Mussels are a type of shellfish and the method for farming them is environmentally sound, making them a "best choice" according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Mussels may be served cooked in or out of their shell, but are also available smoked, canned, or frozen. There are several types, including blue, black, green and Muurugai. Unlike oysters, mussels are somewhat gritty and chewy. They may be an acquired taste for some but this seafood is a very nutrient-dense choice.
Basic Nutrient Stats
Mussels are an incredibly nutrient-dense seafood choice. They are low in calories and fat, but rich in protein and are high in many micronutrients, or vitamins and minerals. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, a 3-oz. serving of blue mussels, cooked in moist heat, provides 146 calories, 4 g of fat, 1 g of saturated fat, 20 g of protein, 6 g of total carbohydrates, 48 mg of cholesterol and 314 mg of sodium. Mussels are generally cooked in salt water, which is why they contain a higher amount of this mineral than other varieties of shellfish.
Nutrients of Note
Though mussels are a rich source of many essential vitamins and minerals, such as the B vitamins, vitamin C and folate; and the minerals iron, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium and zinc, they outshine other foods when it comes to vitamin B-12, selenium and manganese. A 3-oz. portion of cooked mussel meat provides 20.4 mcg of vitamin B-12, or roughly 340 percent of the recommended daily value. Vitamin B-12 is essential for a healthy nervous system, the formation of red blood cells and proper growth and development. The same amount meets 108 percent of the DV for selenium and 288 percent for manganese. Selenium is important for immune system function and supports the thyroid gland, while manganese is involved in bone health and energy metabolism.
Ounce for ounce, fresh mussel meat, like many varieties of fish and shellfish, provides the same amount of high-quality protein as red meat but much less total fat, saturated fat and at least 25 percent fewer calories. According to the Canadian Cove, consuming the meat of 15 mussels provides the equivalent, in protein, to consuming a 6-oz. steak, but a fraction of the saturated fat. Consuming protein-rich mussels in place of red meat as part of a reduced-calorie diet may offer benefits for weight management.
Though low in total fat, mussels contain appreciable amounts of a type of health-promoting unsaturated fatty acid, omega-3, which is essential thus it must be derived from food sources. A 3-oz. serving of cooked mussels provides approximately 730 mg of omega-3 fatty acids. According to the American Heart Association, omega-3 fatty acids from fish are particularly beneficial for those who have, or are at a risk of developing, cardiovascular disease. Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of abnormal heartbeats, which may lead to sudden death, as well as help to decrease triglyceride or blood fat levels and slow the growth rate of plaque in the arteries -- which may lead to heart attack.
Selection and Prep Tips
Choose tightly closed, undamaged, farm-raised mussels for best results and to minimize "grittiness." Farm-raised are farmed on ropes that are raised above the ocean floor. Clean your mussels thoroughly prior to cooking. AllRecipes.com recommends soaking them in fresh water for 20 minutes to filter water and expel sand. After soaking, use a firm brush to brush off any additional sand or other debris. Rinse again under cool tap water and dry with a towel prior to cooking. For cooking, you can flavor mussels with many ingredients but try starting with shallots and garlic. Add other herbs and spices, lime juice or white wine.
- Monterey Bay Aquarium: Seafood Watch--Mussels
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Mollusks, Mussel, Blue, Cooked, Moist Heat
- Canadian Cove: Mussel Nutrition & Health Benefits
- The Vegetarian Society: Vitamin B12 Information Sheet
- American Heart Association: Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- AllRecipes.com: Cleaning Mussels