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5 Amazing health benefits of shellfish (Plus, delicious recipes!)

Shellfish Benefits

Shellfish are known to be an excellent source of lean protein, vitamins and minerals, but did you know that shellfish can also help you to build strong bones, prevent cancer and fight disease? Here are 5 amazing health benefits of shellfish, if you’re interested in learning more about other seafood nutrition facts, be sure to read this article till the end.

Most shellfish are low in calories but high in vitamins and minerals. In addition to protein, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium and zinc, many types are also high in vitamin B12. They’re also a good source of selenium — which helps fight cancer. Eating seafood may reduce your risk for breast cancer by 30 percent!

Benefits of Eating Shellfish:

Thinking of taking up a seafood diet to improve your health? If you’re worried about increasing your risk of exposure to contaminants like mercury, don’t be — in fact, recent research suggests that shellfish can actually protect against certain diseases and improve your overall health and wellbeing. Here are five surprising health benefits of shellfish you may not have heard about before:

1. Shellfish are High in Protein:

Protein is one of those nutrients that is essential for building and maintaining muscle mass. If your goal is to build a leaner body, including more protein in your diet makes a lot of sense.

Shellfish are especially high in protein: lobster (48 grams per 100-gram serving), clams (40 grams per 100-gram serving) and oysters (30 grams per 100-gram serving). You’ll get roughly half as much protein by eating an equal weight of beef or chicken breast meat.

2. Shellfish Contains Healthy Omega-3 Fats:

Seafood is a great source of omega-3 fats, which can help to lower cholesterol and reduce your risk for heart disease. But shellfish, like shrimp and clams, are especially high in these healthy fats. Consider eating more varieties to maintain good health.

Shellfish is also a good source of vitamin B12, which plays an important role in converting food into energy. Anemia, which is caused by a deficiency in vitamin B12, can lead to serious complications, so it’s important to make sure you get enough through your diet.

3. Shellfish Make A Great Snack:

Eating just a few ounces of seafood a day (that’s equal to one or two servings) is linked with lower blood pressure, improved cognitive function and enhanced heart health.

Shellfish are also rich in vitamin B12 and selenium — both are essential for cell development, metabolism and disease prevention.

Whether you enjoy them on a sandwich, in soup or baked in a dish, don’t let concerns over mercury contamination keep you from eating these highly nutritious seafood options.

On top of lowering your risk for stroke and high blood pressure, seafood — particularly white-fleshed fish — is packed with important vitamins and minerals that can help regulate your metabolism and support strong bones. Plus, many types of seafood are rich in healthy fats that promote heart health.

Shrimp, clams, oysters and mussels are a terrific addition to your menu. Not only are they filling, but they’re also packed with many healthful nutrients. Shellfish can also help lower your risk for type-2 diabetes due to their ability to reduce insulin resistance.

4. Shellfish Can Help Control Diabetes:

Shellfish is a good source of potassium, magnesium and B vitamins. Potassium in particular helps with managing blood glucose levels.

A study published in Diabetes Care found that individuals who ate at least 7 servings per week had significantly lower average fasting glucose levels than those who consumed fewer servings.

Consuming large amounts of magnesium can also help reduce insulin resistance and increase insulin sensitivity. Shellfish is one of many foods that contains both nutrients, making it an excellent choice for diabetics looking to manage their blood sugar.

5. Shellfish Promotes Heart Health:

Heart disease is one of the America’s biggest killers, and it’s no coincidence that shellfish are packed with omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidant vitamins.

Shellfish also have a high concentration of vitamin B12, which is important for red blood cell production — red blood cells bring oxygen to all parts of your body, so if they’re not working well your body won’t be either. Eating seafood like oysters regularly can help keep your heart healthy and lower your risk for heart disease.

Shellfish have a low fat content, making them a diet-friendly alternative to other proteins like red meat. Shellfish are also one of our best sources for vitamin D, which plays an important role in keeping bones strong and preventing diseases like osteoporosis.

