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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. Iโ€™m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything weโ€™ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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October 01, 2007

Shellfish: Healthy or Not?

By Mark Sisson
40 Comments

Shrimp have long been on the average dietitian’s “bad” list. The belief was that lobster, crabs, clams, shrimp and other shellfish were high in cholesterol, and therefore detrimental to cardiovascular health. But according to the L.A. Times, the oft-cited information is completely wrong. Accurate measurements reveal that shellfish – even shrimp – are quite low in cholesterol.

Of course, the theory that dietary cholesterol somehow translates to high LDL blood cholesterol – and further, heart disease – is one of rapidly eroding merit. (See Mary Enig’s critique of the lipid hypothesis for more research and information on this.) In truth, avoiding particular foods because of their cholesterol content – whether it’s grass-fed beef or eggs or shellfish – is not only unnecessary, but possibly foolish. In keeping with our Primal Health discussions here at MDA, I am firmly convinced that the national nutritional guidelines which recommend strict avoidance of natural, nutritious foods containing saturated fat – and cholesterol – in favor of highly refined products made from grains are clearly contributing to our epidemics of obesity, type 2 diabetes, “syndrome X”, and possibly depression and arthritis. And the list goes on…

Now, whether we ought to be eating shellfish in light of environmental considerations is another question. Clean, fresh shellfish of all sorts are high in many important nutrients and our primal ancestors certainly ate oysters, shrimp, abalone, clams, and lobster in abundance – depending, of course, on geographical location. Your thoughts?

Further reading:

Is there any safe meat?

My views on vegans

44 delicious low-carb recipes for vegans and carnivores alike

Flickr Photo credit (CC)

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40 Comments on "Shellfish: Healthy or Not?"

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Crystal
Crystal
8 years 11 months ago

Not healthy if you have a sensitivity/allergy, or farmed raised shrimp, or imitation crabmeat. Healthy otherwise as long as it’s good quality. I eat shrimp but not much of the others.

Moe
Moe
8 years 11 months ago

They used to feed lobsters and other buggy crustaceans to prisoners in the olden times… Hmm.

Regardless, yummy and high in protein!

Sara
8 years 11 months ago

Yep the imitation crab concerns me. It’s got a lot of weird stuff in there. Wild caught shrimp and seasonal fresh oysters are my faves ๐Ÿ™‚

tatsujin
8 years 11 months ago

In Jewish kosher laws, shellfish is forbidden. I’ve often wondered why that might be. Anybody know?
It makes all the sensee in the world to me that our early ancestors (in the right geographic locations) diets were abundant if not soley relied on shellfish.
Raw abalone is one of my favorite sashimi items.
T.

David j
David j
4 years 6 days ago

I would believe there not kosher first of all because our creator knows best and said they were not to be eaten I would believe because they are bottom feeders more less the vacuum cleaner of the seas or oceans they are the pig of the oceans sort of speak that’s why you hear people say i think i have sea food poison when eating crab,shrimp,lobsters

Steve
Steve
3 years 5 months ago

Right, the big book of Jewish fairy tales tells you what is best to eat.

Sam
Sam
3 years 3 months ago

While it has been thoroughly mistranslated in modern day, maybe it originally came from some source of true knowledge.

Or probably not.

Sara
8 years 11 months ago

Tat, I will explore that issue because I’m curious myself.

tatsujin
8 years 11 months ago

Cool Sara, thank you.

T.

Donna
Donna
8 years 11 months ago

All My Life I’ve Eaten Shrimp, Crab, Lobster,Crawfish And NEVER Got Sick On It.
I Was Raised And Told To Just Never Drink
Milk With It.

Rachel
Rachel
8 years 11 months ago

The environmental impact is, unfortunately very significant. I know most about shrimp farming, which is terribly destructive to the delicate and endangered mangrove ecosystems where shrimp are most productively farmed. Mangroves are absolutely destroyed (and quickly) by shrimp production, and when they’re gone they can no longer prevent coastal erosion and protect against things like hurricanes. I used to love shrimp but I just can’t eat it anymore.

