Is Lobster A Healthy Or Unhealthy Food?
By Greg Roy
In our modern day, it seems that nearly everything we eat
carries the risk of being unhealthy. Eating fish has known
health benefits, yet some species of fish may contain unsafe
levels of mercury and PCB's. Eating fresh fruit is known to be
healthy, yet many fruits are sprayed with chemical pesticides
the residues of which are of questionable risk. The same can be
said of vegetables.
Whether the above mentioned food items are healthy or unhealthy
is beyond the scope of this article. It does point out, though,
that the debate continues on which foods contribute to good
health, and which foods pose a health risk. This article will
present information for the reader to determine which camp
lobster belongs in: healthy or unhealthy.
Let's start with the few arguments that put forth the case that
lobster is unhealthy. There are not many. We've read that one
doctor advises against eating lobster because it may contain
parasites and viruses. Nothing like pointing out the obvious.
Every living creature on Earth may contain parasites and
viruses, which is why any animal-based food product should be
cooked before being eaten. Cooking eliminates this risk. One
risk that cooking will not eliminate is excess levels of
mercury. No matter how much you cook any fish or seafood item,
it will not remove mercury.
How much mercury does lobster have? Before we answer that
question, we need to look a little at mercury and the reasons it
is in seafood to begin with. The FDA states in their report
"What you need to know about mercury in fish and shellfish" that
"nearly all fish and shellfish contain traces of mercury" and
that "Mercury occurs naturally in the environment and can also
be released into the air through industrial pollution. Mercury
falls from the air and can accumulate in streams and oceans."
What can be gleaned from this report are two facts. One, that
all fish and shellfish contain traces of mercury. Two, Mercury
occurs naturally as well. If mercury occurs naturally, it is
probably safe to assume that all fish and shellfish have always
contained traces of mercury. Which begs the question: are
mercury levels in fish and shellfish any higher now than they
were 50 or 100 years ago? The answer is that scientists do no
know for sure, as tests for mercury in fish were not done back
then. Regardless, the FDA lists four fish varieties that have
higher level of mercury than all others: shark, swordfish, king
mackerel, and tilefish. They also list five that are very low in
mercury: shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock and catfish.
Lobster is closer to the 5 on the low end than the 4 on the high
Even the 4 fish varieties that have higher levels of mercury are
safe to eat in moderation for all people other than pregnant
mothers, and mothers nursing infant children. It is only these 4
varieties that should be avoided in the two circumstances just
mentioned. Lobster is not included in the list of fish to avoid
The final argument against lobster that we have heard is not
based on science at all. The argument is that lobsters are
bottom feeders and eat decaying and rotting fish that sink to
the bottom. The logic of the argument is that since lobsters are
eating these things that aren't healthy for people, people
shouldn't be eating lobsters. The problem with this argument is
that it is not based on facts. The fact is that lobsters eat
mainly live food. Their primary diet consists of live fish,
clams, crabs, mussels and sea urchins. Lobsters do eat dead bait
in traps, but humans eat dead fish too! Ask any lobsterman, and
they will tell you: the fresher the bait, the better it will
"fish." This is trade language which, when translated, means
that if you put fresh bait in your traps it will attract more
lobsters. Old bait does not attract many lobsters at all.
When fish gets old and borderline saleable at a seafood market,
it begins to emit an ammonia smell. At that point, which can be
about 5 to 7 days after being caught, it is no longer appealing
to humans. It is the same for lobsters. They prefer live, fresh
food, but will eat dead bait in traps if it is fresh and not
This last argument against lobster as a healthy food is the
weakest and not based upon fact at all, but rather on fallacy:
lobsters eat primarily live food, not decaying, rotting dead
Now we'll look at the factors in favor of lobster being a
There are several health reasons that lobster should be eaten.
The first comes from the American Heart Associations Page on
Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids which recommends eating fish at
least 2 times per week. A quote from the American Heart
Association is worth sharing here, "Fish is a good source of
protein and doesn't have the high saturated fat that fatty meat
Lobster is indeed an excellent source of lean protein. 100 grams
of lobster meat contains 98 calories, 21 grams of protein, and
only 0.6 grams of fat. Contrast that to 100 grams of white,
skinless chicken meat which has 168 calories, 31 grams of
protein, and 3.6 grams of fat. Gram for gram, even skinless
chicken contains in excess of 500% more fat than lobster. Lean
beef contains more than 10 times as much fat as lobster.
Obviously, lobster is an excellent source of lean protein.
Lobster is more than just a lean source of protein. Lobster also
contains Omega-3 fatty acids, which are associated with good
heart health. There are several valuable benefits from a diet
which regularly contains Omega-3 fatty acids. Again quoting from
the American Heart Association, "The ways that omega-3 fatty
acids reduce CVD (cardio-vascular disease) risk are still being
studied. However, research has shown that they decrease risk of
arrhythmias, which can lead to sudden cardiac death, decrease
triglyceride levels, decrease growth rate of atherosclerotic
plaque, and lower blood pressure (slightly)." The report further
states, "Large-scale epidemiologic studies suggest that people
at risk for coronary heart disease benefit from consuming
omega-3 fatty acids from plants and marine sources."
Lobster does not contain as much Omega-3 fatty acids as salmon,
which has the highest content, but is a good source nonetheless.
In summary, lobster is high in protein, extremely low in fat, is
a beneficial source of Omega-3 fatty acids which are healthy for
the heart and reduce the growth rate of plaque. Lobsters feed
primarily on live food: fish, crabs, clams and mussels. Lobster
have a very healthy diet which would be beneficial to humans,
not harmful to them.
There you have the arguments for and against lobster as a
healthy food source. The evidence suggests lobster is a very
healthy food choice. Not only is it very healthy, it tastes
absolutely extravagant. Enjoy your lobster!
G. Roy is a former recreational Maine lobster fisherman and owner of
the site Lobster-s.com. If you enjoy this article, Please stop
by for a vist. You'll find everything you ever wanted to know
about the king of crustaceans, including many lobster