Scallops are low in cholesterol and saturated fat, especially when prepared without butter or cream. In addition, they are a nutrient-dense form of protein containing beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.

There are many different ways to eat scallops, and what someone adds to them is an important consideration when looking at cholesterol.

Preparing and cooking scallops correctly without high fat ingredients offers additional health benefits and can help someone manage their cholesterol.

This article provides advice on choosing, preparing, and cooking with scallops to maximize their health benefits. It also offers some recipes to try.

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Scallops are low in cholesterol and saturated fat, and people can eat them as part of a nutritious diet.

However, adding extra ingredients, such as butter, to scallops can increase the dish’s saturated fat content, so people should bear this in mind when ordering in a restaurant or cooking scallops at home.

A high cholesterol diet with high amounts of saturated fats can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, or other health problems.

Conversely, regularly eating low cholesterol seafood, such as scallops, has beneficial effects on blood pressure and reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Scallops contain the following nutrients, according to the Department of Agriculture.

NutrientAmount per 100 g scallops
Protein14.8 g
Fat0.6 g
Carbohydrate 4 g
Cholesterol 29 mg
Saturated fat0.158 g
Selenium15.7 mcg (29% Daily Values (DV))
Zinc 1.12 mg (10% DV)
Vitamin B12 1.64 mcg (68% DV)
Magnesium27 mg (6% DV)

When a person prepares them correctly, scallops can have several health benefits.

A nutrient-dense protein source

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020–2025 advise people to consume low mercury seafood, such as scallops, as a nutrient-dense source of protein.

People need adequate protein in their diet for healthy bones, muscles, and growth, and scallops also contain various vitamins and minerals to support health and development.

Additionally, as a protein-dense and lower carbohydrate food, scallops may also help individuals manage their weight and help balance their blood sugar.

Contains beneficial omega-3 fatty acids

Scallops are a source of the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid.

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for brain health and development and the structure of cell membranes.

Additionally, research suggests that anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids may be beneficial for several health conditions, including:

Low in mercury

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advises that scallops are among the best fish and seafood choices regarding mercury levels.

Even pregnant or nursing people are safe to eat 2–3 servings per week of fish and seafood with safe mercury levels such as scallops.

Fishwatch advises that the United States wild-caught Atlantic sea scallop is a suitable seafood choice because United States regulations ensure companies manage them sustainably and harvest them responsibly.

Below is what to look for when buying scallops and how to cook them.

What to look for when buying

When shopping for fresh scallops, people should look for those that smell clean and sweet and that retailers have labeled as “dry-packed” or “chemical-free.”

Stores sometimes sell fresh scallops in their shells, and individuals need to shuck and rinse these before cooking.

Supermarkets also sell frozen scallops, which people should thaw in the refrigerator before preparing. It is essential to store and prepare scallops properly to avoid food poisoning.

Suppliers harvest different sizes of scallops from different areas. For example, Bay scallops are smaller, and sea scallops are much bigger.

Retailers describe scallop sizes using numbers to determine how many scallops are in a pound weight. For instance, 20/30 means it takes 20–30 scallops to make up a pound. A typical serving may comprise around three large scallops.

If someone wishes to improve their cholesterol profile or reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease, they can try eating scallops plain rather than adding butter. They can also use dry heat cooking methods such as broiling or baking. Additionally, it is important not to overcook scallops, as they can become rubbery in texture.

A person can serve scallops with pasta, beans, or salad and use fresh herbs, such as basil or parsley, and a squeeze of lemon juice or balsamic vinegar to serve.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating more fish and seafood to help lower cholesterol.

People can also choose other types of seafood that are low in saturated fat, such as shrimp and crab.

The cooking method and added ingredients are essential when considering the overall health impact of a meal.

Choosing seafood that manufacturers or chefs have not breaded or fried can help keep meals healthier.

An example of a simple low cholesterol recipe is olive oil-seared scallops.

Butter can form part of a nutritious diet for people who are not trying to reduce their cholesterol levels. However, some research suggests olive oil may be a better option for individuals wishing to reduce their LDL and total cholesterol levels.

According to the AHA, olive oil can have some cholesterol-lowering benefits.

Additionally, someone can try several scallop and seafood recipes from Fishwatch, which avoid high saturated fat ingredients. Two such recipes include sesame-crusted, pan-seared scallops with Asian vinaigrette on salad and seafood Panzanella salad.

Scallops are a protein-rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and contain an array of beneficial vitamins and minerals.

Eating them will not raise cholesterol if someone is careful not to add high fat ingredients and instead uses low fat additions such as fresh herbs or lemon juice.

It is important to buy fresh scallops that smell clean and store them correctly to avoid food poisoning. They are among the lower mercury types of seafood, along with crab and shrimp.