Tanuta: Nutritional Properties, Role in Diet and How to Cook

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Louise Hay


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What is tanuta?

Tanuta (S. cantharus) is the name of a sea bony fish of the biological family Sparidae, commonly used for food.

Also known in your country as "cantaro", in English it is generally called "black sea bream" or "black porgy" - even if they are very often different species but of the same Genus, therefore related.

The tanuta is considered a poor fish - therefore eco-sustainable - similar to all white fish; therefore it is not a question of blue fish, even if it has equally excellent nutritional properties. It belongs to the XNUMXst fundamental group of foods - foods rich in proteins with high biological value, vitamins (especially water-soluble B group) and specific minerals (such as iron) - but, being a fishery product, it also provides interesting levels of vitamin fat-soluble D (calciferol), iodine and biologically active semi-essential polyunsaturated fatty acids - eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

In cooking, tanuta is used just like other white fish. Generally considered less valuable than bream, sea bream, red snapper, pagro, sea bass or sea bass and mormora, it is instead more appreciated than pezzogna, bream, glance, salpa and some species of mullet - all fish of the same culinary framework. It is not among the most used sea creatures for raw, but that does not mean that it is of poor quality. Mostly it is prepared: boiled, roasted and in soup; the small specimens are added to the fried fish.

The tanuta has the typical shape of the sparidae. Its appearance changes considerably from youth to adulthood, both in body proportions and in pigmentation. It does not reach very large dimensions and the largest specimens easily exceed the kilogram, but generally reach 2.

The tanuta abundantly colonizes the Eastern Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. It lives in very variable bathymetry, between the surface and 300 m, and remains mainly suspended on the water column but constantly near rocky slopes or in any case of the seabed. It is a gregarious species, preyed both at a young age and in the adult phase, which feeds mainly on invertebrates such as worms and crustaceans, but also on algae. It has an effective reproduction - it spawns in late spring or early summer - and, not being particularly interested in professional fishing - even if it often ends up in nets and longlines - it still boasts a rather trophic demographic density. At an amateur level, it is mostly undermined with line, bottom fishing, but it is occasionally also caught in spearfishing.

Nutritional Properties

Nutritional properties of tanuta

Tanuta is a fishery product that falls within the 3st fundamental group of foods. Of the white scale category, it is also considered a poor fishery product. However, it provides good levels of omega XNUMX (EPA and DHA), vitamin D and iodine.

The tanuta has an average energy supply, given by the high protein concentration and a moderate lipid content; carbohydrates are irrelevant. It is a medium-fat fish and provides double the calories of cod but 25% less than salmon.

Tanuta proteins are of high biological value - they contain all essential amino acids compared to the human model. Fatty acids have an unsaturated prevalence and, as anticipated, probably characterized by an excellent level of EPA and DHA; the few sugars, present in traces, are soluble. Tanuta does not contain fiber, while the amount of cholesterol should be significant but not excessive. Lactose and gluten are completely absent, the concentration of purines is abundant and histamine, absent in the fresh product, can rapidly increase in badly preserved fish. Being a high protein food, it is also a significant source of phenylalanine amino acid.

Tanuta is rich in water-soluble vitamins of group B, especially riboflavin (vit B2), niacin (vit PP), pyridoxine (vit B6) and cobalamin (vit B12); the quantity of thiamine and pantothenic acid (vit B5) is fair. It also contains excellent levels of fat-soluble vitamin calciferol (vit D); the content of alpha tocopherol (vitamin E) is appreciable, even though it is not a primary nutritional source. On the other hand, the levels of phosphorus, potassium and probably also iodine are certainly excellent; it is curious to note that the concentration of iron and zinc is not as high as one would expect.

