Squid: Is It Good for You?

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on August 03, 2023
5 min read

Squid is a popular seafood all over the world. It's cheap, versatile, and tasty. It can be grilled, seared, boiled, braised, and even eaten raw as sashimi.

One of the most popular preparations of squid is chopped, breaded, and fried. This is popularly referred to as calamari, though the term "calamari" technically encompasses any squid eaten as food. Fried calamari has more calories than most other preparations of calamari. Commercially, fished squids are typically caught offshore, sometimes far out at sea. Many different squid species are fished and eaten. In 2002, the most commonly caught squid species were the European squid, the Argentine shortfin squid, the jumbo flying squid, and the Japanese flying squid. The jumbo flying squid fishery is currently the most productive in the world.

Clearly, there's a high demand for squid. This begs the question, what health benefits and risks come with squid consumption?

A 4-ounce serving of raw squid contains:

  • Calories: 104
  • Protein: 18 grams
  • Fat: 2 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 3 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams

Calamari is also a good source of:

  • Vitamin C
  • Iron
  • Calcium

The health benefits of squid are often linked to its high protein content. Other benefits are tied to its polyunsaturated fatty acid content, also known as omega-3 fatty acids.

Healthy pregnancy

The FDA highlights fish as a healthy food for those who are pregnant and breastfeeding. The protein and iron content of squid are considered particularly important for pregnant women.

Heart health

The link between omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil and heart health has been well researched. However, the balance of fatty acids in calamari oil is somewhat different than that in typical fish oils on the market.

The fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is higher in squid than in other seafood. DHA has been shown to improve resting heart rate. DHA-rich oils, like calamari oil, may also help reduce platelet aggregation for women.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Research on the omega-3 fatty acids found in seafood indicates that they help soothe the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Participants in a study reported shorter periods of morning joint stiffness and reduced joint swelling and pain.

Squid is generally considered a safe food in moderation. The main health risks of squid and shellfish come from their mercury levels and allergies.

Shellfish allergy

As with any shellfish, squid carries a risk of allergic reaction. A substance called tropomyosin is the likely culprit. If you have a shellfish allergy, you should avoid squid.

Mercury poisoning

Seafood has long been known to contain mercury. A buildup of mercury in the body can cause serious harm, especially for children. The FDA considers squid one of the "Best Choices" for seafood, meaning it contains relatively low levels of mercury. Still, it is good to remember that any squid you consume likely contains mercury.

It's recommended that adults eat squid and other "Best Choices" seafood at most two or three times per week in 4-ounce servings.

It's recommended that children under 12 eat two servings of squid and other "Best Choices" seafood per week. Their serving size, by years of age, are:

  • I-ounce serving for ages 1-3
  • 2-ounce serving for ages 4-7
  • 3-ounce serving for ages 8-10
  • 4-ounce serving for age 11

Squid ink risks

Although squid ink isn't poisonous, it may carry some risks.

Eating foods made with squid ink can cause an allergic reaction similar to seafood allergy. If you have a shellfish or squid allergy, avoid any foods with squid ink.

Squid ink is a dark, usually bluish-black fluid that's made by squids. Squids and other cephalopods like cuttlefish and octopuses store this ink in an ink sac. When they're in danger, they release it to conceal them so they can get away from predators.‌

Squid ink, also called cephalopod ink, has been used in traditional medicine for centuries. It's also used as a pigment, writing ink, dye, and black food coloring. If you've eaten black burgers, waffles, pasta, or ice cream, you may be familiar with squid ink.

Health benefits of squid ink

Squid ink is linked to many health benefits in animal studies. But more research is needed to prove those benefits in humans.

Health benefits may include:

  • It has antimicrobial properties. Research has shown that squid ink is effective against pathogens like bacteria, fungi, and viruses. It also has antibiotic effects against some infectious bacteria.

  • It may have anticancer effects. Studies show that squid ink can promote antitumor activity and fight cancer. It may be used in anticancer drugs and chemotherapy to treat cancer in humans.

  • It can boost your immunity. Some compounds in cephalopod ink can help protect your immune cells and boost your immune response.

  • It can reduce hypertension or high blood pressure. Squid ink has enzymes that can lower your blood pressure and prevent hypertension.

  • It may have effects against retroviruses. The ink from some cephalopod species can help fight retroviruses like HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

  • It may treat ulcers. Squid ink has been found to reduce ulcers in rats. This may be promising for the treatment of ulcers in humans.

  • It can reduce pain and inflammation. Squid ink has anti-inflammatory properties, so it might have potential in treating chronic health issues like heart disease.‌

  • It has antioxidant properties. Squid ink has antioxidant effects, which can protect your cells from free radical damage and oxidation. This is why squid ink may be used in antiaging products.

Humans have used squid ink for centuries for things like:‌

Medicines. Squid ink has some antibacterial, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and other healing properties.

Writing, art, and painting. Sepia ink or blackish-brown squid ink was used by artists and painters to create long-lasting paintings. Modern artists still use the sepia pigment to create different shades and effects.

Cosmetics. Squid ink is used in hair color and mascara because of its distinct black color.

Food. Squid ink is often used in Japanese and Greek cuisines. With its rich umami or savory flavor and black color, squid ink can be added to many of your favorite foods.

Foods that use squid ink may include:

  • Black pasta
  • Black rice or risotto
  • Ink soup
  • Sauce
  • Bread and burger buns
  • Black tacos
  • Black waffles
  • Black ice cream and other desserts
  • Cookies and crackers