Scallops are a type of shellfish that provide you with a number of nutritional benefits. There are two main types, bay scallops and the larger sea scallops. A 3-ounce serving of scallops contains only 80 calories from 14 grams of protein, 20 percent of the daily recommended value for phosphorus and vitamin B-12, 10 percent of the daily value for magnesium and smaller amounts of other essential vitamins and minerals. Scallops also are a source of dietary cholesterol.
Your body uses a small amount of cholesterol for making healthy cells. It makes all of the cholesterol it needs, so consuming foods that contain a lot of saturated fat, trans fat or dietary cholesterol can cause your blood cholesterol levels to become too high. This increases your risk for heart disease, stroke and heart attack. Other factors besides diet can affect your cholesterol levels. Being overweight or inactive, smoking, or having a family history of high cholesterol can predispose you to having high cholesterol. You are also more at risk if you have diabetes, heart disease, a history of strokes or heart attacks, or clogged arteries. If your cholesterol is too high, your doctor may prescribe cholesterol-lowering medications.
Cholesterol in Scallops
The American Heart Association recommends you limit your dietary cholesterol consumption to 300 milligrams or less per day for healthy individuals and 200 milligrams or less per day if you have high cholesterol or heart disease. Scallops contain 30 milligrams of cholesterol in a 3-ounce serving, which is 10 percent of the recommended intake.
Scallops Effect on Cholesterol
Fat, particularly saturated fat, has a greater effect on your blood cholesterol levels than dietary cholesterol. Scallops contain less than 1 gram of fat per serving, part of which is healthy omega-3 fat that can help lower cholesterol. Cholesterol is part of a group of compounds called sterols. Scallops contain some cholesterol, but also contain other types of sterols which may help reduce your body’s absorption of cholesterol. Because of the low levels of fat and cholesterol in scallops and the beneficial effects of the omega-3s and non-cholesterol sterols, the effect on your blood cholesterol levels of eating scallops in moderation is minimal.
Other types of seafood, such as shrimp, can contain higher levels of cholesterol, making scallops a healthier option. You can bake, saute, boil, steam or broil scallops. Consider adding them to pasta dishes or salads or using them in recipes in place of seafood that is higher in cholesterol. Bay scallops are sweeter than sea scallops, but sea scallops are better suited for pan-searing. Since scallops are low in both cholesterol and mercury, you can consume up to 12 ounces per week as part of a healthy diet.