The soft fleshy texture and delicately mild sweet flavor of scallops are enjoyed by even those who are not particularly fond of fish or other shellfish. The season for fresh sea scallops and bay scallops runs from October through March, while fresh calico scallops are available from December through May. Sea scallops and frozen scallops are available year-round.
Scallops are mollusks that have two beautiful convexly ridged, or scalloped, shells. They consist of two shells hinged at one end which is why they are known to marine biologists as bi-valve mollusks. The edible portion of the scallop is the white muscle that opens and closes the two shells and is called the "nut." The reproductive glands known as "coral" are also edible, although not widely consumed in North America.
Most people know that fish is good for you, but what about other seafood? As it turns out, scallops, in addition to their delectable taste, contain a variety of nutrients that can promote your cardiovascular health, plus provide protection against colon cancer.
Scallops are actually an excellent source of a very important nutrient for cardiovascular health, vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is needed by the body to convert homocysteine, a chemical that can directly damage blood vessel walls, into other benign chemicals. Since high levels of homocysteine are associated with an increased risk for atherosclerosis, diabetic heart disease, heart attack, and stroke, it's a good idea to be sure that your diet contains plenty of vitamin B12 to help keep homocysteine levels low (homocysteine is also associated with osteoporosis, and a recent study found that osteoporosis occurred more frequently among women whose vitamin B12 status was deficient or marginal compared with those who had normal B12 status.)
In addition to their B12, scallops are a good source of magnesium and potassium, two other nutrients that provide significant benefits for the cardiovascular system. Magnesium helps out by causing blood vessels to relax, thus helping to lower blood pressure while improving blood flow. Potassium helps to maintain normal blood pressure levels.
One of the ways in which consuming fish rich in omega-3 fats, such as scallops, promotes cardiovascular health is by increasing heart rate variability (HRV), a measure of cardiac function, in as little as three weeks, according to a study published in the April 2005 issue of Chest.
By providing greater variability between beats, the marine omega 3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, reduce the risk of arrhythmia and/or sudden death.
Researchers from Atlanta, GA, Boston, MA, and Cuernavaca, Mexico, took the HRV of 58 elderly patients every other day for two months to establish an HRV baseline for each participant. For the next 11 weeks, half of the study participants took a daily 2 gram supplement of fish oil and the other half took a daily 2 gram supplement of soy oil.
Patients in both groups experienced a significant increase in HRV, with those who took fish oil achieving a greater increase in a shorter time period. Patients who received fish oil experienced increased HRV within the first 2.7 weeks, whereas it took 8.1 weeks for a significant increase in HRV to be seen in the group taking soy oil.
On the other hand, while none of the study participants experienced significant negative side effects, 41% of participants in the fish oil group reported belching, compared to 16% in the soy oil group.
"Our findings contradict the current belief in the medical community that increasing the intake of omega-3 fatty acids produces only long-term cardiac benefits," said the study's lead author, Fernando Holguin, MD, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA. "In fact, our study group showed improvements in heart function in as little as two weeks."
"Studies like this demonstrate that there are additional approaches we can take to protect ourselves from heart attacks," said Paul A. Kvale, MD, FCCP, President of the American College of Chest Physicians. "It's exciting to see the potential for omega-3 fatty acids in improving heart function when it complements a healthy lifestyle of exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting eight hours of sleep." We'd add eating healthful foods to this proactive list. Rather than pop a daily pill, we'd rather enjoy a daily "dose" of delicious scallops, soyfoods, or tuna. For recipes certain to not only increase your heart rate variability but also your delight in eating, click Recipes.
A healthy way of eating that includes at least 10 ounces of omega-3-rich fish each week improves the electrical properties of heart cells, protecting against fatal abnormal heart rhythms, suggests a study from Greece.
"Long-term consumption of fish is associated with lower QT interval in free-eating people without any evidence of cardiovascular disease. Thus, fish intake seems to provide anti-arrhythmic protection at a population level," wrote the authors in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. (Chrysohoou C, et al.)
The QT interval is a measure of the heart's electrical cycle, from the beginning of ventricular depolarization, the Q wave, to the end of the T wave, at which point cardiac repolarization is complete.
