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The Nutrition of Mussels

Mussels are a widely available seafood with many health benefits. Mussels are versatile and can be used in many different dishes. They are a nutritious component of cuisines from many different cultures.

What are Mussels?

Mussels are a type of clam, usually long and wedge shaped, which grow in the ocean, along the shoreline. Mussels may be harvested from the wild, but are often grown in farms for commercial use. The two most commonly eaten mussel types are blue mussels and green-lipped mussels. Freshwater mussels are usually not eaten, but produce fresh water pearls. Mussels can be baked, fried, smoked, broiled or steamed and are often served in chowders. Mussels are a popular fast food menu item in many European and Pacific countries.

The Health Benefits of Mussels

Mussels are a high protein food source. Their low fat content makes them potentially healthier than other protein sources, such as beef, which can contain a lot of saturated fat. Mussels are also low in calories, with raw mussels containing only 70 calories per 3 oz. (85g), including 1.9g of fat (0.4g of which is saturated fat). A comparable amount of lean sirloin beef contains 160 calories and 2.1g of saturated fat. The beef does contain twice the protein of the mussels.

Mussels are also an excellent source of vitamin B12 and selenium, which is an essential micro-nutrient. Vitamin B12 is important in the functioning of metabolism processes and a deficiency can cause fatigue and depression, as well as other symptoms. One hundred grams of mussels provides around 13% of your daily vitamin C needs and 22% of your daily iron needs. Mussels are also good sources of other B vitamins (particularly folate), phosphorus, manganese and zinc. Mussels are a very good source of omega-3 fatty acids and are considered an excellent seafood choice.

Cautions About Mussels

Mussels are prone to the same types of bacterial contamination as other seafood and should only be prepared if they are live, as dead mussels quickly deteriorate. Mussels which are dead will be slightly open and will not close when disturbed.

Mussels may also collect poisonous algae, which builds up in their tissues and can be extremely dangerous. Eating mussels with this condition can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning. Unfortunately, the toxins that cause this cannot be eliminated by cooking at high temperatures, and the only prevention is to avoid shellfish that have been exposed, such as those which appear on the West coast of the United States during summer. Government agencies generally monitor the amounts of algae present in commercial shellfish.

Mussels are a healthy and nutritious addition to most meals and can provide real benefits to health and well being. They are low in fat and high in nutrients like omega-3 and iron, and are also delicious and versatile. Careful preparation and monitoring health warnings about fishing areas will ensure that both commercial and self-harvested mussels will be safe to eat and enjoy.

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