Snails: Are There Health Benefits?

You may think of snails only as small mollusks that wreak havoc in your garden or crawl around on the sidewalk after rain. But in many parts of the world, including France, Germany, and Portugal, snails are actually a delicacy. They can be enjoyed cooked into a buttery hors d'oeuvre called escargot or fried in an Indian dish called sate kakul. 

Eating a snail might sound unpleasant to you, but if you can get past any mental blocks you have about eating them, their taste is uniquely supple. They have a meaty texture but are moist inside and take on the flavor of whatever sauce they’re cooked in. With escargot, they tend to be cooked in a buttery garlic sauce, making them savory and delectable.

You can find escargot or other snail dishes served at various restaurants or as an appetizer at a fancy party. Seafood shops also sell them. However, you can’t buy them in every grocery store.

But behind that garlicky goodness, is there any nutritional substance? Let’s take a look at the potential health benefits and risk factors to eating snails so that you can make an informed decision about whether to add this food to your diet. 

Nutrition Information

One 4-ounce serving of raw snails contains: 

The protein content of snails is similar to the protein found in pork and beef, but snails come with a much lower fat content. In addition to containing significant sources of protein and low amounts of fat, snails are also good sources of iron, calcium, Vitamin A, and a number of other minerals. 

Vitamin A helps your immune system fight off diseases and strengthens your eyes. It also helps cells in your body grow. Calcium helps your body’s bones stay strong and diminish risk of developing bone-related problems such as osteoporosis. Iron helps your red blood cells move oxygen to all parts of your body, as well as keeps your hair, nails, and skin healthy.

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Potential Health Benefits of Snails

In medieval times, snails were thought to cure everything from a common cough to tuberculosis. Today, they’re enjoyed more as a tasty appetizer than for any other reason. However, there are still a number of health benefits associated with eating snails. 

Improve Anemia

Iron-deficient anemia can cause symptoms that include fatigue, weakness, pale skin, chest pain, headache, dizziness, and shortness of breath. Fortunately, eating snails may help relieve some of these symptoms by treating the underlying cause. Snails are an excellent source of iron, with one serving of snails containing 22% of your recommended daily allowance of iron. 

Improve Heart Health

Fish are normally noted for their supply of Omega-3 fatty acids, but snails are a good source of them too.

Omega-3s have been shown to improve heart health and reduce the risk of dying of heart disease. They also may help lower your blood pressure, reduce blood clotting, and keep your heartbeat steady.

Potential Risks of Snails

One of the biggest risks to eating snails comes not from the snails themselves but from how you prepare them.

Heart Problems

One of the biggest benefits of snails is that they are a low-fat protein source, but cooking them in buttery sauces adds that fat back in. 

Some fats are stored in the arteries. These thin tubes carry oxygen-rich blood throughout your body. Over time, they can become clogged if too much fat or other substances build.

A blocked artery can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Therefore, eating fat-rich sauces along with snails reintroduces risk to developing heart disease or other health problems later in life.

Rat Lungworm Disease

Eating raw snails can, in rare cases, lead to a condition called rat lungworm disease

The rat lung worm is a parasite that can get into snails if they come in contact with rat feces (poop). If you eat a raw snail with this parasite, you can become infected. Signs of infection include: 

●Headaches

●Stiffness

Fever

Nausea

●Vomiting

Luckily, this infection can be prevented as long as you cook snails thoroughly before eating them. 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on December 03, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Cleveland Clinic: “Coronary Artery Disease.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Iron-rich Foods and Anemia.”

ESHA Research, Inc., Oregon: “Snails.”

Food Science & Nutrition: “Investigation of nutritional properties of three species of marine turban snails for human consumption.”

Forbes: “I Bet You Didn’t Know Your Escargot Was Canned.”

Journal of Microbiology and Antimicrobials: “Snails as meat source: Epidemiological and nutritional perspectives.”

The Living World of Mollusks: “A History of Snail Cultivation.” 

Mayo Clinic: “Calcium.”

Mayo Clinic: “Iron deficiency anemia.”

Mayo Clinic: “Omega-3 in fish: How eating fish helps your heart.”

Mayo Clinic: “Vitamin A.”

NSW Government Health: “Rat lung worm disease (Angiostrongylus cantonensis) factsheet.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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