The World's Healthiest Foods

The firm, mildly flavored, white-fleshed snapper can be prepared very simply or as a gourmet meal. You can easily include this light, but nutritious form of protein more than once in your weekly meal plan without tiring of it. It is available in your local markets throughout the year.

Snapper are medium-sized fish found in waters worldwide. Their name is derived from the canine-like teeth of their upper jaw that can ‘snap’ vigorously. Recent demand for red snapper has been so high that there are many “imposters” on the market. For example, “Pacific red snapper” is actually not red snapper but red rockfish. Therefore, when it comes to buying red snapper, it is even more important than usual to purchase it from a knowledgeable fishmonger in a market with a trusted reputation for fresh fish.


Health Benefits

Most fish are high in protein, low in saturated fat and a unique source of extremely beneficial compounds called omega-3 essential fatty acids. Snapper is no exception. This fish emerged from our food ranking system as a very good source of protein, and a food able to provide almost 15% of our daily value for omega-3 fatty acids in one 4-ounce serving.

Cardiovascular Benefits of Snapper's Omega-3 Fats

Omega-3 essential fatty acids haved been the subject of intensive study by researchers. The omega-3 fatty acids found in snapper have a broad array of health benefits. Omega-3s help prevent erratic heart rhythms. These fatty acids in fish also make blood less likely to clot inside arteries (which is the ultimate cause of most heart attacks). Omega-3s improve the ratio of good cholesterol to bad cholesterol. And finally, by reducing inflammation, these essential fats play a role in preventing cholesterol from clogging arteries.

One study showed the benefit of eating fish to lower the risk of certain types of strokes. A recent study involving almost 80,000 nurses during a 15-year period revealed that those women who ate fish 2 to 4 times per week had a 27% reduced risk of stroke compared to women who ate fish one a month. Eating fish five or more times per week reduced the risk of certain strokes 52%.

More Cardiovacular Benefits from Snapper's B6 and B12

Our food ranking system qualified snapper as an excellent source of vitamin B12 - one 4-ounce serving provided 66.2% of the daily value, and a good source of vitamin B6 - the same 4-ounces will supply 26.0% of the DV for B6. Vitamin B6 is essential for the body's processing of carbohydrate (sugar and starch), especially the breakdown of glycogen, the form in which sugar is stored in muscle cells and to a lesser extent in our liver. Along with vitamin B12, vitamin B6 plays a pivotal role as a methyl donor in the basic cellular process of methylation, through which methyl groups are transferred from one molecule to another, resulting in the formation of a wide variety of very important active molecules. When levels of either B6 or B12 are inadequate, the availability of methyl groups is also lessened. One result of the lack of methyl groups is that molecules that would normally be quickly changed into other types of molecules not only do not change, but accumulate. One such molecule, homocysteine, is so damaging to blood vessel walls that high levels are considered a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease. In addition to its function as a methyl donor, vitamin B12 plays an essential role in the production of red blood cells and prevention of anemia, is also needed for nerve cells to develop properly, and helps cells metabolize protein, carbohydrate, and fat.

Protection against Stroke

Eating fish, such as snapper, as little as 1 to 3 times per month may protect against ischemic stroke (a stroke caused by lack of blood supply to the brain, for example, as a result of a blood clot), suggests a meta-analysis of 8 studies published in the July 2004 issue of Stroke.

Data on nine independent groups participating in eight different studies found that, compared to those who never consumed fish or ate fish less than once per month, risk of ischemic stroke dropped:

  • 9% in those eating fish 1 to 3 times per month
  • 13% in those eating fish once per week
  • 18% in those eating fish 2 to 4 times per week
  • 31% in those eating fish 5 or more times each week
(October 10, 2004)

Protection against Atrial Fibrillation (Heart Arrhythmnia)

Eating snapper that's broiled or baked, but not fried, may reduce risk of atrial fibrillation, the most common type of heart arrhythmia, especially in the elderly, according to a Harvard study published in the July 2004 issue of Circulation. In the 12-year study of 4,815 people 65 years of age or older, eating canned tuna or other broiled or baked fish 1 to 4 times a week correlated with increased blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids and a 28% lower risk of atrial fibrillation. Eating broiled or baked fish 5 times a week lowered risk even more— a drop in atrial fibrillation risk of 31%.

Eating fried fish, however, provided no similar protection. Not only is fried fish typically made from lean fish like cod and Pollack that provide fewer omega-3 fatty acids, but in addition, frying results in the production of damaged, free-radical-laden fats in the fish as well as the frying oil. (December 13, 2004)

Cancer-Preventive Benefits

Eating even small amounts of fish may protect against ovarian and digestive tract cancers. A total of 10,149 cancer patients with 19 different types of cancer and 7,990 controls were included in a study conducted in Spanish hospitals. The researchers determined that eating more fish correlates with a reduced risk of certain cancers. Fish eaters had less cancer in the ovaries, pancreas and all parts of the digestive tract including the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, colon and rectum. Breast, lung and prostate cancers did not correlate with fish consumption.

