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Buyer's Guide to Shellfish

The healthiest choices for clams, mussels and oysters.

Shellfish isn’t just tasty, it’s good for you too. It’s high in iron, which transports oxygen around your body and vitamin B12, which helps turn food into energy. Oysters and clams are a good source of zinc, which supports your immune system. Shellfish does have around 50 mg of cholesterol per 3-ounce serving. But cardiologists agree that saturated fat is more detrimental to blood cholesterol levels than dietary cholesterol. And most shellfish offer some omega-3s, one of the types of fat that can actually improve your cholesterol. Unlike larger seafood species, shellfish are low on the food chain, so they don’t accumulate harmful contaminants like mercury.

Buy The Freshest

Ask at the fish counter what’s freshest. And use your nose: shellfish should smell like the sea and nothing else. Shells of fresh oysters, clams and mussels should be either tightly closed or just slightly opened. If they’re open and you tap them, they should close. If they don’t close, they’re not alive. Don’t buy them. Make sure your fishmonger displays the National Shellfish Sanitation Program (NSSP) tags. This program oversees commercial shellfish and certifies that they are harvested from waters that are safe. Wild shellfish gathered by amateurs is not regulated by the NSSP.

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