Scallop Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Scallops in a bowl with a fork

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Scallops are tender shellfish with an appealing creamy texture and succulent flavor. According to government sources, the average American consumes about one-third pound of scallops per year, putting them among the top 10 seafood items consumed in the United States.

Scallops are a type of mollusk, a category that also includes clams, mussels, oysters, squid, octopus, snails, and sea slugs. But scallops are bivalve—meaning that they have two hinged shells that open and close when the scallop uses a large muscle.

This white meaty muscle is what we recognize on our plate as a "scallop." Scallops also produce roe (fish eggs), another popular delicacy.

Scallops are high in protein and low in fat. They are relatively high in dietary cholesterol and sodium (compared to other types of seafood) but also provide several vitamins and minerals such as selenium, zinc, copper, and vitamin B12. They also provide omega-3 fatty acids.

Scallop Nutrition Facts

he following nutrition information is provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for a 100-gram serving of boiled or steamed scallops.

  • Calories: 137
  • Fat: 1g
  • Sodium: 660mg
  • Carbohydrates: 6.3g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 24g

Carbs

Scallops are a naturally low carbohydrate food. A 100-gram serving of scallops provides just 137 calories and 6.3 grams of carbohydrates. Keep in mind, however, that serving size can vary. If scallops are added to a hearty rice dish with several different ingredients, for example, you're likely to consume fewer of them.

The scallop size can also vary. According to government sources, an average serving size of scallops is about 3.5 ounces (100 grams), which can include 4 to 5 large scallops, 9 to 12 medium scallops or 15 to 20 small scallops.

The Glycemic Index Database at the University of Sydney does not provide a recorded glycemic index for scallops. But this mollusk provides few carbs and zero grams of sugar so its impact on blood glucose is likely to be relatively low. In fact, at least one medical center lists shellfish as a low glycemic food.

Fats

Scallops contain about 1 gram of fat per 3.5 ounce serving. Most of the fat in scallops comes from healthy fat. There are 0.3 grams of polyunsaturated fat and 0.1 grams of monounsaturated fat. There are about 0.3 grams of less healthy saturated fat in a serving of scallops. Cooking scallops in butter or oil, however, increases its overall fat content of the final dish.

Protein

Scallops are a protein-rich food. You'll get 24 grams of lean protein in a 100-gram serving of scallops.

Vitamins and Minerals

Scallops are a nutrient-rich food providing a wide range of vitamins and minerals. Scallops are an excellent source of selenium–a mineral that is important for reproductive function, proper thyroid function, and DNA production.

You'll get 25.5 micrograms of selenium in a single serving of scallops or about 46% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for adults. Scallops are also a very good source of zinc, phosphorus, and vitamin B12, and provide copper, calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium.

Health Benefits

There are a number of studies investigating the health benefits of consuming seafood, including several studies citing benefits of consuming shellfish, such as scallops. But studies specifically investigating the health benefits of scallops are lacking.

Can Promote Heart Health

When prepared with minimal processing, scallops are a very good source of protein that is low in saturated fat, making them a smart alternative to fattier red meat.

Scallops can help increase your daily intake of PUFAs (polyunsaturated fats), which researchers have linked to a decreased risk of cardiovascular mortality. They also provide some heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids—more than shrimp but less than other types of finfish (i.e., bony fish like salmon).

While a single serving of scallops does contain some cholesterol (48mg), research suggests that it's the saturated fat in food, not dietary cholesterol, which increases the risk of heart disease.

Supports a Healthy Pregnancy

People who are pregnant are advised to avoid certain types of seafood that contain mercury. But the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) list scallops as a "best" choice and suggests that people who are expecting consume 2–3 servings of "best" choice seafood per week. Other choices include shrimp, sole, salmon, and flounder.

Consuming scallops and other low-mercury shellfish makes it a safe way to gain the health benefits of seafood during pregnancy.

Furthermore, scallops provide many key nutrients that are beneficial in pregnancy, like iron, B12, calcium, zinc, and protein. Just be sure that you cook the scallops thoroughly before eating.

May Reduce Lifestyle-Disease Risk

Scallops contain taurine, an amino acid that is found naturally in the body, particularly in the heart, blood, retina, and developing brain.

While taurine is not an essential amino acid, it has been described by some researchers as "conditionally essential" because it is involved in important functions such as the regulation and modulation of calcium, bile acid production, membrane stabilization, and proper immune function.

Humans consume taurine primarily through seafood. Seafood provides higher amounts of the amino acid compared to meat. Taurine has been shown to have beneficial effects on blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects on lifestyle-related diseases.

Research on the benefits of taurine is somewhat limited. More evidence in humans is still needed to confirm the health promotion mechanisms related to taurine.

May Help Strengthen Bones

Scallops offer several nutrients that are important for maintaining bone health. They provide some calcium, magnesium, and selenium, and is an excellent source of protein.

Large prospective studies show significant reductions in bone fractures related to protein intake. Lean sources of protein from foods like scallops or other shellfish could be especially beneficial for those prone to osteoporosis such as older adults.

May Help Promote Weight Loss

High protein, low-fat foods, like scallops and other shellfish may help those who are trying to lose weight and keep it off. When combined with calorie restriction, both lean and fatty seafood consumption has been associated with increased weight loss.

When no calorie restriction is involved, seafood consumption has been shown to reduce fasting and postprandial risk markers of insulin resistance and improves insulin sensitivity in insulin-resistant adults.