Other Benefits:

There’re many other reasons to include healthy shellfish in your weekly menu; including:

  • Treats skin conditions
  • Controls blood sugar levels
  • Improves vision
  • Reduces cancer risk
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Enhances brain functioning
  • Relieves stress and anxiety
  • Lowers cholesterol levels
  • Improves sleep quality

Now you’re familiar with the health benefits of shellfish; so let’s talk about ultimate nutrition of shellfish!

1) Vitamin D:

Research has linked low levels of vitamin D to multiple illnesses, including heart disease and cancer. One way to ensure you’re getting enough is to eat a variety of shellfish — particularly shrimp. Just 4 ounces provide more than 200% of your daily requirement for vitamin D!

Add them to soups and pasta dishes for an extra boost. It’s also worth noting that shellfish are high in protein and low in fat, making them a healthy addition to any diet.

With so many different types of shellfish to try — including mussels, clams and oysters — there’s no excuse not to get your fill. Try a new recipe for dinner tonight!

Mussels are found in coastal areas worldwide, so they’re quite easy to incorporate into your diet. They make a healthy appetizer with bread or chips and only 70 calories per serving!

One cup contains 20 grams of protein while providing over 100% daily value for vitamin C. Use them to flavor up your pasta dishes or soups as well.

2) Protein:

Shellfish is high in protein. The types of proteins found in shellfish are complete proteins. These include all nine essential amino acids that your body needs but can’t make.

Unlike plant-based protein sources like beans and legumes, complete proteins from animal sources offer you an easier-to-absorb source that doesn’t need to be combined with other foods or supplements to become complete.

Per ounce, shrimp and other shellfish are much more nutrient-dense than most proteins. Not only are they high in protein — one ounce will net you around 15 grams — but also in vitamin B12 and zinc.

Shrimp is also a great source of monounsaturated fats like omega-3 fatty acids which have been shown to reduce your risk for heart disease.

3) Zinc:

Not only is zinc a crucial nutrient for our immune system and sense of smell, but it may also be an effective remedy for psoriasis.

People with psoriasis are often deficient in zinc, so topically applying products that contain zinc can be especially beneficial to those who suffer from chronic skin conditions.

If you’re not getting enough zinc in your diet, consider taking a daily multivitamin that contains at least 15mg of zinc per serving.

4) Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids:

It’s no secret that shellfish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. But did you know they’re also abundant in polyunsaturated fatty acids? These healthy fats help reduce inflammation and can even help manage your appetite — helping keep you leaner.

Your body can’t produce polyunsaturated fatty acids on its own, but it does benefit from them when we consume them through foods like shellfish.

Another polyunsaturated fatty acid you’ll find in shellfish is docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA. This nutrient plays a vital role in fetal brain development and can help lower levels of bad cholesterol.

In fact, studies have even found that people who consume a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids are less likely to develop type-2 diabetes.

Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation and have been shown to contribute to better brain function.

A study published in Nutritional Neuroscience found that low omega-3 levels may be associated with depression in women, especially those who had suffered from postpartum depression. Eating shellfish may also improve your immune system and prevent you from getting sick more often.

5) Iron:

It’s true that shellfish is a rich source of iron. One 3-ounce serving of shrimp provides as much as 47 percent of your daily recommended intake.

While it’s great to consume more iron — and most people don’t get enough in their diets — it’s important to keep your consumption from seafood in perspective.

For example, beef liver contains nearly five times as much iron per serving as shrimp. And while you might be tempted to stock up on oysters for their high zinc content, they actually contain less than 2 milligrams per serving compared with 11 milligrams in beef liver and 20 milligrams in sirloin steak.

In other words, don’t forget about other sources of protein and nutrients when you start eating more shellfish!

6) Copper:

Copper is an essential mineral that’s necessary for a healthy metabolism. Shellfish are an especially good source; oysters and mussels have twice as much copper as beef. The trace mineral helps build red blood cells to deliver oxygen to our body’s tissues and organs.

However, copper is not stored in our bodies; we only use what we need for metabolic processes. If we get too much copper over time it can be detrimental to our health.

It may lead to copper overload and Wilson’s disease — a rare genetic disorder that causes liver and brain damage. High levels of copper are also associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

7) Selenium:

Selenium is a mineral that’s essential for proper functioning of many different bodily systems. It’s thought to have antioxidant properties and may help support immune health.