A lower QT score indicates a lower resting heart rate. As a higher resting heart rate has been linked to an increased risk of sudden death, the result of approximately 50% of heart attacks, lowering the resting heart rate provides significant health benefit.
Researchers at the University of Athens enrolled 3,042 people (1,514 men, aged 18-87, and 1,528 women, aged 18-89), who used a validated food frequency questionnaire to record their food intake of 156 different foods. Along with alcohol consumption and physical activity were also recorded, and electrocardiography was used to measure several indexes of study participants' heart rate.
After the raw data scan, those who ate more than 10 ounces (300 grams) of fish per week were found to have QT scores 13.6% lower than people who did not eat fish.
After adjusting the results for potentially confounding factors such as age, sex, physical activity status, BMI, smoking habits and intake of nuts, the reduction in QT scores in those eating 10 or more ounces of fish each week rose to 29.2%, compared to those who did not eat fish.
In an earlier study, Harvard researchers reported that among those consuming the most fish, heart rate was 2.3 beats per minute lower and likelihood of prolonged QT was 46% lower. Similar results were found in study participants taking 1 gram of omega-3s daily. The mechanism behind these benefits is thought to be omega-3 fats' effects on the flow of sodium and calcium in the ion channels, which are involved with electrical signaling in cells. Practical Tip: A typical serving of fish is 4 ounces, so just 3 servings of omega-3-rich fish, such as scallops, each week would provide 2 ounces more than the 10 ounces this research indicates confers significant protection against sudden death from a heart attack. For great, quick and easy recipe ideas, take a look at our Recipe Assistant.
Eating fish, such as scallops, as little as 1 to 3 times per month may protect against ischemic stroke (a stroke caused by lack of blood supply to the brain, for example, as a result of a blood clot), suggests a meta-analysis of 8 studies published in the July 2004 issue of Stroke.
Data on nine independent groups participating in eight different studies found that, compared to those who never consumed fish or ate fish less than once per month, risk of ischemic stroke dropped:
While as little as a weekly serving of fish lowers risk of ischemic stroke, enjoying a daily serving omega-3-rich fish, such as scallops, provides significantly greater reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease than eating fish even as frequently as a couple of times a week, show the findings of a study published in the January 17, 2006 issue of Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association.
Researchers in Japan followed 41,578 men and women aged 40 to 59, none of whom had cardiovascular disease or cancer when the study began, from 1990-1992 to 2001. Food frequency questionnaires completed at the beginning of the study and in 1995, provided information on weekly fish intake, which was analyzed for omega-3 content.
When individuals whose fish consumption was in the top one-fifth of participants at 8 times per week were compared to those whose intake was in the lowest fifth at once per week, they were found to have a 37% lower risk of developing coronary heart disease and a 56% percent lower risk of heart attack.
When the effect of omega-3 fatty acid intake on cardiovascular risk was analyzed, coronary heart disease risk was lowered by 42% among those whose intake was the highest at 2.1 grams per day or more compared to those whose intake was the lowest at 300 milligrams per day. Those whose intake of omega 3s was in the top fifth received a 65% reduction in the risk of heart attack compared to those whose omega 3 intake was lowest.
The authors theorize that daily fish consumption is highly protective largely due to the resulting daily supply of omega-3 fatty acids, which not only reduce platelet aggregation, but also decrease the production of pro-inflammatory compounds called leukotrienes. Lowering leukotrienes reduces damage to the endothelium (the lining of the blood vessels), a key factor in the development of atherosclerosis.
"Our results suggest that a high fish intake may add a further beneficial effect for the prevention of coronary heart disease among middle-aged persons," note the study's authors.
Eating scallops that are broiled or baked, but not fried, may reduce risk of atrial fibrillation, the most common type of heart arrhythmia, especially in the elderly, according to a Harvard study published in the July 2004 issue of Circulation. In the 12-year study of 4,815 people 65 years of age or older, eating canned tuna or other broiled or baked fish 1 to 4 times a week correlated with increased blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids and a 28% lower risk of atrial fibrillation. Eating broiled or baked fish 5 times a week lowered risk even more—a drop in atrial fibrillation risk of 31%. Eating fried fish, however, provided no similar protection. Not only is fried fish typically made from lean fish like cod and Pollack that provide fewer omega-3 fatty acids, but in addition, frying results in the production of damaged, free-radical-laden fats in the fish as well as the frying oil.
