Lobster is a type of shellfish typically boiled or steamed for consumption. Lobster can be eaten as a main course, on a roll or added to rich dishes like pasta, mashed potatoes and eggs Benedict, adding an element of decadence.
Despite its desirable reputation today, lobster was not always known as a pricey indulgence. In the 17th century, colonists in Massachusetts considered lobster shells in a home to be a sign of poverty and only fed lobster to their servants.
In the 1940s, you could buy a can of baked beans for 53 cents per pound and canned lobster for 11 cents per pound.
Lobster is now seen as a delicacy, in part because of the discovery that cooking the lobster live made it more appetizing, as opposed to killing it first and cooking it later.
This MNT Knowledge Center feature is part of a collection of articles on the health benefits of popular foods. It provides a nutritional breakdown of lobster and an in-depth look at its possible health benefits, how to incorporate more lobster into your diet and any potential health risks of consuming lobster.
Contents of this article:
Nutritional breakdown of lobster
Lobster is rich in copper and selenium, and also contains a number of other important nutrients.
According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database, one cup of cooked lobster (approximately 145 grams) contains 129 calories, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of carbohydrate and 28 grams of protein, as well as 2% of daily vitamin A needs, 7% of calcium and 2% of iron.
Lobster does contain cholesterol. However, recent studies have suggested that the cholesterol content in foods does not necessarily increase harmful cholesterol in the body and that saturated fat intake is more directly related to an increase in harmful cholesterol levels. Lobster is not a significant source of saturated fat.
Possible benefits of consuming lobster
Fish and shellfish are especially important for providing omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in very few foods. A three-ounce portion of wild spiny lobster is estimated to provide 200-500 milligrams of omega-3s while the more common northern lobster provides 200 milligrams or less for the same portion. To compare, three ounces of wild salmon provide over 1500 mg of omega-3s.
Although the fatty acid content in lobster is not the highest among fish and shellfish, it should still be a source to consider based on the fact that most people are not getting enough omega-3s from food.
Lobster is a good source of selenium, a nutrient that is crucial to proper thyroid functioning.
Selenium has been shown to be a necessary component for proper in thyroid function. A meta-analysis has shown that those with thyroid disease who are selenium deficient experience pronounced benefits when increasing their selenium intake, including weight loss and reduced risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.1 Lobster is a good source of selenium, along with Brazil nuts and yellowfin tuna.
Mental health benefits
According to the National Institute on Alcohol and Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD, omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to decrease aggression, impulsivity and depression in adults. This association is even stronger for kids with mood disorders and disorderly conduct issues, like some types of ADHD.2
Copper works together with iron to form red blood cells. Anemia occurs when you do not have enough red blood cells or your red blood cells do not function properly. Consuming adequate copper will benefit people with all forms of anemia.3,4 Many people do not get enough copper in their diet. Lobster has one of the highest levels of copper of any food.
How to incorporate more lobster into your diet
Lobster can easily be added to pasta dishes as a source of protein.
- Use lobster as your main protein source
- Add lobster to pasta or rice dishes
- Mince lobster to top salads
- Make lobster patties or burgers.
Avoid drenching your lobster in cheap butter, which is what they serve at many seafood restaurants. Instead, choose a high quality, grass-fed butter and use sparingly. Squeeze a lemon wedge over your lobster for a burst of flavor.
Or, try these healthy and delicious recipes developed by registered dietitians:Mini lobster pasta
Lobster and tarragon risotto
Grilled California avocado and drunken lobster salad.
Potential health risks of consuming lobster
Shellfish are a common food allergen. Avoid lobster if you have a history of shellfish allergy.5
Lobster can contain a moderate level of mercury and should be consumed six times or less per month.6 Pregnant women especially should watch their intake of potentially high mercury foods.
To minimize the risk of food-borne illness, buy fresh lobster properly refrigerated at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Pick up lobster at the end of your shopping trip to minimize the time it is exposed to warmer temperatures. If the lobster smells overly "fishy," it should be discarded.7
If buying frozen lobster, be sure to defrost in the refrigerator, not on the counter or in the sink, so there is no opportunity for bacteria growth. Lobster should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit.7
It is important to note that the total diet or overall eating pattern is the most important factor for disease prevention and achieving good health. It is better to eat a diet with variety than to concentrate on individual foods as the key to good health.