Posted by on March 19, 2015 - 9:39am

It is generally accepted that it is a good idea to include fish, such as salmon and flounder, that are high in omega-3, in one's diet.   But what about shellfish (lobster, crab, mussels, clams, calamari, oysters, scallops etc)?   While they contain less omega-3 than fin fish, shellfish are a good source of protein (especially octopus), and if you avoid breading and frying, are low in calories.  

Other benefits of specific shellfish:   Oysters are an excellent source of zinc, clams have iron and Vitamin B-12, and crustaceans are a good source of choline, a nutritient that may be good for memory and muscle control.

But, there are some negatives that shellfish lovers need to consider.   Shrimp are high in cholesterol and if you are a 'cholesterol responder' (the cholesterol you eat overly impacts blood cholesterol) you might want to limit your shrimp intake.  While we know that large fin fish like sword fish contain mercury, shellfish more readily absorb toxins often associates with the "red tide".   Red tide is a bloom of plankton, especially dinoflagellates, that causes an usually reddish discoloration of coastal ocean waters. Certain dinoflagellates produce toxins that contaminate shellfish, making them unsafe to eat, and can kill fish. If you eat shellfish from waters with high concentrations of red tide present, you may risk a case of shellfish poisoning.  Symptoms could range from numbness, tingling, headache, dizziness, amenesia, etc.  depending on the specific type of toxin ingested.   Coastal towns often monitor the presence of red tide and post warnings when the levels are too high for swimming or eating local shellfish and fin fish.   This type of tide is more prevalent in warmer, more shallow waters than in cold, deep ocean areas. 

Allergies are another concern more prevalent in shellfish.  Some people are only allergic to one type of shellfish (crustacean vs. molluscan) or even just one specific shellfish.  My mother could not eat oysters and I cannot eat lobster but we both could eat other  seafood.  Go figure!

Overall, seafood is a good source of many nutrients and a good alternative to more fatty red meats. 


Posted by on June 10, 2014 - 2:41pm

The FDA and the EPA are revising their joint fish consumption Advice and Questions & Answers to encourage pregnant women, those who may become pregnant, breastfeeding mothers, and young children to eat more fish and to eat a variety of fish from choices that are lower in mercury. This is a DRAFT for which you may provide comment. Once finalized, it will replace the current advice which was issued in 2004.

Key Message
Eat 8 to 12 ounces of a variety of fish (includes fish and shellfish)  each week from choices that are lower in mercury. The nutritional value of fish is important during growth and development before birth, in early infancy for breastfed infants, and in childhood. 

Who should know
Women who are pregnant (or might become pregnant) or breastfeeding.
Anyone who feeds young children/

The Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency are issuing this advice to encourage women to eat recommended amounts and types of fish. Recent reports show many pregnant women in the United States are not consuming fish in amounts recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010. This advice is being issued now to encourage women who are pregnant (or may become pregnant) or breastfeeding and young children to eat more fish and to eat a variety of fish from choices that are lower in mercury. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, the federal government’s evidence-based nutritional guidance to promote healthy eating, now recommends that “women who are pregnant or breastfeeding consume at least 8 and up to 12 ounces of a variety of seafood per week, from choices lower in methyl mercury.”

There is longstanding evidence of the nutritional value of fish in the diet. Fish contain high quality protein, many vitamins and minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, are mostly low in saturated fat, and some fish even contain vitamin D. The nutritional value of fish is especially important during growth and development before birth, in early infancy for breastfed infants, and in childhood.

Download in PDF (276KB) to learn details such as what fish is safer.