Are Scallops Healthy?

Scallops are one of the most popular seafood options around, so surely after seeing them everywhere it’s got you thinking: are scallops healthy? Are they bad for you?

In short: yes, scallops are very healthy. They’re widely considered to be one of the most healthy seafoods. They’re 80% protein, with low fat and are highly satiating. Not to mention they’re rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Read on to find out more about scallops.

What are Scallops?

Scallops are a bivalve mollusk, which in layman’s terms simply means they’re a muscle surrounded by two shells – similar to oysters and clams. 

The part that you eat is the interior, a white adductor muscle which opens and closes the shell. The muscle and coral inside – the bright orange section – are both edible, but in the US the coral isn’t usually served.

There’s two types of scallops: bay scallops and sea scallops. Bay scallops are much smaller, about the size of a dime, while sea scallops are much larger and can grow up to two inches in diameter. 

Are Scallops Good for You?

Scallops are incredibly good for you.

They’re absolutely rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like most seafood. This healthy fat is important for overall heart disease, as it regulates your cholesterol levels.

They also boast a considerable magnesium content, which also contributes to heart health. Magnesium helps the blood vessels relax, which aids in lowering blood pressure and improving circulation.

If you’re at risk of a stroke, Omega-3 fatty acids should definitely be on your menu. The fatty acids in scallops have been proven to increase blood flow and reduce the blood clots that lead to strokes. In fact, in one study it was shown that individuals who consume omega-3 fatty acids between 3-4 times per week reduced their risk of stroke by up to 48%. Combine that with the rich abundance of Vitamin B12 also found in scallops, and you’ve got a seafood that’s a fantastic partner in heart health.

Returning to magnesium, it’s not only good for your heart. Magnesium found in scallops can reduce muscle cramping and induce tissue repair and muscle strength growth. Individuals prone to osteoporosis definitely should consider adding scallops to their diet, as this can help reduce your risk – or prevent mobility-related conditions like this all together.

What are the Risks of Eating Scallops?

In general, scallops are as safe as they are delicious. 

However, people with certain conditions should avoid scallops. You’ll need to consider your own individual risk factors when considering adding them to your diet.

People with shellfish allergies should definitely steer clear.

People with gout, or kidney conditions – including kidney stones – should limit their intake of scallops as they’re high in purine.

Like many other types of seafood – such as tuna – scallops contain traces of heavy metals such as mercury and cadmium. And while the levels are considerably lower than the levels that are dangerous to humans, high amounts of these metals can lead to health problems and cancer growth.

Can You Eat Raw Scallops?

Raw scallops are totally safe to eat. Not only are they safe raw, but they’re delicious too.

The natural sweetness of the seafood will be on full display raw, as it’s reduced significantly during the cooking process. They’re highly versatile too, being used raw in dishes such as sushi or carpaccio. In fact, you can just pop them straight into your mouth to be enjoyed as a light snack.

Though, it’s worth noting – if you’re gonna be enjoying your scallops raw, you need to pay attention to the quality of the scallops you’re buying. How it’s shipped and stored is important too, because sea scallops are usually harvested during long trips out to sea that can last up to 2 weeks. 

When the scallops are kept on ice for that long, as they inevitably will be, there’s a significant drop in quality. They’re already 12 days old at least by the time they make it to your local supermarket. And worst of all, as the ice it’s kept in starts to melt, the scallops soak up all that water and the flavor gets diluted.

The best way to ensure you’re getting a delicious fresh scallop, instead of a 2 week old water balloon, you’ll need to find a fishmonger you trust. Verify where it came from and how it was handled. Those with clear knowledge about what exactly they’re selling is important.

Where do the Best Scallops Come From?

There’s two types of scallops: bay scallops and sea scallops. As the name suggests, bay scallops are harvested from bays and shallow waters, while sea scallops are harvested from the oceans.

Many bay scallops are imported from China or Mexico, as the domestic populations of scallops have been noticeably dwindling in recent years.

Sea scallops are found deep in cold ocean waters all around the world. 

How Long do Scallops Last?

Scallops aren’t too different from other types of seafood. It can only be kept fresh in a refrigerator for 2 days. Any longer than that and you risk the buildup of bacteria, along with food spoilage. Even in the fridge.

When frozen, your scallops can be kept for up to 3 months if not cryovac sealed. It’s very important to avoid freezing or storing them in water, as this will cause the scallops to bloat and lose their flavor.

How to Store Scallops?

When you’re storing scallops, you should Never store them in water. They’ll absorb a ton of it and that ruins the texture and flavor. They keep for up to 2 days in the fridge, however you should plan to use them immediately – the longer you keep them the more quality loss you’ll experience. Especially from store bought sea scallops.

Put them directly into the fridge, or begin prep for freezing, as soon as you get them home. Keep your scallops exposure to unsafe temperatures as short as possible. Pop them into a plastic ziploc bag and set in the coldest part of your fridge.

Freezing

Much the same as storage in the fridge, the best option for freezing your scallops is to put them in a moisture-resistant wrap or freezer-safe ziploc bag. If you have one, use a vacuum sealer for best results.

Don’t forget to date and label your package!

How to Defrost Frozen Scallops

The best and by far the safest way to thaw frozen scallops is to defrost them in the fridge overnight.

However, if you don’t have the time to wait, a quick and somewhat safe method is to run the frozen scallops under lukewarm – NOT hot – water until they’ve thawed. Be quick with this method though, as you don’t want the scallops to absorb too much water.

Scallops are very small, resulting in a rapid cooking time. The last thing you should ever do is try to thaw them in the microwave. This will cook them prematurely, leading to tough and chewy scallops.

Final Thoughts

Scallops are delicious and pretty versatile, so it’s really a saving grace that they’re also incredibly healthy for you.

They’re chock full of vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats that promote good heart health and reduces risk of stroke and things like osteoporosis in people that are prone to it. There’s a lot of power in such a tiny mussel.