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Scallops Nutrition and Benefits: Are Scallops Healthy?

Scallops nutrition

Scallops are a famous delicacy — smooth, flavorful, and round.

But, how healthy are they?

Let’s find out.

What are scallops, really?

Scallops are saltwater shellfish, a part of the mollusk phylum (containing clams, mussels, oysters, squid, and snails), and are bivalves, meaning they have a compressed body between two shells [*]. They eat plankton and can live up to 20 years.

Scallops are known for their rich flavor and texture, and the white meat we know and love is the adductor muscle, used to jet water and propel themselves forward [*].

Scallops also produce roe, or fish eggs.

Are scallops healthy?

Scallops are a rich and lean, protein-packed seafood that is among the healthiest fish you can eat. Its nutrients may promote heart and brain health, and their location on the food chain makes them less susceptible to heavy metal accumulation.

Scallops also contain anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, B12, zinc, magnesium, and potassium but can cause allergic shellfish reactions.

Scallops nutrition facts

According to the USDA, 100g of steamed or boiled scallops has the following nutritional breakdown.

Note: The meat of scallops tends to weigh between 13g and 25g, so these stats are for approximately 4-7 large scallops, or 10+ small-to-medium scallops, depending on the size. These also do not take into account any oil, butter, or sauce that is commonly served with scallops.

  • Calories: 137
  • Fat: 1g
  • Sodium: 660mg
  • Carbohydrate: 6.3g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 24g
  • Magnesium: 44mg
  • Zinc: 1.8mg
  • Selenium: 25.5mcg
  • Choline: 129.4mg
  • Vitamin B12: 2.5mcg

Calories in scallops

137 calories over 4-7 large scallops is not bad, especially when you consider how filling this shellfish can be. The high protein and low fat-to-calorie ratios place scallops in the lean category [*]. The only thing to consider is that scallops are often buried in rich fats and sauces, which are calorie-dense.

Fat in scallops

With 1g of fat for 100g, scallops are extremely lean, and a lot of that fat is from polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat [*]. Scallops are normally cooked in a lot of butter or oil, though, which changes the calculation. If you are attempting to decrease your fat consumption, consider using a light oil spray or a limited amount of fat to coat a pan before searing your scallops.

Carbs in scallops

Plain scallops can be considered low-carb, with 6.3g of carbs per 100 grams — roughly a gram of carbs per large scallop [*]. If you are on a strict zero or extremely low-carb diet, however, they aren’t as good as other choices like beef or chicken.

Protein in scallops

Scallops are made up of 80% protein and have a substantial 24g of protein in a 100g serving [*]. Proteins are critical for a myriad of functions, including muscle growth and support. Your body also uses the amino acids in proteins to make hormones and enzymes [*].

Vitamins and minerals in scallops

Scallops have almost half of your recommended daily value of selenium, which is great for reproductive and thyroid function. They also have a good amount of choline, zinc, and magnesium [*].

Health benefits of scallops

Scallops, like most fish, have a slew of nutritional benefits when sourced correctly.

Good for building muscle and staying full

Scallops are mostly protein, and with 24g per 100 grams, they are an excellent source for reaching protein macro goals, building muscles, and staying full.

Good for your heart

The high magnesium content in scallops helps lower blood pressure and improve circulation. A study including more than 9,000 people who had low magnesium levels had a greater risk of dying from heart disease [*].

Scallops are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These are healthy fats that can balance your cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease [*].

Good for keto and other low-carb diets

Because scallops only have 6.3g of carbs per 100g, they can fit into a low-carb diet easily.

A great source of vitamin B12

One 100g serving of scallops has enough vitamin B12 to exceed the daily recommended value for an adult. Vitamin B12 is good for brain development, your nerve cells, and producing red blood cells [*].

Lower in mercury than most seafood

Mercury is a naturally occurring heavy metal, but EPA says that scallops are among the best fish and seafood choices regarding mercury concerns.

The other fish they recommend for lower mercury levels are anchovies, Atlantic mackerel, catfish, clams, crab, crawfish, flounder, haddock, mullet, oysters, plaice, pollock, salmon, sardines, scallops, shad, shrimp, sole, squid, tilapia, trout, and whiting [*].

Larger, predatory fish tend to have higher levels of mercury accumulation [*].

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Potential risks of scallops

There are also a few risks to discuss with scallops, although these are general concerns associated with most shellfish — not scallops in particular.

May accumulate heavy metals

There are 23 concerning heavy metals: antimony, arsenic, bismuth, cadmium, cerium, chromium, cobalt, copper, gallium, gold, iron, lead, manganese, mercury, nickel, platinum, silver, tellurium, thallium, tin, uranium, vanadium, and zinc [*].

These heavy metals are commonly found in the environment and diet.

Fish accumulate heavy metals by absorption through their gills or by opening their mouths to contaminated water. If that smaller fish gets eaten by a larger fish, that larger fish absorbs all of the heavy metals of that smaller fish, plus the metals they had already accumulated. This cycle continues upward, increasing the concentration of heavy metals in larger fish [*].

Humans struggle to excrete and metabolize heavy metals, so repeat exposure can cause build-up — although there are some therapies that may be promising [*].