In further research to determine if the omega-3 fats found in fish oil were responsible for fish's beneficial effects on the heart's electrical circuitry, Dariush Mozaffarian and colleagues from Harvard Medical School analyzed data on fish intake and electrocardiogram results from 5096 adults, aged 65 or older, who were enrolled in the Cardiovascular Health Study from 1989-1990.
Eating tuna or other broiled or baked fish at least once a week was associated with lower heart rate (-3.2 beats/minute) and a 50% lower likelihood of prolonged ventricular repolarisation (the period of time it takes the heart to recharge after it beats, so it can beat again), compared to those consuming fish less than once a month.
Consuming 1 gram/day of omega-3 fatty acids from fish was associated with 2.3 beats/minutes lower heart rate and a 46% lower risk of prolonged ventricular repolarisation. Eating fish at least 5 times per week was associated with an even healthier heart rhythm. However, eating fried fish (typically sold in the U.S. as fish burgers or fish sticks) was not associated with increased blood levels of omega 3 fats or any beneficial electrocardiogram results. In fact, a previous study led by the same researcher (Mozaffarian, Am J Cardiol 2006 Jan) found that while eating baked or broiled fish was linked to a slower but more powerful heart beat and lower blood pressure, eating fried fish was associated with heart muscle motion abnormalities, a reduced ejection fraction, lower cardiac output, and higher blood pressure. Since irregular heart beats are a major precipitating factor in sudden death due to cardiac arrest, promoting a healthy heart rhythm by eating baked or broiled—not fried—fish several times a week makes very good sense. Happily, as our recipes, such as our serving ideas for scallops (immediately below) show, it's a quick, easy and most importantly, delicious prescription.
Deep vein thrombosis is a dangerous condition in which blood clots develop in the deep veins of the legs, thighs or pelvis, causing swelling and pain. An embolism is created if a part or all of the blood clot in the deep vein breaks off from the site where it was created and moves through the venous system. If the clot lodges in the lung, a very serious condition, pulmonary embolism, arises.
Fortunately, a healthy way of eating offers significant protection, as demonstrated by a prospective study over 12 years that involved almost 15,000 middle-aged adults. While those eating the most red and processed meat doubled their risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), those in the upper 3 quintiles of fruit and vegetable intake had a 41-53% lower risk of DVT. And those eating fish at least once each week were found to have a 30-45% lower DVT risk. (Steffen LM, Folsom AR, et al.,Circulation.)
Practical Tip: For protection against deep vein thrombosis, increase your consumption of fruit and vegetables; eat fish at least once a week; and decrease consumption of red and processed meats.
A high intake of vitamin B12 has also been shown to be protective against colon cancer. Vitamin B12 helps to protect the cells of the colon from mutations as a result of cancer-causing chemicals—another good reason to eat plenty of vitamin B12. So add scallops, an excellent source of vitamin B12 and a very good of protein, to your list of healthy seafood and enjoy.
A diet rich in the omega-3 fats, which are found in scallops, greatly reduces risk of colorectal cancer, indicates a study comparing 1,455 subjects with colorectal cancer to 1,455 matched healthy controls.
Those whose diets provided the most omega-3s had a 37% reduction in colorectal cancer risk, compared to those whose diets provided the least. Colorectal cancer risk was 41% lower in those with the highest average intake of EPA, and 37% lower in those whose diets supplied the most DHA. (Theodoratou E, McNeill G, et al. Am J Epidemiol.)
Practical Tip: Each of the World's Healthiest Foods' fish is a good to excellent source of omega-3s. Let our Recipe Assistant provide you with delicious, quick ways to add more omega-3s to your healthy way of eating.
According to the American Lung Association, almost 20 million Americans suffer from asthma, which is reported to be responsible for over 14 million lost school days in children, and an annual economic cost of more than $16.1 billion.