A Canadian study published in the April 2004 issue of Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers suggests that eating fish frequently may provide serious protection against three types of cancer: leukemia, multiple myeloma, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Researchers compared the diets of almost 3,000 individuals with these cancers to those of 4,200 healthy controls. People who ate the most fish and who got most of their total fat calories from fish were 28% less likely to have leukemia, 36% less likely to have multiple myeloma, and 29% less likely to have non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.(June 30, 2004)

Selenium for Serious Antioxidant Protection

Snapper is also an excellent source of a very important trace mineral, selenium, providing 79.4% of its daily value in 4 ounces. Selenium is needed for the proper function of the antioxidant system, which works to reduce the levels of damaging free radicals in the body. Selenium is a necessary cofactor of one of the body's most important internally produced antioxidants, glutathione peroxidase, and also works with vitamin E in numerous vital antioxidant systems throughout the body. Accumulated evidence from prospective studies, intervention trials and studies on animal models of cancer have suggested a strong inverse correlation between selenium intake and cancer incidence. Selenium is involved in DNA repair, one of its potential ways in which it may afford protection against cancer. Additionally, selenium has been found to be associated with decreased asthma and arthritis symptoms and in the prevention of heart disease.

Stabilizing Blood Sugar

Snapper also emerged as a very good source of protein - a 4-ounce serving provided 59.6% of the daily value at a cost of only 145 calories and less than 1 gram of saturated fat. The combined nutrient strengths of snapper make it an outstanding food for helping stabilize blood sugar, since omega 3 fatty acids, protein, and B complex vitamins are all involved in blood sugar balancing.


Red snapper is a firm, white-fleshed fish that has red and pink skin. It is a mild fish that can be prepared numerous ways. In addition to its flesh, many people enjoy eating its delicious skin.

Recent demand for red snapper has been so high that there are many “imposters” on the market trying to follow on the tails of the popularity of this wonderful fish. For example, “Pacific red snapper” is actually not red snapper but red rockfish. Therefore, when it comes to buying red snapper, it is even more important than usual to purchase it from a knowledgeable fishmonger in a market with a trusted reputation for fresh fish.

There are about 185 species of snapper worldwide, and all belong to the Family of fish called Lutjanidae.


People have been enjoying red snapper as a food ever since this beautiful fish appeared in the Earth’s waters, basically since time immemorial.

Red snapper is found in the deep waters off the Atlantic Coast of the United States. It is especially prevalent in the Gulf of Mexico.

How to Select and Store

How to Enjoy

For some of our favorite recipes, click Recipes.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas:

Before baking, marinate snapper in citrus juice and honey.

Add snapper to your fish stock recipe.

Serve baked snapper over whole wheat pasta and top with your favorite tomato sauce.

Dredge snapper in whole wheat flour and ground nut mixture. Brush with olive oil and bake or broil.

Serve baked or broiled snapper cold over a green salad topped with your favorite dressing.


Snapper is not a commonly allergenic food, is not included in the list of 20 foods that most frequently contain pesticide residues, and is also not known to contain goitrogens, oxalates, or purines.

Nutritional Profile

Introduction to Food Rating System Chart

The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good or good source. Next to the nutrient name you will find the following information: the amount of the nutrient that is included in the noted serving of this food; the %Daily Value (DV) that that amount represents (similar to other information presented in the website, this DV is calculated for 25-50 year old healthy woman); the nutrient density rating; and, the food's World's Healthiest Foods Rating. Underneath the chart is a table that summarizes how the ratings were devised. For more detailed information on our Food and Recipe Rating System, please click here.


Snapper, Baked
4.00 oz-wt
145.15 calories
Nutrient Amount DV
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
tryptophan 0.33 g 103.1 12.8 excellent
selenium 55.57 mcg 79.4 9.8 excellent
vitamin B12 (cobalamin) 3.97 mcg 66.2 8.2 excellent
protein 29.82 g 59.6 7.4 very good
vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) 0.52 mg 26.0 3.2 good
phosphorus 227.93 mg 22.8 2.8 good
potassium 591.95 mg 16.9 2.1 good
omega 3 fatty acids 0.36 g 14.4 1.8 good
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
excellent DV>=75% OR Density>=7.6 AND DV>=10%
very good DV>=50% OR Density>=3.4 AND DV>=5%
good DV>=25% OR Density>=1.5 AND DV>=2.5%


  • Ensminger AH, Esminger M. K. J. e. al. Food for Health: A Nutrition Encyclopedia. Clovis, California: Pegus Press; 1986.
  • Fernandez E, Chatenoud L, La Vecchia C, et al. Fish consumption and cancer risk. Am J Clin Nutr 1999 Jul;70(1):85-90.
  • Fortin, Francois, Editorial Director. The Visual Foods Encyclopedia. Macmillan, New York.
  • Fritschi L, Ambrosini GL, Kliewer EV, Johnson KC; Canadian Cancer Registries Epidemiologic Research Group. Dietary fish intake and risk of leukaemia, multiple myeloma, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2004 Apr;13(4):532-7.
  • He K, Song Y, Daviglus ML, Liu K, Van Horn L, Dyer AR, Goldbourt U, Greenland P. Fish consumption and incidence of stroke: a meta-analysis of cohort studies. Stroke. 2004 Jul;35(7):1538-42.
  • Iso H, Rexrode KM, Stampfer MJ, et al. Intake of fish and omega-3 fatty acids and risk of stroke in women. JAMA 2001; 285(3):304-12.
  • Mozaffarian D, Psaty BM, Rimm EB, Lemaitre RN, Burke GL, Lyles MF, Lefkowitz D, Siscovick DS. Fish intake and risk of incident atrial fibrillation. Circulation. 2004 Jul 27;110(4):368-73.
  • Vogt, T. M. Ziegler, R. G. Graubard, B. I et al. Serum selenium and risk of prostate cancer in U.S. blacks and whites. Int J Cancer. 2003 Feb 20; 103(5):664-70.
  • Wood, Rebecca. The Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Prentice-Hall Press; 1988.

This page was updated on: 2004-12-14 00:35:14
© 2002 The George Mateljan Foundation