Are scallops safe to eat? Nutrition, Benefits and More

Scallops are a type of seafood that is eaten all over the world.

They live in saltwater environments and are caught in fisheries off the coast of many countries.

The so-called adductor muscles within their colorful shells are edible and sold as shellfish. When prepared properly, they have a slightly sweet flavor and a tender, buttery texture.

Scallops are very nutritious and can have impressive health benefits. However, people are often worried about possible allergic reactions and the accumulation of heavy metals.

This article analyzes in detail the health benefits and the possible dangers of eating scallops.

Highly nutritious


Like most other fish and seafood, scallops have an impressive nutritional profile.

Three ounces (84 grams) of package of steamed scallops (1):

  • Calories: 94

  • Carbohydrates: 0 grams

  • Grease: 1.2 grams

  • Protein: 19.5 grams

  • Omega-3 fatty acids: 333 mg

  • B12 vitamin: 18% of the recommended daily value (DV)

  • Calcium: 9% of the DV

  • Iron: 15% DV

  • Magnesium: 12% DV

  • Phosphorous: 27% DV

  • Potassium: 12% DV

  • Zinc: 18% DV

  • Copper: 12% DV

  • Selenium: 33% of the DV

Scallops are an excellent source of trace minerals, such as selenium, zinc and copper. These minerals are important for human health, however, some people may not get enough of them.

Adequate selenium intake promotes a healthy immune system and adequate thyroid function. Zinc is necessary for brain function and healthy growth, and copper can protect against diabetes and heart disease (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7).

Including scallops in your diet can provide you with these important minerals, as well as high quality proteins and omega-3 anti-inflammatory fatty acids.

Summary Scallops have minerals and other nutrients that are beneficial for human health. A typical portion of 3 ounces (84 grams) of scallops is nutritious and contains less than 100 calories.

It can help you lose weight

Low in calories and high in protein, scallops can be useful if you are trying to lose weight.

Research shows that reducing total caloric intake while moderate increase in protein can promote weight loss (8, 9)

A 3-ounce serving (84 grams) of scallops provides about 20 grams of protein for less than 100 calories (1).

Protein helps people feel full and satisfied, which can lead to a decrease in total calorie intake. In addition, it can increase metabolism and help your body burn more energy (8, 9).

A 26-week study of 773 people found that participants on a high-protein diet (25% of daily calories) lost an average of 5% more of their body weight, compared to those on a low-protein diet (13 % of daily calories).

In addition, the low protein group gained an average of 2.2 pounds (1.01 kg) back (10).

Scallops and fish may also have unique properties that promote weight loss better than other protein sources (11, 12).

Summary Increasing your protein intake through foods such as scallops can help you lose weight. Studies show that fish and scallops can even promote weight loss better than other types of proteins.

Good for your brain and nervous system

Scallops contain certain nutrients that are important to your brain and nervous system.

Three ounces (84 grams) of scallops contain 18% of the DV for both vitamin B12 and zinc, as well as more than 300 mg of omega-3 fatty acids (1).

Adequate amounts of these nutrients ensure proper development of the nervous system and can reduce your risk of mental conditions, such as Alzheimer's and mood disorders (13).

One study found that babies born to women who had low levels of vitamin B12 during pregnancy had decreased brain function nine years later. These children took more than 20 seconds more to complete the cognitive tests than those of women with adequate levels of B12 (14).

Another study showed that supplementation with B12 can reduce homocysteine ​​levels by 30% and improve brain function. Too much homocysteine ​​is related to an increased risk of mild mental deterioration (15).

Zinc also seems to be important for brain health. A 6-month study in rats showed that a 20% reduction in zinc levels in the blood led to mental and memory problems comparable to those associated with Alzheimer's (16).

In addition to vitamin B12 and zinc, omega-3 fatty acids have many benefits for brain health and development.

Research has shown that developing babies who do not get enough omega-3 fatty acids through their mothers' diet may run the risk of developing attention deficit problems and psychiatric diagnoses (17).

Summary Scallops are rich in vitamin B12, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids. Getting adequate amounts of these nutrients is essential for brain development and is associated with a reduced risk of mental deterioration and mood problems.

Promote heart health

Scallops contain magnesium and potassium, two nutrients that keep the heart healthy.

