Scallops are incredibly delicious. For many, they’re the tastiest type of seafood out there. These days scallops aren’t even that difficult to find, as they’re often farmed rather than being harvested from the wild. They’re affordable enough that you might even be able to buy them regularly.
What about health, though? Seafood is healthy. That much is clear. Yet, seafood comes with its risks as well. The benefits and risks also vary depending on the type of seafood you choose.
That brings us to the question of the day – are scallops healthy? It’s easy to see how they could be, but are there any hidden concerns? Reasons that you should avoid scallops instead?
To answer those questions, we need to take a close look at the nutrition of scallops, along with the risks and anything else that’s worth thinking about. Don't forget that there are plenty of other options out there too, including crab and shrimp. Each of these comes with benefits too.
Is Scallops Good For Your Health?
- Scallop Nutrition
- Benefits Of Scallops
- Are There Any Problems With Scallops?
- Farmed Versus Wild Caught Scallops
- Are Scallops Keto Friendly?
- Are Scallops Healthier Than Salmon?
- Final Thoughts
Let’s start with nutrition. Three ounces of steamed scallops gives you the following nutrient profile.
- 94 calories
- Protein: 17 grams
- Carbs: 5 grams
- Fiber: 0 grams
- Sugar: 0 grams
- Fat: 1 gram
There are some powerful nutrients present too, including iron, vitamin B12, potassium, and selenium. These nutrients have many important roles, making them incredibly relevant to your health.
That’s not the full list either. Scallops also contain other nutrients, including magnesium, copper, and phosphorus.
Benefits Of Scallops
Their Protein Content
Scallops are exceptional for protein. Not only do they contain all the essential amino acids, but roughly 80% of their calories come from protein.
That’s seriously impressive. After all, our bodies use protein absolutely everywhere. We get the building blocks for that protein from our diet.
Now, protein isn’t unusual. You’ll get some from any type of seafood you choose. However, scallops give you more protein per serving for most. This makes them exceptional if you need to increase your protein intake.
They Can Decrease Heart Disease Risk
Heart disease is a serious problem, causing more than 600,000 deaths every year in the United States. This is deeply concerning, as most cases of heart disease are completely preventable.
Food is one part of the equation, as some foods can raise heart disease risk, while others decrease it instead.
Scallops fall into the latter category, partly because of their omega 3 fatty acids. You’ve heard about omega 3s, right? They’ve been heavily researched and linked to all sorts of health benefits.
Some of these benefits relate to your heart. Specifically, omega 3s can improve your cholesterol levels, which then decreases heart disease risk. There may be other heart-related effects as well.
The potential to decrease heart disease risk is so powerful that patients are often prescribed fish oil supplements. Getting the omega 3s from real food instead could be even more effective, especially as you’re getting protein and nutrients at the same time.
Besides, the magnesium and potassium in scallops is relevant for your heart too, helping to drop down your blood pressure levels.
Their Low Mercury Content
Mercury is one of the biggest problems with seafood. This heavy metal accumulates in the flesh of fish and can cause substantial harm if you consume too much of it.
The risks are greatest for children and fetuses, but you’re not safe just because you’re an adult. You still need to be cautious with your mercury consumption.
In fact, mercury is one of the main reasons we’re told to only have two or three servings of seafood per risk. More than this risks pushing your mercury intake too high.
This is where scallops shine. They contain less mercury than most other types of seafood, averaging somewhere between 0.003 ppm and 0.033 ppm.
Could Help You Lose Weight
The high protein content of scallops makes them exceptional for weight loss. After all, protein helps to keep you full, reducing your cravings for sugary snacks and helping you to keep your eating in check.
Scallops are low in fat and calories too, which makes them even more fantastic. While fat isn’t the enemy, high fat foods tend to be high in calories too, so they often lead to weight gain.
An Excellent Source Of Nutrients
Let’s come back to the nutrients for a minute. Nutrients aren’t exactly uncommon. You’ll find some in pretty much anything you eat.
Even so, there are 31 different essential vitamins and minerals, so it’s easy to end up with too little of some of them. Foods like scallops can be incredibly helpful, as you get plenty of different vitamins and minerals in a single serving, one that’s also low in calories.
Plus, every single one of those nutrients influences your health in various ways. Zinc, for example, is important for your brain, while selenium helps with your immune system.
In fact, many of the nutrients in scallops are linked to brain health in some way. These nutrients may even reduce your risk of some mental health conditions, including depression.
Are There Any Problems With Scallops?