Increasing consumption of whole grains and fish could reduce the risk of childhood asthma by about 50%, suggests the International Study on Allergy and Asthma in Childhood (Tabak C, Wijga AH, Thorax).
The researchers, from the Dutch National Institute of Public Health and the Environment, Utrecht University, University Medical Center Groningen, used food frequency questionnaires completed by the parents of 598 Dutch children aged 8-13 years. They assessed the children's consumption of a range of foods including fish, fruits, vegetables, dairy and whole grain products. Data on asthma and wheezing were also assessed using medical tests as well as questionnaires.
While no association between asthma and intake of fruits, vegetables, and dairy products was found (a result at odds with other studies that have supported a link between antioxidant intake, particularly vitamins C and E, and asthma), the children's intake of both whole grains and fish was significantly linked to incidence of wheezing and current asthma.
In children with a low intake of fish and whole grains, the prevalence of wheezing was almost 20%, but was only 4.2% in children with a high intake of both foods. Low intake of fish and whole grains also correlated with a much higher incidence of current asthma (16.7%). compared to only a 2.8% incidence of current asthma among children with a high intake of both foods.
After adjusting results for possible confounding factors, such as the educational level of the mother, and total energy intake, high intakes of whole grains and fish were found to be associated with a 54 and 66% reduction in the probability of being asthmatic, respectively.
The probability of having asthma with bronchial hyperresponsiveness (BHR), defined as having an increased sensitivity to factors that cause narrowing of the airways, was reduced by 72 and 88% when children had a high-intake of whole grains and fish, respectively. Lead researcher, CoraTabak commented, "The rise in the prevalence of asthma in western societies may be related to changed dietary habits." We agree. The Standard American Diet is sorely deficient in the numerous anti-inflammatory compounds found in fish and whole grains, notably, the omega-3 fats supplied by cold water fish and the magnesium and vitamin E provided by whole grains. One caution: wheat may need to be avoided as it is a common food allergen associated with asthma.
Can eating fish high in the omega-3 fatty acids, DHA(docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), help lessen the cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease growing in our aging population? A number of studies indicate the answer to this question is a resounding "Yes."
A report from the Framingham Heart Study published in the Archives of Neurology showed that persons whose blood levels of DHA placed them in the top quartile of values had a significantly (47%) lower risk of developing all-cause dementia than did those in the bottom quartile. Plus, greater protection against cognitive decline was obtained from consuming 2.9 than 1.3 fish meals per week. (Schaefer EJ, Bongard V, et al.).
Now, two additional positive studies have been published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition:
In the Zutphen Elderly Study, which involved 210 men aged 70-89 years (van Gelder BM, Tijhuis M, et al.), a linear relation was found between the estimated intake of DHA and EPA and prevention of cognitive decline.
A DHA+EPA intake of approximately 380 mg per day seemed to prevent cognitive decline. This amount of DHA+EPA would be found in just 20 grams (just 2/3 of one ounce) of Chinook salmon or in 100 grams (about 3 ounces) of cod.
Eating just two to three meals of fish a week would supply approximately 380 mg EPA+DHA per day.
In the Minneapolis study (Beydoun MA, Kaufman JS et al.) of 2251 men and women, risk of cognitive decline increased as levels of omega-6 (arachidonic acid) increased in subjects' cholesterol and other blood lipids, but decreased as the concentration of omega-3 fat (linoleic acid) increased in their blood fats.
Among subjects with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, cognitive decline was clearly associated with lower blood levels of omega-3 fats (DHA+EPA).
In all of these studies, fish consumption and the resulting increase in blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids significantly lessened mental decline over time.
How? A number of mechanisms have been suggested in recent studies to explain fish's protective effects against cognitive decline and Alzheimer's:
Frank LaFerla, co-author of research published in the Journal of Neuroscience showing that DHA helps prevent the formation of neurofibrillary tangles and decreases beta amyloid formation, commented: "We are greatly excited by these results, which show us that simple changes in diet can positively alter the way the brain works and lead to protection from Alzheimer's disease pathology." Practical Tip: To keep your cognitive edge, cut back on sources of omega-6 fats, such as beef, and corn, palm, peanut, safflower and sunflower oils, and enjoy omega-3-rich cold water fish, such as scallops, at least 3 times each week.
