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Health Benefits of Shellfish

Mary Ellen Kelly, Registered Dietitian
10/15/2021

Whether you already love fish and shellfish or are looking to create a healthier, more balanced diet, consider eating more seafood! High in protein and a great source of vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids, seafood and shellfish can make a great addition to your diet.

Read on to learn more about the health benefits and nutrition of seafood and shellfish to find out which is best to incorporate into your weekly meal prep.

A CLOSER LOOK INSIDE SHELLFISH

Let’s start with some of our favorite shellfish. It may just surprise you how nutritious (and delicious) these crustaceans can be.

WHY SHOULD YOU EAT SHELLFISH?

Oysters, clams, mussels, crab, scallops, shrimp, and lobster… What do all of these things have in common? Besides being a seafood dream team, they are all shellfish!

Have you ever wondered about the nutritional benefits of seafood and shellfish? Salmon and tuna get a lot of love and attention as the “poster children” for healthy seafood, but shellfish deserves praise for the nutrients they provide as well!

THE MANY NUTRITIONAL BENEFITS OF SHELLFISH

shucked littleneck clams on the half shell with lemon on a bed of seaweed

Shellfish are an excellent source of lean protein and most of the dietary fat found in shellfish are heart healthy Omega-3 fatty acids. Take a look at the table below to see what you are getting when you belly up to the oyster bar!

In addition to Omega 3s, shellfish are also rich in micronutrients and low in saturated fat, which are extremely important for the proper functioning of your body. Consuming an adequate amount of the different vitamins and minerals is key to optimal health and may even help fight heart disease and other chronic conditions. 

The nutrient profiles of shellfish also allow them to offer health benefits improving your immune system overall to reduce our risk of getting sick and also to improve heart health, brain function and to help with weight control.

Take a look at the table below to see what you are getting when you belly up at the raw bar!

nutritional benefits of shellfish

Source: FoodData Central (usda.gov)

PACKED WITH VITAL MICRONUTRIENTS

Are you surprised that mussels offer protein that can actually help your muscles?? Well, that’s not all shellfish have to offer! In addition to the protein and healthy fat that we get from shellfish, they also provide a nice boost of vital micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).

Let’s take a look at how these micronutrients help your body!

VITAMIN B-12:

Vitamin B-12 is important for optimal functioning of our entire body, especially our heart. Essential for bone and muscle growth and to convert our food into energy for our bodies.

SELENIUM:

Selenium is important for thyroid function and immunity. Getting adequate selenium in our diets may also be helpful to reduce cancer risk.

ZINC:

Zinc is essential for many functions in the body including wound healing, immunity, bone and muscle growth.

IRON:

Iron aids in carrying oxygen to the muscles, which is necessary for our muscles to contract for exercise and for everyday activity.

MAGNESIUM:

Magnesium is involved in bone health, muscle contraction, immunity, blood clotting, blood pressure regulation, energy metabolism.

Shellfish Allergies and Recommendations

When consuming shellfish, it’s important to pay attention to any allergies you may have, the source of the shellfish you’re eating to ensure quality, and the overall quantity of shellfish consumed each week for pregnant women and children.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) encourages pregnant and breastfeeding women to limit to 8-12 ounces of seafood per week and 4 ounces for children, with an emphasis on those sources that tend to be lower in mercury such as scallops, shrimp, clams, and oysters.

Fish that tend to be higher in mercury include Swordfish and King Mackerel. For more information, take a look at what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have to say here- EPA-FDA Advice about Eating Fish and Shellfish | Advisories and Technical Resources for Fish and Shellfish Consumption | US EPA.

grilled oysters and shrimp with butter and lemon


DELICIOUS AND EASY SHELLFISH RECIPES

Now that you know there are so many benefits to eating shellfish, all you need are some simple cooking techniques and recipes. Another reason why we love shellfish is that they’re super versatile. While many people choose to steam, boil, or even fry their shellfish, there are some you can eat raw (such as scallops, clams, and oysters). 

Chef Andrew from North Coast has plenty of great ideas. Take a look….

SIMPLE STEAMED MUSSELS IN 5 MINUTES

It can’t get any simpler than this! In 5 minutes, you can have a bowl of restaurant-quality Steamed PEI Mussels using only your microwave… Plump, fragrant and ready to devour.
 

GRILLED CAJUN SHRIMP

In just 20 minutes (or less) you can be noshing on these spicy, smoky, tender grilled shrimp fresh off the grill. This recipe is a simple and fun BBQ dish!


LEARN HOW TO SHUCK AN OYSTER!

Chef Andrew Wilkinson of North Coast Seafoods breaks down step by step how to easily and safely shuck an oyster at home. All you need is an oyster knife, a towel, and a Naturally Pure oyster and you’ll be shucking in no time!

WHAT ABOUT OTHER SEAFOOD?

Of course, we can’t forget to mention the health benefits and nutrition of seafood as a whole. While we’ve focused on shellfish, other seafood, like fish, are also a great source of protein and important amino acids that are part of a balanced diet.

Did you know that The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the American Heart Association (AHA) both recommend that you should be eating fish two to three times per week, a minimum of 8 ounces, in order to maintain a healthy diet?

Here’s a breakdown of the health benefits and nutrition of some of our favorite fish:

SALMON

As we said, salmon is usually recognized as the pinnacle of “healthy seafood,” and this title is well-deserved. As an oily fish, it’s packed with healthy fats and protein. It’s also a great source of other key nutrients, including selenium, phosphorus, and B vitamins.

Salmon is truly one of the most nutritious and versatile proteins on the planet.

COD

Seafood, in general, is full of protein and low in saturated fats. But Wild Cod is one of the leanest proteins available with 25 grams of protein, 1 gram of fat, and 110 calories in a 5 ounce portion.

Other lean white fish options include flounder, tilapia, catfish, whiting, halibut, and haddock. While you typically see these types of fish served fried, you can also bake them for a healthier meal.

SWORDFISH

Sword steaks, known as the “Prime Rib of the Sea”, are meaty and moist with a mild, slightly sweet flavor profile. It’s rich in Vitamin D, making it perfect if you want a fish that has a more meaty texture and flavor.

Want to learn more about the health benefits and nutrition of seafood and shellfish? Check out more articles all about seafood nutrition! And you’ll always find the health highlights of our seafood and shellfish on our product pages.


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