The best food sources of selenium include brazil nuts, crabmeat, tuna, salmon and shrimp. Other good sources include eggs, garlic, mushrooms and sunflower seeds.

Although selenium can be toxic in high doses, it appears to be safe at levels up to 400 mcg per day — the amount found in most multivitamins. If you choose to take a supplement containing more than 100 mcg of selenium per day, talk with your doctor first.

8) Vitamin B12:

Shellfish is an excellent source of vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 helps to maintain normal energy levels and aids in proper formation of blood cells and DNA.

It’s important for people over age 50 to pay attention to their intake because it’s difficult for them to absorb naturally occurring vitamin B12 from foods. Make sure you have adequate amounts through supplements or eating foods that are rich in natural sources like shellfish.

Vitamin B12 is also essential for blood and brain health and can help reduce stress levels.

A study published in Nutritional Neuroscience found that under periods of high emotional stress, vitamin B12 supplementation may prevent depression in some people.

What’s more, getting your daily dose of protein is easy when you know how to make shrimp dishes that are simple and quick to prepare.

9) Calcium:

Besides being a great source of protein, shellfish are also a good source of calcium. Calcium is important for everyone — it supports strong bones and teeth — but it’s especially crucial to seniors: Men and women over 65 who don’t get enough calcium are at higher risk for osteoporosis.

But it’s not just seniors who should be concerned about their intake: Consuming too little calcium increases your risk for osteoporosis, heart disease and some cancers.

In fact, most Americans don’t get enough calcium. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends 1,000 milligrams per day for women and men up to age 50; after that, women should increase their intake to 1,200 milligrams a day and men to 1,000 milligrams a day.


Following precautions should be taken before eating shellfish:

i) Shellfish Allergies:

It’s worth noting that shellfish allergies are quite common. Nearly 5% of adults in America have an allergy to shellfish, and though not usually fatal, a severe allergic reaction can be life-threatening.

If you suffer from shellfish allergies or if any member of your family does, speak with your doctor before consuming any type of shellfish in your diet.

ii) Mercury Content:

While shellfish are a good source of nutrition for many reasons, it’s also important to note that some types contain high levels of mercury.

The FDA recommends that you limit your intake to 12 ounces per week due to concerns about mercury toxicity.

Pregnant women and small children should avoid eating any type of raw shellfish due to both foodborne illnesses and their potential impact on development. All types should be cooked well before being eaten.

iii) Eating Raw Shellfish:

It’s also important to note that certain types of shellfish are particularly susceptible to foodborne illnesses. Never eat raw shellfish from a source you don’t trust.

If you eat at restaurants or buy from an online retailer and aren’t sure if they handle their products properly, stick with cooked dishes only.

iv) Dangerous Mislabeling:

Unfortunately, there’s a big problem with safe seafood. An estimated 90% of fish being sold in America isn’t what it claims to be. The reason for that is widespread mislabeling — meaning that labels say one thing but products actually contain something else entirely.

How to Identify Safe Seafood?

Here are five tips to help you identify safe seafood.

  • Buy from a Reputable Source — If you don’t know where your seafood comes from or how it’s processed, there’s no way to be sure you aren’t eating something mislabeled. The only way to avoid that risk is to buy directly from a reputable source and confirm with them if any products have been previously frozen or if anything has been previously frozen in their processing plants. They should also be able to provide information about mercury content.
  • Buy Fresh Seafood — Check your seafood for clear signs of spoilage. If it’s at all discolored or smells off in any way, don’t buy it. Similarly, if you’re buying fish from a grocery store and can tell it hasn’t been stored properly — that is, thawed frozen fish that has been sitting on ice — avoid it as well.
  • Avoid Mislabeled Seafood — Here’s a sad truth — the majority of seafood sold in America isn’t what it claims to be. If you don’t buy from a reputable source or are getting fish somewhere like a grocery store or other retailer where you can’t confirm its origin and processing, stick with fish that comes in cans so you don’t run into mislabeling issues.
  • Trust Your Senses — Some scammers in fish markets try to pass off other types of seafood as more expensive fish. To make sure you don’t get duped into buying something that isn’t what it claims to be, trust your senses before you buy. For example, if you’re trying to identify red snapper at a market and aren’t sure if what you’re being shown is mislabeled, ask to smell and touch it. Scammers also sometimes pass off other fish as white tuna or albacore. Since it’s difficult to confirm that what you are being sold is really white tuna if you don’t know for sure what white tuna is supposed to taste like, once again it pays to trust your senses.