Crystal
Crystal
8 years 11 months ago

Donna-Why not milk?
My husband always gets a “cleanse” after eating crab/clams.

Donna
Donna
8 years 11 months ago

Crystal,As A Kid That’s How My Parents Raised Me, To Never Drink Milk With Seafood. I’ll Have To Ask WHY???

Sara
8 years 11 months ago
Well, here’s the wiki on “clean” and “unclean” flesh: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unclean_animals Here’s an interesting comment thread: http://www.peertrainer.com/LoungeCommunityThread.aspx?ForumID=1&ThreadID=5541 [I found this comment interesting: “I’m not sure I understand the concept of bottom feeders in terms of shell fish – they do eat all the stuff at the bottom of the ocean (since that’s where they live), but they are also the bottom of the food chain. Why a lot of the bigger fish have so much mercury is that mercury isn’t flushed by the body, so the big fish eats the slightly smaller fish, who ate the smaller fish, who at the… Read more »
Oxybeles
Oxybeles
8 years 11 months ago

http://www.oceansalive.org/eat.cfm?subnav=bestandworst

For what its worth. A guide to your Seafood dining pleasure…

Oxybeles
Oxybeles
8 years 11 months ago

The link above, awaiting moderation, stipulates that there are only a few seafood choices worthy of consumption due to ecological concerns….

Good choices generally include: Anchovies, catfish, clams, Dungeness and stone Crabs, crawfish, Pacific halibut, Atlantic herring, mussels, wild or Alaskan salmon, sardines, and bay scallops.

No shrimp or lobster made the acceptability index, and only the following are considered both high in Omega 3’s and low in contaminants:
Anchovies, Oysters (farmed), Herring (Atlantic US Canada), Mackerel (Atlantic), Sablefish/black cod (Alaska), Salmon [Wild (Alaska, canned pink /sockeye], and sardines.

Janell Gossett
Janell Gossett
8 years 11 months ago

Tat and others:

The Bible warns of ingesting scavengers such as swine, shellfish of any kind, etc. because of the
garbage they ingest and can pass on to us. It is strictly, to my knowledge, to protect us from potential harm. Shellfish are referred to as “bottom-feeders”. I hope this helps.

trackback

[…] Shellfish and Cholesterol […]

Esther Kim
8 years 8 months ago

Shrimp, shellfish, crab, etc., were made by God to clean up the garbage on the bottom of the ocean and were never meant to be eaten by humans. God forbid the eating of them for the health of His people…so He knows what is best for them. If we eat these creatures, then we are eating all the garbage they have eaten.

Some Guy
Some Guy
5 years 5 months ago

too bad Christianity isn’t primal. you should probably leave your reasoning to church, its not gonna stand up in a society based around evolution

TJ
5 years 5 months ago

Think about it this way… “you are what you eat ate”.

Don’t think so? Well, what do you think is healthier… grass fed beef or beef that was fed cookie dough or beef that consumed chicken litter or beef grazing GMO & chemically sprayed food sources? Most anybody would say grass fed beef.

Well, a bottom feeder is what they ate, ate, ate, ate, ate, etc.

Bottom line, common sense should tell us that the potential for toxins being stored in the fat cells of bottom feeders is greatly increased.

trackback

[…] Shellfish: Healthy or Not? […]

Barbara
Barbara
8 years 6 months ago

My only problem with fish is two part. I live too far inland to get fish without a second mortgage, and I can’t get wild fish, only farm raised here. I used to live in NY and we ate fish my Dad caught at least three times a week. Shellfish was another two days. The other two days of the week we ate strange stuff called Chicken and Beef. LOL HELP!! Does anyone know how to get wild fish shipped to Arizona?

