Growing up, the only seafood I ever ate was canned tuna and occasionally, baked fish sticks. This was due to the fact that I was an extremely picky eater and just didn’t care too much for seafood. It did’t help that my Mother disliked the smell of fish in the house and thus, hardly cooked it. As I got older however, I began trying different types of seafood such as: salmon, swordfish, shrimp, lobster, crab meat, and calamari.
Back then, I didn’t realize that there was a significant difference between fish and shellfish. What I did know is that both varieties were healthy and I enjoyed the taste. For the sake of simplicity, the word “shellfish” is used as an umbrella term for crustaceans (crabs & shrimp) , bivalves (oysters & clams), gastropods (abalone & snails), and cephalopods (squid & octopus).
During my pregnancy, I was advised by my midwife to stay away from raw shellfish. This wasn’t a problem at all at the time since the very thought of consuming raw OR cooked shellfish seemed highly unappealing to me–especially in those first 3 months.
My dislike for shellfish during pregnancy including the instructions to avoid certain foods sparked my curiosity so I began to do some research. I had always heard that the first testament of the bible forbid the consumption of shell fish but never gave it much thought. Turns out, they were on to something back then.
You see, shellfish was regarded as “unclean” and for good reason! shellfish are bottom feeders and consume parasites including the dead skin of other dead fish. This means that they can contain harmful organisms including pesticides.
Besides this obvious fact that most people already seem to know, there are a number of other reasons why I completely gave up shell fish.
1.) Shellfish aren’t able to properly expel waste which can be blamed on their highly simplified digestive system. This is why it is so important to de-vein a shrimp before consumption as doing so gets rid of the sand and waste contained within it. Gross!
2.) Unlike regular fish, shellfish tends to be high in cholesterol. One serving of shrimp alone contains more than half of the daily recommended limit of cholesterol.
3.) Consuming spoiled shellfish can be extremely hazardous leading to food poisoning and a serious bacterial infection. This is why it’s so imperative to make sure that it’s fresh before consuming.
4.) Because shellfish is a bottom feeder, they are twice as likely to contain food illnesses such as salmonella norwalk virus, E. coli, and Hepatitis A than their fin and scale counterparts (regular fish). They literally eat all the garbage that is thrown in the ocean…what?!
5.) Shellfish contain high levels of mercury which is one of the most dangerous heavy metals and can cause a plethora of health problems.
6.) Shellfish are among the highest allergy causing foods and intolerance to them is quite common worldwide.
7.) Due to the lack of adequate digestive system, shellfish cannot easily flush toxins and parasites out of their system. This means that anyone eating it, will also consume the unwanted garbage from the sea as well. Ew, say it isn’t so!
8.) They are literally insects of the sea..although not directly related, there are some similarities in body structure making them, well, distant cousins. I am literally shuttering at the thought…
It’s only been about 2 years now since I stopped eating all shellfish. Being a former crab leg buff, I must say that the transition was hard at first, but going through the list above was enough to put me over the edge of going cold turkey. If you are trying to improve your health, it may be wise to cut down or even avoid shellfish. Finned seafood options such as salmon, tilapia, and mahi mahi might be cleaner/healthier choices to try.