Shellfish are favorite food choices across the world not only for their taste but also for their health benefits. You will find them on menus in many places across the United States.
Millions of Americans eat shellfish raw, most likely to get more of what they offer. But is that really an advisable thing to do? Learning more about the benefits and the dangers should help you determine if that’s perfect for you.
The term “shellfish” embraces a variety of invertebrates that live in water and have a shell, an exoskeleton, or a shell-like exterior. These aquatic animals mostly live in saltwater environments, but they can also be found in freshwater.
Shellfish are categorized into two major groups, namely: crustaceans and mollusks. Examples of crustaceans include crab, lobster, and shrimp. Mollusks include oysters, clams, and mussels.
These aquatic invertebrates are eaten all over the world, with some regions having a particular favorite. Most people eat them cooked, fried, or baked. However, other persons prefer to eat certain species, including oysters and clams, raw or half-cooked.
Apart from their taste (which varies based on the method of preparation), people love shellfish because they are loaded with nutrients. They are rich in lean protein, healthful fats, and numerous other nutrients while being low in calories.
Benefits of Raw Shellfish
Being loaded with a wide variety of nutrients, shellfish have been found to offer awesome benefits to health. Some people choose to eat them raw or partially cooked to get more of these benefits because they retain more nutrients this way.
How could you benefit from consuming raw shellfish? The following are some major ways:
Weight loss – The nutritional makeup of shellfish makes them potentially helpful to people looking to shed pounds. They are low in calorie content and are rich in lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Foods of this kind help to make you feel fuller and reduce your calorie intake, thereby promoting weight loss.
Immunity boost – Are you interested in enhancing the ability of your body to fight infections? Raw shellfish could help. They contain zinc, a mineral, and antioxidants needed for immune defense cells. Researchers have found that people with a deficiency showed reduced activity of some immune cells.
Brain health enhancement – You may also be able to boost the health of your brain by eating raw shellfish. The omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12 that they contain are beneficial to the brain. Research shows that low levels can cause brain development problems in children and hinder normal brain function in adults.
Heart aid – Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, and other nutrients in shellfish make them useful for improving heart health. Multiple works of research have shown that omega-3 fatty acids cut a person’s risk of having heart disease. Also, evidence suggests that vitamin B12 increases blood levels of homocysteine, a deficiency of which raises heart disease risk.
Dangers of Eating Shellfish Raw
Consuming raw shellfish may not pose a significant risk in most people, but it can for some.
What are the downsides to eating shellfish raw?
Allergies – Unfortunately, shellfish fall among foods that many people are allergic to. They are one of the leading eight food allergens in America. If you are allergic to it, you may notice symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, hives, and shortness of breath. Allergic reactions from eating raw shellfish can be life-threatening in some cases.
Illnesses – People who eat raw shellfish, especially oysters and other mollusks, should be aware of the risk of foodborne illnesses. An example of such is vibriosis, an illness caused by a bacterium called Vibrio vulnificus commonly found in warm saltwater. Salmonella is another of the pathogens you can contract from eating raw shellfish. Hepatitis A is another infection that could be caught from eating raw shellfish.
Heavy metals – Some shellfish may contain heavy metals, including cadmium and mercury. Humans lack the ability to expel heavy metals from the body. If you eat raw shellfish contaminated with them, these heavy metals can build up in your body over time. This can result in organ damage and health problems.
High-risk individuals, such as those with weakened immune systems, would do well to refrain from eating shellfish raw. The elderly, pregnant women, and children not up to five years should not consume these water animals raw or partially cooked.