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[…] Shellfish: Healthy or Not? […]

Bev
7 years 6 months ago

Shell fish is very healthy, granted, not farm raised, and cooked and stored properly.
And for the record…God does not forbid people to eat shell fish.

Mark
Mark
7 years 30 days ago

Yes, I fail to find where it says not to eat shellfish in the Bible.

trackback

[…] Shrimp meet all the requirements for irresistible and guilt-free finger food: a little salty, a little […]

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[…] (Coho, Sockeye or King), Yellowtail snapper, Pacific halibut, bay scallops, spot prawns or cocktail shrimp. This recipe uses a combination of halibut, snapper and shrimp, but use whatever seafood […]

gt
gt
6 years 7 months ago

Jewish dietary laws forbade the eating of shellfish for health reasons probably because of the improper methods that were used to prepare them and made them potentially dangerous to eat. Levitcus 11 outlines this and forbids the eating of any marine creature that do not have fins or scales. For Christians those dietary restrictions were abolished. In Acts 10 Peter was shown in a vision not to consider any food unclean. The restrictions in the Old Testament were not there because of anything inherently evil about pork or shellfish but they were there for the Israelites own welfare.

Periquin
Periquin
6 years 6 months ago
Grok ate shell fish. Probably. However his world wasn’t a polluted one. I won’t go through every animal, just a few. Mussels are found where polluted run-off goes into the ocean. Same for many crabs. Most all shell fish are scavengers that function as cleaners in our world. They remove the trash of the world. Same as white blood cells in the body. Most scale-less fish are bottom feeders, cleaning the world of offal and trash. The creatures that are forbidden as food in Leviticus are scavengers and carrion eaters. That is why they were banned. The well known adage… Read more »
Dino Babe
Dino Babe
5 years 9 months ago

Truly, I’m happy for ya’ll to leave pork and crustaceans alone, more for me!

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[…] shellfish, are very good bets for the simple fact that both lead very similar lives. Every marine shellfish, whether farmed or wild, spends its life in the ocean attached to something – rocks, a rope, […]

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[…] for that nutrient. 20,000 years ago, if you were salt-deficient you would have gone looking for shellfish or rock salt, because those are the salt sources you knew. Your food memory bank was rather limited […]

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[…] for that nutrient. 20,000 years ago, if you were salt-deficient you would have gone looking for shellfish or rock salt, because those are the salt sources you knew. Your food memory bank was rather limited […]

Sandra Kleinschmit
Sandra Kleinschmit
4 years 3 months ago
Since these days,much of the Shellfish on the market are farmed,they are no longer bottom feeder,and so no longer considered “unclean”.So,this means that they are a lot healthier than what is once believed.I have a friend in Hawaii,and she grows HUGE Shrimp! I have her send me a good sized amount of Shrimp about twice a month.She freezes it and it only takes a few days to get to me. YUMMY!! The reason God didnt want us to eat them was because of what they ate.It’s different now.To those who dont agree,well,just dont eat them,and the price will go down… Read more »
Sandra Kleinschmit
Sandra Kleinschmit
4 years 3 months ago

(I meant to say about once every two months she sends me some.LOL!!)

Greg
Greg
4 years 3 months ago

I think it is obvious that when the bible was written, those who ate pork died of tricinoses and some people who ate shellfish swelled up and died of suffocation. That would have been me without Benadryl and prednisone. We have learned to survive these once fatal events but those who have faith will honor their ancestors and their religion by following the custom. For the rest of us, we would rather have the wild scavenger than the factory farm beast. My problem is I am one of those who is deathly allergic to shellfish, bible or not.

Susan
Susan
2 years 11 months ago

What does Mark think of shellfish? I love crab and most shellfish, so I really want to know. The link Oxybeles isn’t working now. Is there another one?

Mrs Rathbone
Mrs Rathbone
9 months 4 days ago

It’s available in the Internet archive, for anyone finding this page now. ๐Ÿ™‚

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