Scallops: Are There Health Benefits?

Scallops are widely considered one of the healthiest seafoods. Made up of 80% protein and sporting a low fat content, they can help you feel fuller longer and are rich in vitamins and minerals. They are also a great source of antioxidants. These nutrients protect your body against cell damage linked with a range of chronic diseases. 

In traditional East Asian medicine, scallops are used as a treatment for conditions like diabetes and indigestion. Modern research also studies scallop proteins for their potential use in antitumor drugs and cancer treatments. 

While this research is ongoing, many studies have found that scallops' nutritional content can offer health benefits. Fresh scallops should be available during the fishing season in your area, but they’re available frozen at most supermarkets year-round.

Nutrition Information

A 3-ounce serving of steamed scallops contains: 

  • Calories: 94
  • Protein: 17 grams
  • Fat: 1 gram
  • Carbohydrates: 5 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams
  • Sugar: 0 grams

Scallops are a good source of: 

Scallops also contain omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy fats help regulate your heartbeat, support nervous system function, and may support memory. 

Potential Health Benefits of Scallops

Scallops offer a range of vitamins and minerals that can benefit your health. They contain high levels of zinc, which can help balance hormones and improve memory. A serving of scallops also meets the daily requirement for Vitamin B12, an antioxidant associated with healthy cognitive function. 

Other research-backed health benefits of scallops include:

Heart Health

Scallops are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, healthy fats that can balance your cholesterol levels, reducing your heart disease risk. 

The high magnesium content in scallops can contribute to heart health as well. This mineral helps relax blood vessels, which can lower your blood pressure and improve circulation. One study found that those with low magnesium levels had up to a 54% greater risk of dying from heart disease. 

May Prevent Stroke

Research shows the fatty acids in scallops can improve blood flow and reduce clots that lead to stroke. One study found that people who eat fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids between two and four times a week lowered their stroke risk by up to 48%.

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The Vitamin B12 in scallops also reduces levels of homocysteine, which are amino acids that damage your blood vessels and can lead to stroke. 

Weight Management

Scallops are an excellent source of lean protein. Research shows that high-protein diets can help with weight loss, as you feel fuller for longer. Protein may also boost your metabolism

Scallop protein also contains taurine and glycine, amino acids that research has found to prevent weight gain and obesity. 

Physical Recovery

Studies show that the magnesium in scallops can reduce muscle cramps, repair tissue, and increase muscle strength. Because of these effects, maintaining adequate levels of magnesium in your diet may reduce your risk of osteoporosis and other mobility-related conditions. 

Potential Risks of Scallops

Scallops are considered safe for most people, but may cause problems for those with certain conditions. Consider the following health risks of scallops when adding them to your diet: 

Shellfish Allergy

As scallops are a member of the shellfish family, avoid them if you have an allergy to seafood like oysters, mussels, and clams.

Purine

Scallops contain purine, a compound that can form kidney stones in people who have a sensitivity to it. In high amounts, the purine can also cause gout.

Heavy Metals

Researchers have found some heavy metals in samples of scallop, like mercury, lead, and cadmium. While the levels are below what’s considered dangerous for human consumption, high amounts can lead to health problems, including cancer. 

Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning

Shellfish harvested from polluted or algae-rich waters can contain bacteria that can cause stomach pain and diarrhea. Shellfish fishing areas are tested frequently for this bacteria, so you can limit this risk by buying from a reputable source. 

Pregnancy Concerns 

Because of the risk of harmful bacteria and heavy metals in some seafood, pregnant women should avoid shellfish like scallops. 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on October 08, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Amino Acids: “Scallop protein with endogenous high taurine and glycine content prevents high-fat, high-sucrose-induced obesity and improves plasma lipid profile in male C57BL/6J mice.”

Centre for Food Safety, The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region: “Food Safety Tips of Eating Scallops.”

Clinical Reviews in Bone and Mineral Metabolism: “Uric Acid Nephrolithiasis: A Systemic Metabolic Disorder.”

Comprehensive Review in Food Science and Food Safety: “Shellfish: Nutritive Value, Health Benefits, and Consumer Safety.”

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

European Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis.”

Harvard Medical School: “Do omega-3s protect your thinking skills?”

Journal of Neuroscience: “Cognitive loss in zinc transporter-3 knock-out mice: a phenocopy for the synaptic and memory deficits of Alzheimer's disease?"

Journal of the American Heart Association: “Serum Magnesium and the Risk of Death From Coronary Heart Disease and Sudden Cardiac Death.”

Journal of the American Medical Association: “Intake of Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Risk of Stroke in Women.”

Mayo Clinic: “Pregnancy nutrition: Foods to avoid during pregnancy.”

Nutrients: “The Role of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Reverse Cholesterol Transport: A Review.”

Neurology: “Vitamin B12, cognition, and brain MRI measures.”

Oncology Letters: “Anticancer effects of an extract from the scallop Patinopecten yessoensis on MCF-7 human breast carcinoma cells.”

Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. “The Role of Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in Stroke.”

Penn State Hershey Medical Center: “Stroke.”

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Magnesium and muscle performance in older persons: the InCHIANTI study.”

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Protein, weight management, and satiety.”

Washington State Department of Health. “Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning (DSP).”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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