Naturopathic Kitchen: Shellfish

A variety of shellfish with a lemon wedge on a white surface

Mollusks vs. Crustaceans

There are two categories of shellfish: crustaceans and mollusks. Mollusks are shellfish that have a hard, two-part shell that is hinged. This category includes oysters, mussels, clams, and scallops. Crustaceans have jointed legs, segmented bodies, and hard, chitinous shells, and include lobster, shrimp, crab, and crayfish. 1

The Health Benefits of Shellfish

Heart Health

Shellfish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which help to promote cardiovascular health. 2 In one study, men who consumed more than 7 ounces of shellfish per week were 59% less likely to die of a heart attack than men who consumed less than 1.74 ounces (50 grams) per week. 3

Research has also found that eating foods high in vitamin B12 can reduce the risk of heart disease. 4 5 Shellfish is a good source of vitamin B12 as well as minerals and omega-3 fatty acids, making it a good choice for a heart-healthy diet.

Boosts Immunity

Shellfish is an excellent source of zinc, which facilitates the development of immune-defense cells in the body. 6 One of the symptoms associated with zinc deficiency is a decrease in activity of natural killer (NK) cells, which are essential for fighting disease. 7

Improves Brain Function

In addition to promoting a healthier cardiovascular system, the omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12 found in shellfish can boost brain function. 8 9 Research also suggests that omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12 may be particularly effective at promoting brain health when consumed together, because they may enhance each other’s efficacy. 10

Risks & Precautions

Shellfish allergies are common and can develop at any age, so it is important to exercise caution and watch for allergic reactions. 11 Common symptoms of shellfish allergy include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Mouth tingling
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Hives or itchy skin
  • Swollen tongue, throat, or face
  • Dizziness

It is also important to note that shellfish can contain heavy metals such as mercury and can also be a carrier of foodborne illnesses. When purchasing shellfish, always choose fresh, wild-caught options. Those who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant should avoid shellfish altogether.

Disclaimer: AANMC recognizes that some cultures and religions avoid consuming shellfish, and in no way intends to offend any group based on their cultural practices.

Shrimp Dumplings

Recipe courtesy of Bastyr University


For the dumplings:

  • 1 pkg dumpling wrappers (preservative free)
  • 12 oz shelled, deveined and cleaned wild caught shrimp, mashed
  • 4 oz Asian chives, chopped
  • 4 oz shitake mushroom, chopped
  • 1 tbsp minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 egg (optional)
  • All-purpose flour

For the dipping sauce, mix together:

  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup Chinese black vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • ½ teaspoon Chinese chili sauce (optional)


Combine mashed shrimp, Asian chives, shitake mushroom, minced peeled ginger, and vegetable oil in a bowl, mix well with a spoon.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and dust with flour. Put aside ½ bowl of cold water.

Place a wrapper on your palm and brush the edge of the wrapper lightly with water. Add 1-2 tablespoons of filling to the center of the wrapper, leaving a ½ inch border. Fold the wrapper in half to enclose the filling, press along the edge to seal. (When preparing dumplings – it is best to under, versus overfill the wrapper)

Pleat the dumpling’s sealed edge by folding every ¼ inch, forming 5-6 pleats to make a nice looking pouch. Press firmly to seal.

Transfer the dumpling to the prepared baking sheet.

Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling, spacing the dumplings ½ inch apart on the baking sheet. You can choose to either fry or steam the dumplings.

To fry the dumplings:

Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a medium non-stick skillet over medium heat until shimmering.

Add dumplings in a single layer and cook for 1-2 minutes, or until the bottom of dumplings becomes evenly golden brown.

To steam the dumplings:

Place the dumplings in a single layer in a bamboo steaming basket fitted onto a saucepan or wok. Add ½ cup of cold water to the saucepan/wok, bring it to boil, turn to medium-low heat, and cover the dumplings with a lid. Let the dumplings steam for 3-5 minutes.

Remove the lid and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the water has fully evaporated.

Serve with the dipping sauce.


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