The octopus is a boneless sea creature that has fascinated people for centuries — both on and off their plate. It’s an important protein source in coastal communities around the world and is considered a delicacy by many cultures.
As a folk remedy it’s thought to cure impotence and heighten sexual libido. While research doesn’t back up these claims, scientists note that some nutrients in octopus can benefit reproductive health.
The octopus has a unique biology that has spurred a large body of ongoing research. Known as the chameleon of the sea, an octopus can change shape and color, regrow its limbs, and has multiple hearts and brains.
While studies continue to look into potential benefits of eating octopus, many point to the health-boosting effects found in its nutrients — including some that our diets often lack.
A 4-ounce serving of raw octopus contains:
- Calories: 93
- Protein: 17 grams
- Fat: 1 gram
- Carbohydrates: 2 grams
- Fiber: 0 grams
- Sugar: 0 grams
Octopus is a good source of:
Potential Health Benefits of Octopus
Octopus is rich in vitamins and minerals. It’s also low in fat, making it a great source of complete protein for people trying to manage their weight. This can depend on how it’s prepared, however. Frying it as calamari or cooking octopus in butter or oil can add extra fat and calorie content to your meal.
Some added health benefits of including octopus in your diet may include:
Octopus is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, "good fats" linked to a range of heart-healthy benefits. Omega-3s can lower your blood pressure and slow the buildup of plaque in your arteries, reducing stress on the heart.
This research also shows that omega-3s can:
The taurine in octopus has been found to have anti-cancer and antiviral effects. It’s thought to fight inflammation in the body and work as an antioxidant, protecting cells from damage that is associated with cancer.
Octopus also contains high levels of other antioxidants that may reduce cancer risk, like selenium, vitamin B12, and folate. While research into these antioxidants’ potential is ongoing, deficiencies are strongly linked with increased cancer risk.
Octopus contains magnesium — a mineral many people don’t get enough of in their diet. Research has found that magnesium can support healthy brain activity, memory, and learning processes. This may reduce the risk of cognitive diseases like dementia or Alzheimer’s, and is being studied as a treatment for these degenerative diseases.
Two of the omega-3 fatty acids found in octopus — eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) — are thought to prevent or treat depression and other mood disorders. While research is ongoing, clinical trials have found promising results in the omega-3s’ ability to lessen symptoms.
Potential Risks of Octopus
Octopus is a lean option for getting enough protein in your diet. Its high nutritional content can cause problems for people with some medical conditions, however. Talk with your doctor before adding octopus to your diet, and consider the following potential health risks:
A four-ounce serving of octopus contains about 30% of your daily recommended cholesterol intake. Your body needs cholesterol to build healthy cells, but too much can increase your risk of heart disease.
Sodium from food is necessary for healthy nervous system function, but it can contribute to heart problems when consumed in excess. Octopus is high in sodium, so be sure to eat it in moderation if you’re watching your intake.
Some people have an intolerance to the proteins in seafood. If you have an allergy to types of shellfish — like oysters, scallops, or shrimp — you should also avoid octopus.
Studies have found the presence of heavy metals in octopus tissue, including toxins like lead. While levels of these toxins are below the standards set for safety in humans, consuming too much of it or other fish could lead to health issues.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant or nursing women limit consumption of shellfish like octopus to 12 ounces per week.