Long-term intake of high levels of heavy metals like arsenic and cadmium may lead to health problems such as skin lesions, nerve damage, skin cancer, and diseases of the blood vessels [*].

Some nutritionists recommend avoiding fish or eating fish lower on the food chain.

While that sounds alarming, severe poisoning due to the consumption of seafood containing heavy metals is rare except possibly in the event of severe environmental pollution [*].

In short, unless you eat copious amounts of larger, predatory fish like tuna and are exposed to heavy metals through your job or other environmental factors, it is unlikely heavy metals will cause significant harm [*]. If you are concerned, visit your doctor or nutritionist.

And because scallops are so low on the food chain, their accumulation of heavy metals will be relatively low.

May trigger shellfish allergies

Approximately 2% of the population has a shellfish allergy, depending on testing diagnosis [*]. Scallops, like any other shellfish, can cause allergic reactions in allergic individuals.

Purine can contribute to kidney stones in sensitive people

Purine is a chemical compound found in food that turns into a type of acid that forms gout-causing crystals [*]. At lower levels in susceptible people, it can also contribute to kidney stones.

Pregnant people and at-risk populations should exercise caution

Because seafood can carry the risk of harmful bacteria and heavy materials, pregnant women are often counseled to moderate or avoid consuming seafood.

Most fish also have small amounts of mercury, and the FDA recommends those who are pregnant or breastfeeding consume between 8 and 12 ounces per week of a variety of seafood from choices that are lower in mercury [*].

How to incorporate scallops into your diet

There are two main types of scallops: bay and sea.

Bay scallops are harvested in cold, shallow waters in estuaries and bays. They’re small, sweet, and more affordable than sea scallops. This makes them great for pastas.

Sea scallops spawn in late summer to early fall and are chewier and larger — ideal for searing and basting [*].

If the scallops are perfectly round, that could be a sign they are fake. Nature is full of “imperfections”!

Here are a few ways to get the most out of scallops from a nutritional perspective. These may not be as tasty as basting them in butter, but they are delicious nonetheless!

  • Make seared scallops with mashed cauliflower and wilted spinach.
  • Make seafood soup with fresh vegetables and clam broth.
  • Make seafood tacos with avocado, mango salsa, and cilantro.
  • Make seafood risotto with coconut milk and arborio rice.
  • Make seared scallops and put them on a bed of leafy greens with a lemon vinaigrette.

Where to buy the healthiest scallops

When looking where to buy good scallops, you’re looking for a few things:

  • Either high-integrity bay scallop farms or in-season sea scallops from reputable fisheries.
  • Not fished in areas with known environmental contamination.
  • Are frozen immediately after being caught.
  • Ideally prioritize sustainable harvesting methods that don’t rake the ocean floor.
  • Don’t include additives or preservatives.
  • Aren’t perfectly round / fake.
  • Are certified as a green fishery.

That’s why we like The Weathervane Alaskan fishery. Their wild Alaskan scallops are sustainably harvested off the cold coasts of Alaska and are a premium example of a fishery that prioritizes taste, health, and the environment.

See how good Weathervane’s scallops really are.

Scallops FAQ

Are scallops high in mercury?

Relative to other seafood and shellfish, no! The EPA says that scallops are among the best fish and seafood choices regarding mercury concerns [*].

Are scallops high in cholesterol?

On their own, scallops are low in cholesterol and saturated fat. However, scallops are usually cooked with a lot of fat [*].

Are scallops good for weight loss?

Yes, they can be. Because of their high protein content, a small serving of scallops can keep you satiated longer than other foods.

Are scallops healthier than shrimp?

Both shrimp and scallops can be healthy when prepared with healthy ingredients and eaten in moderation. You get more protein per calorie from scallops, though!

Are scallops healthier than salmon?

Both scallops and scallops can be a part of a healthy diet when eaten in moderation. Both have a lot of protein and are delicious options for a main. Scallops are leaner than salmon, with significantly less fat, but neither fish is “better” — it just depends on your diet!

When should you not eat scallops?

While it is important to limit mercury and other heavy metals in the diets of pregnant people, people who breastfeed, or children because of its potential effect on developing brains, many types of seafood are both nutritious and lower in mercury [*].

The FDA recommends those who are pregnant or breastfeeding consume between 8 and 12 ounces per week of a variety of seafood from choices that are lower in mercury [*], which includes scallops. Consult your nutritionist or doctor for specific recommendations.

The bottom line on scallops nutrition

Scallops are among the healthiest fish you can eat, and any major concerns about heavy metals or mercury are largely mitigated by scallops’ location in the food chain.

Like any protein, you should eat scallops in moderation, but they are an excellent source of protein and vitamins. Not to mention absolutely delicious!

See what scallops sustainably harvested from the cold, pure waters of Alaska taste like.

Nathan PhelpsNathan Phelps

Nathan Phelps owns and writes for Crafted Copy, a boutique copywriting shop that finds the perfect words for interesting products. He is also an ethical foodie, outdoors-aficionado, and hails from Nashville, TN. He splits his time between helping sustainable businesses find new customers and managing his ever-increasing list of hobbies, which include playing guitar, baking bread, and creating board games.