High In Purines
Purines naturally occur in foods and they’re often not a problem.
However, purines break down to form uric acid, which can crystalize. The buildup of uric acid is directly related to gout and gout symptoms.
As such, if you have gout or are at risk of it, you’ll need to watch your purine intake and focus on low purine foods. Meats, fish, and seafood all contain purines, although the levels vary.
Scallops happen to be one of the most concerning types, containing a decent amount of purines. If you’re at risk, you might need to avoid scallops entirely or be very careful with your intake.
You May Be Allergic
Allergic reactions to seafood are common and varied. Some people are allergic to most types of seafood, while others may be able to tolerate some and not others.
Scallops don’t cause allergic reactions as often as shrimp and lobster, but this doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods. You could still be allergic and, if so, scallops will be off the table for you.
The Risk Of Contamination
There’s always some risk of contamination with seafood. This is hard to avoid, as our oceans simply aren’t that clean anymore.
Heavy metals are a big concern here, especially if the scallops are harvested from polluted water. Bacterial contamination can happen in similar environments or during algae blooms.
Contamination can happen with wild caught or farmed scallops. The best way to protect your health is to choose your suppliers carefully. Look for companies that are up-front about how they source their scallops and take steps to protect customers.
Plenty of companies work hard to avoid contamination, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find some reliable ones.
Farmed Versus Wild Caught Scallops
There’s an endless debate about whether you should buy wild caught or farmed seafood. Wild caught seems it should be tastier, better for the environment, and less likely to be contaminated. Is that true though or just a side effect of our assumption that natural is better?
The answer partly depends on what type of seafood we’re talking about.
Common practices for wild caught scallops certainly aren’t ideal. Hydraulic dredges are often used and these cause dramatic damage to the ocean floor.
Farming scallops is a less destructive process, where the scallops are either raised on the beach or they are raked by hand. In fact, scallop farming can even lead to some environmental improvements, as the scallops filter the water as they feed.
The process of scallop farming has also made scallops more affordable and accessible than ever. Seriously. They were once excessively expensive, but now the pricing is much more reasonable.
What about flavor then?
Some people notice a slight flavor difference between wild caught and farmed scallops. Not surprisingly, the wild caught ones taste a little better. However, other people don’t notice much flavor difference at all.
Healthwise, wild caught and farmed scallops are much the same. This means you can go with whichever style you prefer.
Are Scallops Keto Friendly?
While fish tends to be carb free, other types of seafood are more variable. Some are surprisingly high in carbs, while others are much lower in carbs.
Scallops are on the low side, with 3 ounces of cooked scallops giving you roughly 5 grams of carbs. The carb content is low enough that most keto dieters can fit scallops into their diet.
Remember that you don’t need to have a full serving either. You could easily just have a couple of scallops. This way you’d still get all the flavor of scallops and their nutrients, without overdoing it on carbs.
Are Scallops Healthier Than Salmon?
Salmon is often seen as the ultimate type of fish for health, as it’s rich in omega 3 fatty acids, contains plenty of nutrients, and is up there for protein too.
How do scallops compare?
Well, a 3 ounce serving of scallops gives you 94 calories, 17 grams of protein, and roughly 1 gram of fat. The same serving of farmed salmon gives you 175 calories, almost 19 grams of protein, and 10.5 grams of fat. Wild salmon tends to be a bit lower in calories and fat, while offering more nutrients.
These differences show that scallops are the best choice for protein if you want to keep your calorie and fat intake low. Scallops also tend to be lower in mercury than salmon and are better for the environment.
Salmon does win in some areas, though. For one thing, it’s more nutrient dense than scallops.
Then there’s the fat content. Salmon doesn’t just contain more fat than scallops, it’s also much richer in omega 3 fatty acids. This should mean that it offers many more heart health and cognitive benefits than scallops.
Thankfully, you don’t need to choose one or the other. You could easily have a serving of scallops and one of salmon each week. Doing so would give you the best of both worlds.
Scallops are pretty amazing. They’re packed with protein and provide plenty of nutrients, while the calorie content is low. You’re also getting plenty of omega 3 fatty acids and not much mercury per serving.
Scallops are even surprisingly environmentally friendly, as long as you focus on farmed scallops rather than ones harvested from the wild.
There are only a few downsides and they aren’t major. Even so, scallops aren’t the perfect food for everyone. Perhaps you have allergies, are avoiding purines, or simply don’t like the flavor. This isn’t a problem though. Scallops are simply one type of healthy food. You can get protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and even omega 3 fatty acids in plenty of other places.