Both play a role in the relaxation of blood vessels. Therefore, sufficient levels of each vitamin can lower blood pressure and prevent heart disease (18).

Low levels of magnesium in the blood and ingestion have been linked to atrial fibrillation (a type of irregular heartbeat), high blood pressure and other heart problems (19, 20).

A study of more than 9,000 people found that those with magnesium levels below 0.80 mmol / L had a 36% and a 54% higher risk of dying from heart disease and heart attack, respectively (21).

Summary Scallops are rich in potassium and magnesium. Sufficient levels of these nutrients can lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease.

It can cause allergic reactions in some people

Some people are very allergic to fish and shellfish, including scallops.

It is estimated that 0.6% of children under the age of 18 in the US UU He is allergic to one or more types of fish. Some studies suggest a prevalence as high as 10.3% for seafood allergies in people of all ages (22, 23).

In fact, seafood is one of the most common food allergens. This type of allergy usually develops in adulthood and lasts a person's entire life (24, 25).

Scallops, oysters, mussels and clams cause less allergic reactions than crab, lobster and shrimp. Some people who are allergic to shellfish can react only to one group while tolerating other types (24).

Allergy to shellfish is the result of your immune system reacting to the tropomyosin protein (22).

The symptoms of an allergic reaction to shellfish include (24):

  • Indigestion, diarrhea and vomiting.

  • Throat tight and difficulty swallowing.

  • Beehives throughout the body.

  • Shortness of breath and cough

  • Tongue and swollen lips

  • Blue or pale skin

  • Dizziness and confusion

In some cases, people may experience a life-threatening reaction called anaphylactic shock, which requires immediate treatment (24).

Summary Allergy to shellfish is one of the most common food allergies. People with this condition may experience a reaction when eating scallops, which may include vomiting, hives, shortness of breath and possible life-threatening complications.

You can accumulate heavy metals

Depending on their environment, scallops can accumulate heavy metals, such as mercury, cadmium, lead and arsenic.

The accumulation of heavy metals in your body can be dangerous.

Chronic exposure to arsenic has been linked to the development of cancer, while the accumulation of lead can cause serious damage to the major organs.

Mercury poisoning leads to decreased brain function, memory problems and depression. Finally, too much cadmium causes significant kidney damage (26).

Excessive amounts of each heavy metal present different risks. Because your body can not excrete heavy metals, it is important to limit the exposure of food, water and environmental sources.

Unfortunately, shellfish may contain varying amounts of heavy metals.

Research on canned scallops from Spain showed that they contained lead, mercury and cadmium. Although the levels of lead and mercury were well below the recommended daily maximum, the amount of cadmium was close to the maximum (27).

Another study on scallops off the coast of Canada found that cadmium levels were almost twice the maximum recommended for human consumption per day in some areas (28).

The few existing studies on concentrations of heavy metals in scallops suggest that they may differ according to location, but that most scallops have a high cadmium content.

Additional research indicates that the amounts of accumulated metals may also vary between different parts of the scallop. Some metals can accumulate in inedible organs and, therefore, would not be so worrisome for human consumption (29).

Summary Research shows that heavy metals pose a risk to human health and can accumulate in shellfish. Scallops appear to have lower levels of lead and mercury, but higher amounts of cadmium.

Should you eat scallops?

Because of its many health benefits, scallops can be a great addition to your diet.

They are highly nutritious, high in protein and low in calories. However, they can cause allergic reactions in people with shellfish allergies.

Depending on where they are caught, scallops contain varying levels of heavy metals and may have other contaminants.

Some people should avoid scallops, including older adults, children, pregnant and lactating women or those who eat a lot of fish in general (30).

If you are a healthy adult who is not allergic and does not have to worry about excessive heavy metal consumption, eating scallops should be safe.

A simple way to prepare them is to burn them with butter, salt and pepper.

Summary Scallops are a nutritious source of protein and are generally safe to eat. Some people should limit the consumption of scallops and fish in general due to allergies or the accumulation of heavy metals.

The bottom line

The scallops are rich in proteins and nutrients that promote the health of the heart and the brain.

They can accumulate certain heavy metals such as mercury, lead and cadmium, but in general they are considered safe.

Unless you are allergic or have been recommended to monitor your seafood intake, such as during pregnancy, there are few reasons to avoid scallops.

They make a healthy and delicious addition to your meals.

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