Types of Shellfish – Health Benefits, Nutritional Value, and Risks

Types of Shellfish – Health Benefits, Nutritional Value, and Risks

Are you wondering in what category crabs, shrimps, lobsters, scallops fall? Do you love consuming all the above-mentioned foods? Well, then you must be eager to know everything about them! Lobsters, shrimps, crab, scallops are all types of shellfish! Here we have given a vivid description of the types of shellfish and much more! Start scrolling down if you want to know their nutritional value, health benefits, and more!

About Shellfish

Shellfishes are piscaries and colloquial. They have aquatic invertebrates that they use for food. And they have either a shell or an exterior that is similar to a shell.

Moreover, almost all types of shellfish are found in saltwater environments. But very few are harvested from the freshwater.

Despite the name, they are not regarded as fish. Most of them are very low on the food chain, so they mainly eat zooplankton and phytoplankton.

They are available in restaurants and fish stores almost everywhere in the world. However, some species are popular in some places.

For example, lobster is popular in the United States. In comparison, shrimps and clams are the types of shellfish in the Philippines that the people love there.

Moreover, most types of shellfish are mainly eaten fried, baked, or streamed. But some clams and oysters can be consumed raw or partly cooked.

Also, the flavor varies from salty to sweet or from mild to subtle. It is mainly depending on the type and also the cooking method.

Types of shellfish

Types of shellfish and examples

Two types of shellfish are found that are: mollusks and crustaceans. Here we have discussed them in details:


Humans mostly consume them. Some common shellfish examples are prawns, lobster, crayfish, barnacles, cockles, crab, clams, krill, scallops, and shrimp.

Though crustacea mean hard shells or crusts, not all creatures with exoskeleton and shells fall under this category.

Most of them have segmented split appendages or limbs, and they are developed from the larvae.


Mollusks are one of the types of shellfish with hard and rigid calcium carbonate shells, and the invertebrates are soft.

Moreover, there are more than 100,000 species under this category. Some of the examples of mollusks are slugs, scallops, oysters, mussels, and snails.

Besides, not all of them have shells; some examples are octopi and squids. These types of mollusks without shells known as cephalopod mollusks.


Classification of shellfish

Some of these shellfishes are very popular and consumed by a large number of the population. Check out the following:

Chinese white shrimp

Its scientific name is Penaeus Chinensis but commonly known as China whites or Chinese white shrimps. They are mainly harvested from the East China Sea, Yellow Sea, and on the Korean coast.

Even though they are tropical shrimp, they are grown in cool water. Also, their meat is soft, which is similar to freshwater shrimp. All of them have uniform size, color, and the scent is like seawater.

They have a mild flavor, and the cooked meat is even softer and is a bit watery. Raw meat looks grey or white, whereas once it is cooked, it looks pink.

Moreover, one of the distinguishing features of the Chinese white shrimps is that it has pink tinges at the bottom of their shell.

Dungeness Crab

Its scientific name is Cancer magister, commonly known as market crab, San Francisco Crab, or Dungeness crab. The name came from the fishing village located in the Strait of Juan de Fuca at Washington.

Moreover, they are harvested since 1848 and sold fresh, frozen, or live. Mostly the male crabs are harvested, which are six and a half inches long.

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The taste of these crabs is sweet, nutty, and flavorful. Some people think it tastes similar to the American lobster, but the meat is softer.

Also, when it is cooked, the shell is bright orange, and the meat becomes opaque white.

Dungeness Crab

Geoduck Clam

Its scientific name is Panopea abrupta but commonly known as king clam, elephant trunk, or pacific geoduck. The name geoduck came from the term “gwe-duk” which means “dig deep.”

They are the largest clam and one of the longest-lived species; they sometimes live for more than 100 years.

Their average weight is 2 pounds and can grow to the shell width of 6 – 7 inches. Moreover, they are extremely popular in Japan, China, and Hong Kong. You will consider the taste of the meat to be very rare. People mostly eat it raw, in a hot pot or sashimi style.

However, geoducks are only harvested in southeast Alaska and British Columbia. Most of the world’s supply exported from these regions.

The skin of the geoduck is hard and tough, and it is light brown or beige. However, the meat is extremely smooth and milky white. It tastes like mild flavor, crunchy, and sweet.

Nutritional value

All the types of shellfish are rich in lean protein, micronutrients, healthy fats, and low in calories. The fat in them is a type of omega-3 fatty acids. They have a lot of health benefits, such as improving heart and brain health.

Moreover, they are packed with vitamin B 12, zinc, iron, and magnesium, all of which are very good for our body. For instance, 85 grams (3 ounces) of oysters have the daily value (DV) of zinc.

However, to get the most nutritious value of shellfish, you need to have it either baked or steamed. Fried and breaded shellfish contain extra calories and salt, refined carbohydrates, and several unhealthy ingredients.

Below is the list of nutrition comparison of the shellfishes per 85 grams:

  • Shrimp:
  • They have 72 calories, 18 grams of protein, and 0.44 grams of fat.
  • Lobster:
  • They have 65 calories, 15 grams of protein, and 0.64 grams of fat.
  • Oyster:
  • They have 68 calories, 8 grams of protein, and 2 grams of fat.
  • Crab:
  • They have 73 calories, 14 grams of protein, and 0.93 grams of fat.
  • Clam:
  • They have 75 calories, 11 grams of protein, and 0.83 grams of fat.
  • Mussel:
  • They have 72 calories, 9 grams of protein, and 1.8 grams of fat.
  • Crayfish:
  • They have 67 calories, 15 grams of protein, and 0.82 grams of fat.
  • Scallops:
  • They have 58 calories, 10 grams of protein, and 0.44 grams of fat.