The tanuta is a creature potentially at risk of Anisakis simplex infestation. It never reaches large dimensions and feeds only on invertebrates, therefore the possibility of the accumulation of mercury and methylmercury in its meat is rather improbable. It should be a creature with a low risk of accumulation of algal toxins, but it is advisable to pay attention to the place of origin - the tanute fished further south of the Atlantic Ocean, on the African coasts, are certainly less advisable.


nourisher Quantity'
Acqua g
Protein 20,4 g
Lipids 6,7 g
Saturated Fatty Acids g
Monounsaturated Fatty Acids g
Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids g
Cholesterol - mg
Carbohydrates TOT 0,3 g
Starch / Glycogen 0,0 g
Soluble sugars 0,3 g
Dietary Fiber 0,0 g
Soluble 0,0 g
Insoluble 0,0 g
Energy law 150,0 kcal
Sodium 59,0 mg
Potassium 400,0 mg
Iron 0,3 mg
Soccer 13,0 mg
Phosphorus and Potassium 250,0 mg
Magnesium 36,0 mg
Zinc 0,8 mg
Copper 0,03 mg
Selenium - mcg
Thiamine or Vitamin B1 0,12 mg
Riboflavin or vitamin B2 0,30 mg
Niacina o vitamina PP 5,50 mg
Vitamin B6 0,42 mg
folate 14,0 mcg
Vitamin B12 3,7 mcg
Vitamin C or Ascorbic Acid 3,0 mg
Vitamina A o RAE 13,0 mcg
Vitamin D 4,0 mcg
Vitamin K - mcg
Vitamin E and Alpha Tocopherol 1,4 mg


Tanuta in the diet

Tanuta is a food suitable for most diets. Moderately digestible despite the medium concentration of fat and high protein, any excessive portions may still be inadequate for subjects with digestive complications such as: dyspepsia, gastritis, gastroesophageal reflux disease, gastric or duodenal ulcer.

Cooked without added fats, tanuta is quite suitable for slimming diets, which must be low-calorie and normolipidic. The abundance of high biological value proteins makes it an ideal food for the diet of malnourished, defied or with an increased need for essential amino acids. This type of food is recommended in the case of very high intensity motor sports, especially in strength disciplines or with a very important hypertrophic muscle component, and for all particularly prolonged aerobic disciplines. For the same reason, it is also recommended in case of breastfeeding, pathological intestinal malabsorption and in old age - in which the eating disorder and decreased intestinal absorption tend to create a protein deficit.

The essential biologically active omega 3 seeds are considered very important nutrients for: the constitution of cell membranes, the development of the nervous system and eyes - in the fetus and children - the prevention and treatment of some metabolic pathologies - hypertriglyceridemia, arterial hypertension, etc. the maintenance of cognitive functions in old age, the reduction of some symptoms of neurosis - depressive - etc.

Due to the absence of gluten and lactose, tanuta is relevant in the diet for celiac disease and for intolerance to milk sugar. The abundance of purines makes it unwanted, in considerable portions, in the nutritional regimen for hyperuricemia, especially of severe entity - with gouty attacks - and in that for kidney stones or uric acid lithiasis. Well preserved, it has no contraindications for histamine intolerance. The massive presence of phenylalanine precludes its significant use in the diet against phenylketonuria.

Since the water-soluble vitamins of group B have a mainly coenzyme function, being rich in them, tanuta can be considered a good source of nutrients that support the cellular functions of all tissues. Vitamin D, on the other hand, is crucial for bone metabolism and for the immune system; since the dietary sources of calciferol are objectively rather rare, tanuta can be very useful in the diet potentially lacking this important fat-soluble factor. Phosphorus is one of the main elements that make up bone (hydroxyapatite) and nervous tissue (phospholipids) but, due to its abundance in foods, it is hardly lacking in the diet. Potassium, of which foods of animal origin are not considered primary nutritional sources, is an alkalizing mineral responsible for neuromuscular transmission, which can also hinder the negative effects of excess sodium in sodium sensitive arterial hypertension therapy. Finally, iodine is necessary for the correct functioning of the thyroid gland - responsible for regulating cellular metabolism after secreting the hormones T3 and T4.

To be eaten raw, the tanuta needs to reduce the temperature to eliminate the risk of contamination by Anisakis simplex. Alternatively, it is possible to obtain the same effect by cooking it, a practice that is also necessary - again for hygienic reasons - in the diet during pregnancy.