Cooking and Preserving Fish:

  • Just because you’ve identified a good source for fish doesn’t mean it will last forever — in fact, if you buy frozen fish you should use it within a year to ensure it stays safe to eat. The best way to preserve fresh seafood is to cook or consume it right away — the sooner you eat something after buying it, after all, the less time there is for bacteria to grow in it.
  • If you do need to store some fish, freezing it is a good option — just keep in mind that even frozen seafood will eventually become unsafe if left uneaten for too long. It’s best to use frozen fish within a year or two so you can be sure it stays fresh for as long as possible.
  • With canned fish, you have more leeway in terms of how long it will last — just make sure that cans are sealed properly and have not been dented or otherwise damaged. Storing them in a dry, cool place away from direct sunlight is also good practice.

Shellfish and Pregnancy:

Seafood can be a great option for healthy eating during pregnancy, but there are some caveats you need to keep in mind.

  • It’s best to avoid large fish like shark and swordfish — and limit consumption of canned tuna to just six ounces per week — because these large fish have high mercury levels that could pose risks to your unborn child.
  • You should also avoid certain types of shellfish like raw oysters, clams and mussels because these can sometimes contain harmful bacteria — it’s best to cook these first before eating them.
  • Even if you are not planning to become pregnant any time soon, it’s a good idea to be aware of seafood safety issues so you can make smart decisions about what types of fish to eat while pregnant or trying to get pregnant in case it happens sooner than expected.
  • It’s best to avoid shark, swordfish and other large fish that may have high mercury levels; limit your canned tuna intake to just six ounces per week. It’s also wise to cook shellfish like oysters and clams before eating them so you can kill off any bacteria they may contain.

However, other research indicates that shellfish is particularly healthy for pregnant women and their developing fetuses. In addition to reducing a woman’s risk for heart disease and diabetes, it can help her baby’s brain development. In one study, babies born to mothers who ate more seafood were more intelligent as toddlers!

Shellfish Side Effects:

While there are many health benefits to be enjoyed by including shellfish in your diet, there are also drawbacks if you have allergies or other food intolerances. Some of the side-effects of eating shellfish may include:

  • Note that shellfish is a common food allergy and can be dangerous for certain people with allergies. Those allergic to shellfish should avoid it at all costs; in rare cases, consumption can even cause death. If you’re allergic to shellfish, don’t eat it! It can kill you! But if you’re not allergic — or your risk tolerance is higher than ours — shellfish are healthy and delicious.
  • One common complaint about shellfish is that it can be high in cholesterol. However, research indicates that shellfish has a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels and heart health. In fact, eating at least two servings of seafood a week — including shellfish — can reduce your risk for heart disease by up to 36 percent!


Shellfish are packed with nutrition, making them a healthy addition to any diet. Shellfish are an excellent source of protein, and they’re also rich in B-complex vitamins, iron, zinc and potassium. In fact, one serving of shellfish can deliver nearly half your daily requirement for manganese. Shellfish is also naturally low in fat, making it a good choice for anyone who’s concerned about their cholesterol levels or wants to lower their risk for heart disease.

Shellfish is also low in sodium, so it’s a great food choice for those who are looking to cut back on their salt intake. The majority of commercially sold seafood is labeled as farm-raised, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily better for you than wild-caught varieties.

One reason for shellfish’s heart health benefits is that it’s rich in cholesterol-lowering nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids. A 3 ounce serving can have more than 400 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids — which can help reduce inflammation and prevent blood clots. Omega-3s are also a powerful antioxidant that fights free radicals and may even slow down or prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

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