Is Lobster Healthy? Here's What a Dietitian Says
Often enjoyed on summer vacations, lobster is a true specialty food. But is it good for you? Here we explore the nutritional benefits and potential reasons to limit lobster consumption
If you've ever vacationed (or lived) in New England, lobster is likely something you've sought out for that quintessential summer meal. Whether you serve it up as a traditional lobster dinner of steamed lobster with butter, steamers, corn, and coleslaw, or enjoy a lobster roll by the beach, lobster probably feels like a true indulgence. There's really nothing like that sweet and buttery bite of lobster, however you like to eat. If you're wondering if this "treat" meal is actually good for you, we're breaking down everything you need to know about this delicacy.
Lobster Nutrition Facts:
Here are the nutrition facts for 3 ounces cooked lobster meat:
- Calories: 75
- Total fat: 0.7g
- Saturated fat: 0.2g
- Carbohydrates: 0g
- Fiber: 0g
- Sugar: 0g
- Protein: 16g
- Sodium: 413mg
- Cholesterol: 124mg
Health Benefits of Lobster
"Lobster provides a great source of protein, is low in saturated fat and is rich in vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin B12, copper, zinc, selenium and iodine. Lobster even contains a small, but not negligible, amount of heart and brain health promoting omega-3 fatty acids," says Jenny Shea Rawn MS, MPH, RD Registered Dietitian, content creator and seafood lover at JennySheaRawn.com.
Lobster offers similar benefits to other shellfish in that it's a lean protein that provides many important nutrients that can boost health. It has more EPA and DHA — two omega-3 fatty acids linked to a slew of health benefits— than other shellfish like shrimp and crab, though it doesn't quite measure up in that department to fattier fish like salmon and tuna. That's why "it's always best to choose a variety of different kinds of seafood (and foods, in general) throughout your week to ensure you're getting a range of nutrients," notes Rawn.
One slight drawback to lobster — along with some other shellfish — is that it's relatively high in sodium compared to other protein-rich foods, containing just under 20% of the daily recommended maximum (2,300 mg for healthy people) in a 3-ounce portion. So, if you're eating lobster, be mindful of other sources of sodium at the meal and other meals you eat that day.
It may support brain health
Lobster is a good source of choline, with 80 mg per 3-ounces of cooked meat, which is about 15 percent of the Adequate Intake (AI) level for men and 20 percent of the AI for women. Choline is important for brain function and may even reduce risk of Alzheimer's disease. It's also been shown to play an important role in baby's brain development in utero, making it an important nutrient for pregnant women to consume. The omega-3 content in lobster may also contribute to its brain-boosting benefits, since omega-3's are known to play an important role in a healthy brain.
It can support a healthy immune system
Lobster contains around 50% of the daily recommended daily allowance (RDA) of zinc per serving — one of the top food sources of this mineral. Zinc is a major player in your immune system, helping to fight infections and heal wounds. While zinc deficiency is not common in the United States, consuming enough from food can help keep you healthy year-round.
It can support thyroid function
Lobster is rich in both selenium and iodine, two nutrients that are linked to a healthy thyroid. Your thyroid plays an important role in metabolism, body temperature regulation, growth and development, and proper hormone regulation, among other bodily functions. Keeping your thyroid happy and healthy is incredibly important to overall health and how you feel on a daily basis.
What About the Cholesterol in Lobster?
Lobster is considered a high-cholesterol food with 124 mg per 3 ounces of cooked meat. This amount was once considered to be almost half of the recommended daily limit for healthy people and almost two-thirds of the limit for someone at risk for heart disease. This was because it was thought that consuming too much dietary cholesterol could increase risk for cardiovascular disease.
"However the cholesterol from the food we eat, including lobster, has much less of an effect on blood cholesterol than we originally thought (for most healthy people). The type of fat we eat (saturated, trans, and unsaturated fats) has a larger impact on blood cholesterol," says Rawn. In fact, in 2015, the USDA removed the recommendation to limit dietary cholesterol to 300 mg from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans based on evidence that dietary cholesterol is not actually well linked to increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Instead, the guidelines suggest focusing on limiting saturated fat intake and removing trans fats from the diet, while also increasing intake of unsaturated fats.
While many high cholesterol foods like certain cuts of red meat and some dairy products are also high in saturated fat — and therefore should still be limited — lobster and other shellfish like shrimp contain very little saturated fat and are a good source of protein for many.
Studies among both men and women have shown that some people may be "hyper responders" to dietary cholesterol, meaning that consuming cholesterol from foods like shellfish and eggs does increase blood cholesterol levels, and more importantly, the LDL/HDL ratio (which may increase risk for cardiovascular disease). However, the research continues to conclude that even among hyper responders, some dietary cholesterol is not likely problematic.
The Best Ways to Serve Lobster
While lobster itself is a nutritious, lean protein, how it's served can make a big difference in the overall healthfulness of a meal. The two most traditional ways to serve it — as a lobster roll mixed with either butter or mayonnaise or steamed with a butter dipping sauce — tend to add saturated fat to the meal, which is a nutrient we want to enjoy in moderation. "Neither of these meals are considered 'healthy,' but both are packed with flavor, satisfaction and, perhaps most importantly, comfort and nostalgia. Neither a lobster dinner nor a lobster roll would be the same without butter," says Rawn.
"If you are eating lobster a few times a year, like most people do, eat (and enjoy!) the lobster how you'd like and adjust your other meals during that day accordingly. If you have specific dietary restrictions for health reasons, obviously keep that in mind when choosing your lobster meal. And, you can absolutely make your lobster dinner or lobster roll healthier by going easy on the butter, opting for a whole grain roll for the lobster roll, and packing the rest of your plate with veggies if they're offered (instead of fries)," recommends Rawn. Try our Grilled Lobster Rolls for a lighter version.
If lobster makes a more regular appearance on your table, consider pairing it with other nutrient-rich ingredients. "There are tons of ways to incorporate lobster in a healthy meal paired with veggies and fruit (Try this Maine Blueberry and Lobster Salad), healthy fats like olive oil or avocado, and whole grains," says Rawn. Try cooking it up with an abundance of vegetables (such as our Lobster, Ginger, and Scallion Stir Fry) or making lobster tacos with sliced avocado and a fresh citrus slaw.
The Bottom Line
"For most of us, there's no reason to limit lobster consumption, unless you have a shellfish allergy, sensitivity or have been advised by your healthcare provider(s) to limit consumption" says Rawn. In fact, lobster can add important nutrients to your diet while you enjoy an incredibly satisfying and tasty meal.