Higher protein foods may also help with hunger hormones. Studies show that protein affects various appetite hormone pathways, making it easier to avoid regaining weight that's been lost.

Allergies

Shellfish allergies are common especially in adults, but they typically include a reaction to shrimp, lobster, and crab. Many people with shellfish allergies can still eat scallops, fish, and some other mollusks (like mussels). However, the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology recommends that anyone who develops shellfish allergy symptoms should consult with their healthcare provider before consuming any more shellfish.

Also, be careful when dining out. Different types of shellfish are usually stored and prepared in close proximity to each other in restaurants and markets, so cross-contamination can occur. Symptoms of a shellfish allergy include vomiting, stomach cramps, difficulty breathing, throat tightness, hives, and dizziness.

If you suspect an allergy to shellfish, speak to an allergist for a formal diagnosis and management plan. Your doctor may also prescribe an EpiPen (epinephrine) for emergency use during severe allergic reactions.

Adverse Effects

People who are are sensitive to salt or who are watching their sodium intake may want to be mindful of the preparation method that they choose when consuming scallops. Try to choose seasonings that do not contain salt. This seafood is naturally higher in sodium than other types of shellfish.

Scallops provide 660mg per serving (about 29% of the recommended daily intake), whereas a serving of shrimp provides 292 milligrams of sodium. Oysters provide only 90mg of sodium per serving. Current USDA Dietary Guidelines suggest that adults consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day.

Varieties

There are many different types of scallops found in North America including sea scallops, bay scallops, and calico scallops. Farm-raised scallops also come from Europe, China, and Japan. Their size can range from small to large based on where they grow. Government sources provide details about the different varieties.

  • Sea scallops (Placopecten magellanicus) are large scallops harvested in Northeast U.S. and Canadian waters.
  • Weathervane scallops (Patinopecten caurinus) are large scallops harvested in Alaskan waters.
  • Japanese scallops (Patinopecten yessoensis) are large scallops harvested in Japan.
  • Bay scallops (Argopecten irradians) are medium scallops harvested in waters from North Carolina to Massachusetts.
  • Pink scallops (Chlamys rubida) are medium to small scallops harvested in waters from Alaska to California.
  • Spiny scallops (Chalmys hastata) are medium to small scallops harvested in waters from Alaska to California.
  • Calico scallops (Argopecten gibbus) are small scallops harvested in waters from North Carolina to Florida.
  • Queen scallops (Chlamys opercularis) are small scallops harvested in Europe.
  • Icelandic scallops (Chalmys islandica) are small scallops harvested in Europe, Iceland, and Canada.

Bay scallops are the most common scallops and the easiest scallops to find in most grocery stores. Sea scallops are also found in many grocery stores but they are usually more expensive. Whole scallops may be sold in specialty seafood markets, but usually, just the muscle part is provided to the customer.

Consumers who are concerned about sustainability can choose Atlantic sea scallops (Placopecten magellanicus) with a clear conscience because they are not overfished.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. wild-caught Atlantic sea scallops are a smart seafood choice because they are sustainably managed and responsibly harvested under U.S. regulations.

Government sources say that bay and calico scallops tend to be harvested in coastal waters close to shore and are managed by state regulations.

When It's Best

Sea scallops are known to spawn in late summer or early fall, although some may spawn as early as spring. After hatching, scallop larvae remain in the water column for 4 to 6 weeks before settling on the ocean floor. Fresh sea scallop and bay scallop season starts in October and runs through March. Fresh calico scallops are generally available from December through May.

Almost all stores sell frozen scallops year-round. But read labels carefully as some scallop alternatives are made from fish. To make sure that you are getting "real" scallops, read the ingredients label. If the scallops are perfectly shaped, it's likely a red flag that they are fake.

Storage and Food Safety

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that you only buy fresh seafood when it is frozen, refrigerated, or displayed on a thick bed of ice that is not melting. If you are buying whole scallops, throw away any that have cracked or broken shells.

The FDA also advises that you look for tags on sacks or containers of live shellfish (that are in the shell) or labels on containers or packages of shucked shellfish. The tags contain the processor’s certification number and other important information that can help you determine if the shellfish were harvested and processed in accordance with national shellfish safety controls.

If you buy frozen scallops (without the shell), make sure the package is not torn or damaged. Avoid packages with visible ice crystals as they may have been thawed and refrozen.

After you bring the scallops home, refrigerate them immediately and use or freeze within 2 days. Thaw frozen scallops in the refrigerator or by immersing in cold water.

To safely cook scallops, be sure that you heat to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Avoid any scallops that have a sour, rancid, fishy, or ammonia odor. The odors become stronger after cooking.

How to Prepare

Cooking scallops can be a little bit tricky because they should never be undercooked for safety reasons. They should always be cooked until the flesh is firm and clear. But overcooking scallops makes them rubbery.

Most people sauté scallops in a hot pan with butter or olive oil. Scallops should be patted dry before placing them in the pan. Add butter or oil to the pan, crushed garlic and an optional sprig or two of rosemary. Cook on medium-high heat for about two minutes per side (although the time can vary based on the size of the scallop). Drizzle scallops with fresh lemon juice if you'd like.

Scallops can also be battered and fried. Many people dip them in horseradish or enjoy them plain.

Scallops don't do well when they are reheated or served cold as a leftover. In general, try to serve scallops right after you finish cooking them.

Recipes

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18 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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