DHA boosts production of the protein LR11, which destroys the beta-amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease, shows brain cell research.
"Because reduced LR11 is known to increase beta-amyloid production and may be a significant genetic cause of late-onset Alzheimer's disease (LOAD), our results indicate that DHA increases in LR11 levels may play an important role in preventing LOAD," wrote the researchers in the Journal of Neuroscience.
"Genetic polymorphisms that reduce LR11 expression are associated with increased AD risk," explained the researchers. "However these polymorphisms account for only a fraction of cases with LR11 deficits, suggesting involvement of environmental factors."
The new research investigated if fish oil and DHA could boost LR11 levels, since having high levels of LR11 have been reported to prevent plaque formation, while low levels in patients are believed to be a factor in causing the disease.
Even low doses of DHA increased the levels of LR11 in rat brain cells. Dietary DHA increased LR11 levels in the brains of rats or older mice genetically engineered to develop Alzheimer's disease. The positive effects of DHA on LR11 levels and the protection against Alzheimer's was again seen human brain cells were used. (Ma QL, Teter B, et al. J Neurosci.)
As a result of these findings, the National Institutes of Health has begun a large-scale clinical trial with DHA in patients with well established Alzheimer's disease. Lead researcher, Greg Cole, associate director of UCLA's Alzheimer Disease Research Center, thinks it may be too late for DHA to benefit these patients, but that DHA is highly likely to benefit patients in the earliest stages of Alzheimer's. And, we would add, help prevent the development of the disease in the rest of us!
DHA is the most abundant essential fatty acid in the brain, is crucial for healthy brain development, and low levels have been linked to cognitive impairment. According to the national Alzheimer's Association, approximately 5.1 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer's disease, a number that is projected to increase to 11 to 16 million sufferers by 2050.
Practical Tip: Enjoying several weekly servings of fish high in DHA, such as scallops, is a smart move.
When researchers from Ohio State University evaluated blood samples taken from 43 older adults (average age 67), they found that study participants with high ratios of omega-6 to omega-3 not only had higher levels of various compounds involved in inflammation, but were more likely to suffer from depression.
Both depression and stress promote the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Researchers measured a number of these pro-inflammatory compounds including tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), interleukin-6 (IL-6), and the IL-6 soluble receptor (sIL-6r). Symptoms of depression were assessed using the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale.
Levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines increased progressively as depressive symptoms increased. But when depressive symptoms were combined with high omega-6:omega-3 ratios, levels of proinflammatory cytokines skyrocketed by up to 40% more than normal—far beyond the 18% increase resulting from the presence depressive symptoms alone.
Chronic inflammation has already been linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, cognitive decline and Alzheimer's. Earlier epidemiological (population) studies have also linked higher levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines with depressive symptoms. This new study suggests that a diet that is rich in omega-6 fats but includes few of the foods rich in omega-3 fats—such as the standard American diet—promotes not only inflammation, but depression.
The positive take-away is that increasing consumption of foods rich in omega-3s, while decreasing consumption of omega-6-rich foods, can provide some protection against depression, particularly as depressive symptoms increase.
Omega-3s are found in cold water fish, nuts, such as walnuts, and flaxseeds. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the omega-3 in nuts and seeds, can be converted—albeit inefficiently—in the body to the omega-3s found in fish, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenioc acid (DHA).
EPA improves blood flow and is also suggested to affect hormones and the immune system, both of which have a direct effect on brain function. DHA is active in the membrane of ion channels in the brain, making it easier for them to change shape and transmit electrical signals, and is involved in serotonin metabolism (reduced serotonin production and/or activity is a key factor in depression). Practical Tip: Be of good cheer. Cut back on sources of omega-6 fats, such as beef, and corn, palm, peanut, safflower and sunflower oils. Enjoy a handful of omega-3-rich walnuts and/or flaxseeds daily, and a serving of cold water fish, such as scallops, at least 3 times each week.
