Shellfish: Healthy or Not?

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)

Subscribe to Mark’s Daily Apple feeds

TAGS:  big agra, toxins

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

32 thoughts on “Shellfish: Healthy or Not?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. 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.

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

    Regardless, yummy and high in protein!

  3. 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 🙂

  4. 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.

    1. 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

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

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

          Or probably not.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

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

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

  9. Well, here’s the wiki on “clean” and “unclean” flesh:
    Here’s an interesting comment thread: [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 tiny fish, and the big fish ends up with all those other fishes’ mercury in his body, which we get when we eat him.

    Shellfish, on the other hand, only eat little tiny plankton or plant matter, which has almost no mercury (and probably very little other bad stuff, too, although this is where my knowledge gets fuzzy), making them, at least in that way, healthier for us to then eat.”]

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

    1. 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

      1. 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.

  13. 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?

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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 that you are what you eat applies to these creatures as well. By extension, to people who consume them. There is no place in the Bible that abolishes the Levitical dietary restrictions. Pigs serve the same purpose if left to nature. In fact pig producers usually collect the village offal and garbage for their pigs. Another thought–When people age, they start in with what is wrongly called old age diseases. Usually, they are told to avoid pork. Why not avoid it before any disease appears? Perhaps if these animals are not consumed, the diseases won’t appear.

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

  17. 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 for the rest of us!! Please,….?

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

  19. 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.

  20. 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?

    1. It’s available in the Internet archive, for anyone finding this page now. 🙂