The World's Healthiest Foods

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.


Health Benefits

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.

A Nutrient Team for Better Cardiovascular Health

Scallops are actually a very good 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.) Four ounces of scallops contains 33.3% of the daily value for vitamin B12. In addition to their B12, scallops are a very good source of omega-3 fatty acids and a good source of magnesium and potassium, three other nutrients that provide significant benefits for the cardiovascular system. Omega-3 fats keep your blood flowing smoothly by preventing the formation of blood clots. 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.

Protection Against Atrial Fibrillation (Heart Arrhythmia)

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.(December 13, 2004)

Protection Against Cancer

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, a very good source of protein and vitamin B12, to your list of healthy seafood and enjoy.

A Canadian study published in the April 2004 issue of Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers suggests that eating fish frequently may provide serious protection against three types of cancer: leukemia, multiple myeloma, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Researchers compared the diets of almost 3,000 individuals with these cancers to those of 4,200 healthy controls. People who ate the most fish and who got most of their total fat calories from fish were 28% less likely to have leukemia, 36% less likely to have multiple myeloma, and 29% less likely to have non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. (June 30, 2004)


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.

How to Select and Store

How to Enjoy

For some of our favorite recipes, click Recipes.

Tips for Preparing Scallops:

Scallops should only be cooked for a few minutes since exposure to too much heat will cause them to become tough and fibrous.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas:

Serve lightly cooked bay scallops with a salsa made from diced papaya, cilantro, jalapeno peppers and ginger.

Skewer marinated scallops, leeks and cherry tomatoes, and broil in the oven. Brush with garlic olive oil when done.

Add bay scallops to your gazpacho for extra flavor and nutrients. Healthy Saute scallops with ginger, shiitake mushrooms and scallions.


Scallops are not a commonly allergenic food, are not included in the list of 20 foods that most frequently contain pesticide residues. However, even though scallops are not known to contain goitrogens or oxalates, they are often classified as high in purines and are usually avoided on low-purine diets. Low purine diets are most commonly used in treatment of gout.

Nutritional Profile

Introduction to Food Rating System Chart

The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good or good source. Next to the nutrient name you will find the following information: the amount of the nutrient that is included in the noted serving of this food; the %Daily Value (DV) that that amount represents (similar to other information presented in the website, this DV is calculated for 25-50 year old healthy woman); the nutrient density rating; and, the food's World's Healthiest Foods Rating. Underneath the chart is a table that summarizes how the ratings were devised. For more detailed information on our Food and Recipe Rating System, please click here.


Scallops, Baked, Broiled
4.00 oz-wt
151.70 calories
Nutrient Amount DV
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
tryptophan 0.26 g 81.3 9.6 excellent
protein 23.11 g 46.2 5.5 very good
omega 3 fatty acids 1.10 g 44.0 5.2 very good
vitamin B12 (cobalamin) 2.00 mcg 33.3 4.0 very good
phosphorus 302.05 mg 30.2 3.6 very good
magnesium 77.12 mg 19.3 2.3 good
potassium 444.46 mg 12.7 1.5 good
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
excellent DV>=75% OR Density>=7.6 AND DV>=10%
very good DV>=50% OR Density>=3.4 AND DV>=5%
good DV>=25% OR Density>=1.5 AND DV>=2.5%


  • Dhonukshe-Rutten RA, Lips M, de Jong N et al. Vitamin B-12 status is associated with bone mineral content and bone mineral density in frail elderly women but not in men. J Nutr. 2003 Mar; 133(3):801-7.
  • Ensminger AH, Esminger M. K. J. e. al. Food for Health: A Nutrition Encyclopedia. Clovis, California: Pegus Press; 1986.
  • Fortin, Francois, Editorial Director. The Visual Foods Encyclopedia. Macmillan, New York.
  • Fritschi L, Ambrosini GL, Kliewer EV, Johnson KC; Canadian Cancer Registries Epidemiologic Research Group. Dietary fish intake and risk of leukaemia, multiple myeloma, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2004 Apr;13(4):532-7.
  • Mozaffarian D, Psaty BM, Rimm EB, Lemaitre RN, Burke GL, Lyles MF, Lefkowitz D, Siscovick DS. Fish intake and risk of incident atrial fibrillation. Circulation. 2004 Jul 27;110(4):368-73.
  • Wood, Rebecca. The Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Prentice-Hall Press; 1988.

This page was updated on: 2004-12-14 00:35:58
© 2002 The George Mateljan Foundation