“Mighty mollusks” – succulent scallops offer a “wallop” of nutrition
With their sweet, mild flavor, golden-brown color and tender consistency, pan-seared scallops can be downright delectable. But just how healthy are these tasty mollusks? The answer is: extremely healthy. Loaded with protein, high in desirable fats and crammed with essential minerals, scallops are a treasure trove of nutrition.
Although it seems almost too good to be true, eating something as delicious as scallops can still make you feel virtuous – health-wise, at least. Experts say that regularly consuming scallops can help you reach the recommended daily intakes of nutrients needed for brain and nervous system function, heart health, bone health and immune defense. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of these “gifts from the sea.”
High-protein scallops have a stellar nutritional profile
A three-ounce serving of scallops yields up a whopping 19.5 grams of protein - more than what is found in 8 ounces of yogurt, by the way. This serving also delivers close to 20 percent of the Recommended Dietary Intake for hard-to-obtain vitamin B12 – a real “plus” for those who choose to avoid eating red meat and poultry. In addition, three ounces of scallops provides almost 10 percent of the RDI for calcium - needed for bone maintenance and growth - along with generous amounts of other bone-supporting minerals such as potassium and magnesium. Speaking of minerals, scallops contribute all-important trace minerals, such as zinc - which supports brain health and immunity - and copper, which is vital for antioxidant defense and proper immune system function. Finally, with almost 50 percent of the RDI for selenium, scallops can help you stay “topped up” on this antioxidant trace mineral, which is needed for a healthy thyroid. Scallops offer a wealth of nutrients at a very reasonable caloric cost, with a three-ounce serving containing under 100 calories – and zero carbs.
Scallops may promote brain health, mental function and brighter mood
Having adequate amounts of vitamin B12, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids in the diet can help keep the brain and nervous system healthy and may help protect against Alzheimer’s disease and mood disorders. For example, one animal study showed that shortfalls in zinc resulted in mental and memory problems. In a separate study, vitamin B12 supplementation helped to reduce levels of an inflammatory chemical called homocysteine, which is associated with a higher risk of mental impairment. Omega-3 fatty acids have been studied for their potential against depression, with some scientists maintaining that they can help brighten mood and support emotional equilibrium.
Support heart health with scallops
When properly prepared and eaten in moderation, scallops are a heart-healthy food. They are rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, and also contain abundant levels of taurine, an amino acid that benefits heart health by improving blood pressure and cholesterol levels. And, a three-ounce serving of scallops provides 15 percent of the RDI for iron, which assists in the transport of oxygen throughout the body. Finally, potassium and magnesium in scallops help to relax blood vessels and keep blood pressure and heartbeat stable.
Succulent scallops can be sauteed, fried, baked or seared
You can make delicious pan-seared scallops simply by sauteing them in organic butter (or olive oil) with a little garlic and lemon.) Scallops can also be breaded and fried - or coated with panko breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese and baked.
(Note: while scallops get rubbery when overcooked, it’s important to make sure that they are “done” all the way through. This makes the timing a bit tricky. Chefs say that properly cooked scallops are deep golden brown on the outside and break apart easily around the edges, with firm, opaque - not pink - flesh on the inside).
While scallops can contain heavy metals, such as mercury, cadmium and lead, researchers found that samples showed amounts well below the recommended daily maximum – with scallops containing lower levels than other shellfish. In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists classifies scallops as a “best” seafood selection and advises pregnant women to eat them two to three times a week.
Bay scallops are found in the waters from Massachusetts down to North Carolina, while the larger sea scallops are harvested off the coast of the Northeastern US and Canada. While Japanese and Icelandic scallops are available, natural health experts consider wild-caught Atlantic sea scallops the most sustainable choice.
Unfortunately, shellfish allergies are fairly common, with some studies reporting that they affect up to 10 percent of the population. Symptoms of shellfish allergy can include nausea, hives, difficulty breathing, and – rarely – a serious anaphylactic reaction. The good news is that scallops - and other bivalves like clams and mussels - are responsible for fewer allergic reactions than crab, lobster and shrimp. And, people who are allergic to one type of seafood may still be able to eat scallops. However, if you’ve ever had a reaction to shellfish, consult your integrative doctor before eating scallops.
For those who aren’t allergic, nutritious, tasty scallops make a spectacular addition to a healthy diet.
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