Health benefits

All the types of shellfish have a nutrient value that is good for the immunity system, heart, brain, and waistline. Check out the following:

May help weight loss

As they are low in calories and have healthy fats and lean protein, they are an amazing food to include in your diet when you want to lose weight.

Moreover, foods rich in protein will keep you full, which will prevent you from overeating. Thus, it helps to maintain or lose weight.

Also, due to fatty acids, it keeps you fuller for a longer time than other foods that are high in protein.

One of the studies showed that obsess adults who have ate more fatty acid foods are significantly fuller than people who ate fewer fatty acid food.

Improves heart health

Many types of research have shown that people who eat omega-3 fatty acids foods have a very low risk of getting heart disease. The main reason because the presence of omega-3 is anti-inflammatory.

Also, a study was done in China, with 18,000+ men who eat more than 200 grams of omega 3s every week. After a while, it is stated that these men are 60% less likely to have any heart disease than others who eat 50 grams every week.

Additionally, insufficient consumption of vitamin B12 is linked with high levels of homocysteine in the blood. It is a protein that increases the risk of heart disease.

Types of Shellfish

Good for the brain

All the nutrients that are vital for the heart are also good for our brain health. Many studies showed that an inadequate amount of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B 12 might be a risk factor for brain development, mainly in kids.

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Some research has shown that omega-3 and vitamin B 12 improve each other’s actions to maintain a healthy brain.

A study in older adults who have mild mental weakness found that consuming vitamin B gradually showed the progress of brain issues.

Packed with immunity-boosting nutrients

Some of the shellfishes are packed with zinc, an immune-boosting mineral. Zinc is essential for the developing cells, which help to make the body’s immunity system. Furthermore, it is an antioxidant that protects the body from any kind of inflammation.

A study done in adults above 90 years showed that zinc deficiency is linked with the decrease of immune cells.

Hence, it is important to eat shellfish regularly. Some of the shellfishes which are high in zinc are:

  • Lobster
  • Oysters
  • Mussels
  • Clams
  • Crab

Possible disadvantages

if consuming shellfish

Here is a list of disadvantages:

Has heavy metal

Shellfishes might accumulate some heavy metals from the environment, like cadmium and mercury.

Sadly, humans cannot eliminate heavy metals. Hence, over time the build-ups can lead to various organ damage and different health issues.

A study showed that some shellfish contain cadmium which is more than twice than the recommended daily intake for the human. They also contain mercury; however, it is less than big fish.

Foodborne illness

Foodborne illness might occur by consuming contaminated shellfish. In the United States, mollusks cause more than 45% of seafood-related foodborne illness

  1. Food poisoning results from the virus, parasite, or bacteria that the shellfish acquired from the environment.

Moreover, it mainly happened if people eat raw or semi-cooked shellfish. Foodborne illness can be avoided if it is cooked properly and stored in a safe place.

Types of shellfish allergy

They are one of the top 10 foods which cause allergies in the United States. Moreover, they are mainly developed in adulthood however can happen in childhood.

Symptoms of the allergic reactions develop within few minutes to an hour after consuming shellfish. Some of the signs are:

  • Hives, eczema, itching, atopic dermatitis
  • Panting, trouble breathing, and nasal congestion
  • Cramps, stomach pain, and diarrhea
  • Vomiting, nausea
  • Puffiness and swelling of lips, tongue, and throat.
  • Lightheaded, weak, or fainting.

However, sometimes the allergic reaction, anaphylaxis, can be life-threatening.

Hence, if someone gets an anaphylactic reaction, they need medical treatment. So you would have to provide an epinephrine injection immediately.

However, it is always best to visit an allergy specialist if you get food allergy signs just after eating shellfish.

Signs of anaphylaxis

Tremendously low blood pressure suddenly.

Very difficult to breathe and swollen throat.

Loss of consciousness and fainting.

Risk factors

If your family has a history of having allergies to shellfish, chances are you might have it.

Although, anyone can have a shellfish allergy at any age. But it is common in adults. Also, in adults, women are at more risk than men. Whereas for kids it is common in boys.


The only way to avoid an allergic reaction is not to consume any types of shellfish. Sometimes even a tiny amount of shellfish can be dangerous for some people.

Avoiding shellfish

Read Labels

Sometimes cross-contamination can happen. During manufacturing, the foods can be processed near shellfish. Hence read the labels cautiously.

Moreover, it is not a hidden item, but it can be in seafood flavoring or fish stock.

Companies are obliged to mention it in their products as it is a highly allergic food ingredient. However, it is not applicable for mollusks such as scallops, clams, and oysters.

Be careful when eating at a restaurant

While dining out, make sure the restaurant does not cook shellfish in the same utensils used for other cooks. The best way to avoid it to not go to any restaurants that serve seafood as there is a chance of cross-contamination.


Maintain your distance

Avoid places where it is processed or prepared. Some individuals even react after inhaling the steam of the shellfish while cooking or touching shellfish.

Talk with the doctor if you have an allergic reaction. Sometimes the doctor will give you emergency epinephrine. Moreover, you can wear a medical alert necklace or bracelet, which will let others know that you have food allergies.

Final Thoughts

Both the types of shellfish – mollusks and crustaceans are rich in vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, lean protein, and micronutrients.

If you are not allergic to shellfish, it is a great ingredient in your daily diet. Most people who have a healthy lifestyle have shellfish in their diet regularly.

Moreover, they help boost the immune system, promote brain health, maintain the heart, and lose weight.

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