Clams are mollusks popular for their chewy texture and salty ocean taste. But clams are also nutrient dense, containing many vitamins and minerals. Clams are considered a lean protein choice because they are low in fat but still pack a lot of protein and iron.
Varieties of clams are found all over the world but most of the ones you are buying are clams that are dug up from sandy colder water coastal areas. These little mollusks do not have a brain but some can dig up to an inch per second. Fresh clams should be alive when purchased and have a mild ocean fresh smell. Shells should be tightly closed, or close up when tapped. Open shells indicate that the clam has already died. When you cook them, the shells will slightly open, indicating that the clam is dead.
Nutritional Value of Clams
3 oz serving of fresh clams
- Calories: 63
- Protein: 11g / 22% DV
- Fats: 1g / 1% DV
- Omega-3 fatty acids: 168mg
- Carbohydrates: 2g / 1% DV
- Iron: 12mg / 66% DV
- Vitamin B12: 42.0mcg / 700% DV
- Selenium: 20.7mcg / 30% DV
- Manganese: 0.4mg / 21% DV
- Vitamin C: 11.1mg / 18% DV
*Be aware that fresh clams have a higher nutritional value than canned clams.
Health Benefits of Clams
- Clams are high are high in many vitamins and minerals including selenium, manganese, vitamin C, B 12, copper, phosphorus, and riboflavin.
- Clams have an Amino Acid Score of 106, indicating that it is a complete/high quality protein, essential for building and repairing muscles and tissue.
- A single protein serving (3 ounces) of fresh clams provides 2/3 of the amount of iron you need in a day, plus the vitamin C in the clams helps you better absorb the iron! Iron is an integral part of oxygen transport in red blood cells and for the processes in your cells that make energy. Fatigue and anemia result from low iron diets.
- High levels of B 12 are also present in clams. B12 is another vitamin that is needed for making DNA and maintaining nerve function. If you have a B12 deficiency, you can develop megaloblastic anemia which can make you feel tired and weak. Often you find Iron and B 12 deficiencies with similar side effects.
Recipe Ideas with Clams
- Clams can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, baked or fried, try cooking hot rocks and seaweed like in a New England clam bake.
- Clam chowder is always a popular choice or try a bisque or Manhattan-style chowder.
- Try clams as the protein source to a variety of your pasta dishes, they can be cooked in red sauce, white sauce or pan-seared in olive oil for fresh vegetable pasta primavera.
- Try stuffed peppers or mushrooms with breading, vegetables and clams.
- Instead of pasta, try a clam risotto, the salty finish will add flavor to your rice.
- Look up recipes for hot and cold clam dips, for a popular party treat.
Emily DeLacey MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian and currently working in Jamaica as a HIV/ AIDS Prevention Specialist. She attended Central Washington University for her Bachelor's Degree in Science and Dietetics and continued on after her internship to Kent State University for her Master's Degree in Science and Nutrition, with a focus on public health and advocacy. She served as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi 2012-2014 working as a Community Health Advisor in a rural village, immersing in the joys of life without electricity or running water. She has been to 20+ countries and 47 of the 50 states in the US. Traveling, adventuring and experiencing new cultures has made her a passionate advocate for the equality of nutrition and wellness for all people.