Scallops are mollusks that have two beautiful convexly ridged, or scalloped, shells. Their two-part shell is why scallops are viewed by marine scientists as bi-valve mollusks. The part of the scallop that is generally consumed is the nut, the white muscle that opens and closes the two shells. It has a soft, fleshy texture and a delicate flavor that may be mild or briny depending upon the variety. The coral, the reproductive glands, are also edible, although they are not widely consumed in North America.
In the United States, the most widely available types of scallops include the Atlantic deep-sea scallop and the bay scallop. The flesh of the sea scallop is large, usually about one-and-a-half inches in diameter, while the bay scallop is tiny, averaging about one-half of an inch in diameter. In Europe, the most popular type is the great scallop, more commonly called Coquille St Jacques. Several hundred different species of scallops are found worldwide, in shallow areas of most seas. The Latin name of the common bay scallop is Agropecten irradians.
People have been enjoying scallops as a food ever since this beautiful mollusk appeared in the Earth's waters, basically since time immemorial.
The great scallop gained great prestige during the medieval era. Pilgrims visiting the shrine of St. James in Spain began to use empty scallop shells for both eating and begging. The scallop and its shell quickly became a symbol of this magnificent shrine with people using them to decorate their doorways as well as their coats of arms. In honor of the shrine, they were called the shell of St. James, now best known by their translated French name of Coquille St. Jacques.
Scallops are found in many waters throughout the world. The great scallop is abundant in the Mediterranean, while the sea and bay scallop are found concentrated in the Atlantic Ocean off North America.
Just as with any seafood, it is best to purchase scallops from a store that has a good reputation for having a fresh supply of fish. Get to know a fishmonger (person who sells the fish) at the store so that you can have a trusted resource from whom you can purchase your seafood.
Since scallops are extremely perishable, they are usually shelled, washed and frozen, or packed in ice, as soon as they are caught.
Fresh scallops should have flesh that is white and firm and have no evidence of browning. Frozen scallops should be solid and shiny, and the inside of their packaging should be free of frost. If you are planning on freezing the scallops, make sure to ask the fishmonger whether they are fresh or defrosted (if it is not clearly marked) since you will need to cook previously frozen scallops before refreezing.
Smell is a good indicator of freshness with fresh scallops being either odorless or having a slightly sweet scent. Since a slightly "off" smell cannot be detected through plastic, if you have the option, purchase displayed scallops as opposed to those that are prepackaged. Once the fishmonger wraps and hands you the scallops that you have selected, smell them through the paper wrapping and return them if they do not smell right.
When storing all types of seafood, including scallops, it is important to keep it cold since seafood is very sensitive to temperature. Therefore, after purchasing scallops or other seafood, make sure to return it to a refrigerator as soon as possible. If the scallops are going to accompany you during a day full of errands, keep a cooler in the car where you can place the scallops to make sure they stay cold and do not spoil.
The temperature of most refrigerators is slightly warmer than ideal for storing seafood. Therefore, to ensure maximum freshness and quality, it is important to use special storage methods so as to create the optimal temperature for holding the scallops. One of the easiest ways to do this is to place the scallops, which have been well wrapped, in a baking dish filled with ice. The baking dish and scallops should then be placed on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator, which is its coolest area. Replenish the ice one or two times per day. Scallops can be refrigerated for up to two days, although they should be purchased as close to being served as possible.
You can extend the shelf life of scallops by freezing them. To do so, wrap them well in plastic and place them in the coldest part of the freezer where they will keep for about three months. To defrost frozen scallops, place them in milk (or water) that has been boiled and removed from the heat. Alternatively, they can be placed in the refrigerator to defrost.
For some of our favorite recipes, click Recipes.
|vitamin B12||2.44 mcg||102||14.5||excellent|
|protein||23.29 g||47||6.7||very good|
|selenium||24.61 mcg||45||6.4||very good|
|choline||125.53 mg||30||4.2||very good|
Density>=7.6 AND DRI/DV>=10%
Density>=3.4 AND DRI/DV>=5%
Density>=1.5 AND DRI/DV>=2.5%