The tanuta does not lend itself to the vegan and vegetarian diet; even observant Buddhists and Hindus should be against the consumption of animals. On the other hand, it has no contraindications for the Muslim and Jewish religions.

The average portion of tanuta is about 100-150 g (150-225 kcal).


How is tanuta cooked?

The tanuta can be prepared raw, with carpaccio or in tartare, but it has a decidedly less pleasant taste and aroma than other white fish such as sea bream and sea bass.

Its meats are suitable for all types of cooking; they brilliantly support sources of intense heat and fast means of propagation, although one must not exceed to avoid the risk of making the meat dry and stringy. To its advantage, it tends to stay softer than bream.

It is excellent filleted and sautéed in a pan, or in acquapazza. It does not disappoint even roasted, both in the oven and on the grill (both on embers and gas); many close it inside a foil or cover it with vegetables - potatoes, courgettes, onions, etc.

It can enrich soups of various kinds in casseroles, as long as it is cooked for an adequate time and is not mixed; the risk would be to break it and spread the bones throughout the preparation making it almost inedible. To avoid this, it might be advisable to put it as the last ingredient, about a quarter of an hour from the end - depending on the size.

Boiling in boiling water or steam is the dietary culinary method par excellence; it is not bad even when cooked, even if it certainly releases very intense odors - for those who appreciate it, this is its most important feature.

Especially small in size, the tanuta normally constitutes the fried fish; alternatively, if larger, it can be filleted and cut into strips.


Description of the tanuta

The tanuta has an oval shape, slightly flattened on the sides; the head is characterized by a longer muzzle than the eye diameter and a slightly prognathous mandible with respect to the jaws. This feature is emphasized with the increase in size; the same applies to the proportionally increase in the body with respect to the head - emphasized at the point immediately behind the gill opercula.

The tanuta has a dorsal, an anal, a caudal, two pectoral and two ventral fins; the dorsal fin has 11 spines and 11-13 soft rays.

The body is totally covered with scales. Adult pigmentation is gray, with darker, though not quite black, vertical streaks that become more visible in adulthood. The back is slightly darker, on the brownish, while the belly is lighter, almost white. A darker mask-like area appears on the muzzle. The posterior border of the gill operculum is almost black.

When young, on the other hand, the specimens are of a more solid color, do not show evident streaks and only the dark line superimposed on the lateral one is noted.

It reaches an average adult size of about half a meter for a weight that exceeds one kilogram. The most common size is 30cm.


Hints of tanuta biology

The tanuta is a bony sea fish, benthopelagic and oceanodromous, belonging to the biological family Sparidae, Genus Spondyliosoma and species cantharus - hence the vulgar name "cantaro".

It colonizes the Eastern Atlantic Ocean, in a rather vast area that goes from Scandinavia to the north of Namibia; including the Strait of Gibraltar, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, Madeira, the Canary Islands and Cape Verde.

It remains suspended in the water column - it rarely intrudes - and hangs out on seabed, seaweed, rocky and sandy bottoms up to 300 m, but more commonly in the first 100 m. With a strongly gregarious attitude, it gathers in large schools.

It has an omnivorous diet which includes algae and small invertebrates such as crustaceans and worms. It is mainly preyed on by large fish and marine mammals.

It is a protogynous hermaphroditic fish and changes sex from female to male with increasing size - approximately 24 cm. Sexual maturity is around 20cm. The scrub period occurs in spring, when it tends to gather in shallow waters; subsequently it lays eggs on the sand or in the ravines, which will become pelagic with the currents.

The tanuta is fished on a professional and amateur level. In your country it has a market that is not too developed and is considered a fishery product of marginal importance. It is caught with gillnets, trawl and longline. The amateurs of fishing with rod are used to undermine it at bottom fishing or surf casting, less frequently with the float. It is also interested in spearfishing, but is usually considered "occasional" - caught in the absence of interesting prey.

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