building healthy brain cells, maintaining heart health, and reducing the risk of stroke.
Fish scales are a good source of collagen, which is known for its ability to promote healthier bones, ligaments, and joints, as well as improve the condition of skin, hair, and nails.
By incorporating more collagen-rich foods into your diet, such as fish scales, you may be able to achieve softer, smoother skin, as well as stronger hair and nails. So, adding fish scales to your diet may indeed have beauty benefits.
Eating fish scales is not a common practice in most cultures, but it is possible and may even offer some nutritional benefits. Fish scales are a rich source of collagen, protein, and other nutrients that can support healthy skin, hair, and bones.
However, it’s essential to note that consuming fish scales also come with potential risks, such as the risk of choking or ingesting harmful toxins.
As such, it’s best to remove the scales before cooking your fish and focus on enjoying the delicious and nutritious flesh instead.
Ultimately, whether or not you choose to eat fish scales is a personal choice, but it’s always important to consider the potential benefits and risks carefully.