Are There Health Benefits to Eating Octopus?

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.

Nutrition Information

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: 

It’s also an excellent source of potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Studies show that these minerals in combination can reduce the risk of stroke and promote a healthy heart. 

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:  

Heart Health

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:

Continued

Octopus also contains taurine, an amino acid that studies show can reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels. 

Anticancer Properties

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.   

Cognitive Health

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. 

Depression Relief

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:

Cholesterol

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

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. 

Shellfish Allergy

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. 

Continued

Toxins

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. 

Pregnancy Concerns

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant or nursing women limit consumption of shellfish like octopus to 12 ounces per week. 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on September 29, 2020

Sources

SOURCES: 

Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation. “Magnesium.”

Anticancer Research: “Optimising Selenium for Modulation of Cancer Treatments.”

Atherosclerosis: “The potential protective effects of taurine on coronary heart disease.”

Chemistry and Ecology: “Bioaccumulation of heavy metals in Octopus vulgaris from coastal waters of Alexandria (Eastern Mediterranean).”

Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology. “Food with Influence in the Sexual and Reproductive Health.”

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon: “Octopus.”

Harvard Medical School: “Omega-3 fatty acids for mood disorders.”

Harvard Medical School: “Salt and Sodium.”

Magnesium in the Central Nervous System: “The role of magnesium therapy in learning and memory.”

Marine Drugs: “Correlation between Fatty Acid Profile and Anti-Inflammatory Activity in Common Australian Seafood by-Products.”

Mayo Clinic: “High cholesterol.”

Mayo Clinic: “Triglycerides: Why do they matter?”

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: “Vitamin B12.”

National Institutes of Health: “Magnesium.”

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: “Update on Seafood Consumption During Pregnancy.”

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Association between intakes of magnesium, potassium, and calcium and risk of stroke: 2 cohorts of US women and updated meta-analyses.”

U.S. National Library of Medicine: “Omega-3 fats - Good for your heart.”

Vitamins & Cancer: “Taurine as Anticancer and Antiviral: Case Report and Prospective Update.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Pagination

Get Diet and Fitness Tips In Your Inbox

Eat better and exercise smarter. Sign up for the Food & Fitness newsletter.

By clicking Subscribe, I agree to the WebMD Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of WebMD subscriptions at any time.