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Everyone Should Eat More Mollusks


Mollusks comprise one of the largest animal groups on land, in oceans, or in fresh water. Bivalves, the class of mollusks that includes clams, mussels, oysters, and scallops, are extremely rich in a unique combination of nutrients that promote health. Think red meat is your best bet for protein and iron?  Think again. Bivalves are a superior source of low-calorie protein loaded with iron. In addition, they’re virtually fat free and are packed with zinc and vitamin B12.


Consider clams: They’re super-rich in iron, manganese, phosphorus, vitamin B12, vitamin C, and are a good source of niacin, potassium, riboflavin, selenium, and zinc. Three ounces of raw clams will only cost you 63 calories, but you’ll get 11 grams of protein, 66% of the daily recommended amount for iron, and 700% of the daily recommended amount for vitamin B12. Chinese medicine recommends clams for treating hemorrhoids.


Mussels are high in iron, manganese, vitamin B12, and selenium and are a good source of phosphorus, riboflavin, thiamin, vitamin C, and zinc. Three ounces of raw blue mussels contain only 73 calories, but you’ll get 10 grams of protein, 19% of the daily recommended amount of iron, upward of 50% of the recommended amount for selenium, and more than 100% of the recommended amount for manganese, which aids in wound healing and optimal brain functioning. In Chinese medicine, mussels are used to treat impotence, low back pain, and goiter.


Six medium raw oysters, which is roughly equivalent to three ounces, provides 31% of the daily recommended amount for iron and 6 grams of protein for just 57 calories. Oysters are high in iron, B12, zinc, selenium, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus. What’s more, oysters contain the amino acid tyrosine, which is converted into dopamine in the brain, resulting in a mood and mental boost.


Scallops are an excellent source of tryptophan and a good source of protein, vitamin B12 (cobalamin), phosphorus, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, and potassium. To give you an idea how scallops measure up, three raw ounces provide 14 grams of protein and a good amount of B12, all for 75 calories.


Vitamin B12, is a power player in the world of nutrition. It takes on a crucial role in the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system, aids in digestion and proper absorption of nutrients from foods, fights chronic fatigue, and helps expedite the release of melatonin, improving sleep patterns and resulting in better, more restful sleep. B12 also helps maintain red blood cells and nerve cells and aids in the formation of DNA.


Zinc helps balance blood sugar, sharpens smell and taste, and supports immune function. Zinc also plays an important role in supporting male reproductive health. Inadequate zinc has been shown to adversely affect sperm quality, while zinc supplementation has shown benefits in overall sperm health, including higher sperm counts. Other good sources of zinc include sea vegetables.


Quick and healthy tip: Mussels, oysters, and bay scallops are on Oceans Alive’s Eco-Best list; clams make the Eco-OK list. You can easily locate canned clams and mussels, and oysters and frozen scallops at your local grocery. Toss with tomato sauce, fresh herbs, and whole-grain pasta for a quick and healthy meal.


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