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Is Octopus Healthy? Nutrition and Calories
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Is Octopus Healthy? Nutrition and Calories

Written by Edibel Quintero, RD | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Published on 2022 July 14
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6 min

Dietitians worldwide have been urging people to add more seafood to their diet in recent times. Today, we will be looking at the inclusion of octopus in our supposed healthy diets. But is octopus really safe to consume?

is octopus healthy

Our minds typically shoot straight to shrimps, crabs, lobsters, and fish when we talk about seafood. However, there are many sea critters that we could confidently fit into our everyday meals.

Octopus, for example, is one of them, and its popularity in the seafood market has started to skyrocket over the years.

There are many species of octopus across the globe, and the defining factors that make these eight-legged cephalopods well known are their intellectual prowess and otherworldly abilities.

However, as a food item, it is rich in protein and many essential vitamins and minerals, including the famed omega-3 fatty acids.

Coastal communities in Japan, Korea, and Spain use octopus in several main and side dishes, making octopus famous as a culinary delicacy. It is also a common food item in many cultures around the world.

That is why, in today’s article, we will be exploring octopus as nutritious food, from its nutritional profile down to its dietary benefits. As such, we will be providing answers to common questions associated with adding octopus to your diet.

Join us as we dive to unearth the mysteries behind this eight-legged seafood.

Is Octopus Healthy?

Yes, octopus is a healthy option. It is low in calories and fats while maintaining a generous amount of vitamins and minerals, including the B vitamins, selenium, magnesium, and a host of others.

Furthermore, octopus is a great source of protein and good fatty acids. You benefit from a lowered risk of clogged blood vessels, breast cancer, and heart disease.

What Are the Health Benefits of Octopus?

Aside from its unique taste, octopus holds a collection of numerous evidence-based health benefits when consumed in the right portion.

We have taken it upon ourselves to highlight three health benefits of octopus.

High-quality protein: Foods that contain high-quality protein, commonly referred to as “lean” protein, contain low calories, fat, and cholesterol content.

Like most seafood, octopus contains high-quality protein, which is important for maintaining proper immune function, cardiovascular health, promoting weight loss, and building and repairing muscles and tissues.

Although it contains a significant amount of dietary cholesterol, recent studies show that seafood and other similar, nutrient-dense foods are less likely to alter blood cholesterol levels than those with high levels of saturated fats.

Improve heart health: Octopuses, like fatty fishes, are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids, including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

These fatty acids have a net positive effect on overall cardiovascular health as they help increase HDL levels, prevent coronary artery occlusion, lower blood pressure, and reduce inflammation. This ultimately reduces the risk of heart attack and other heart diseases.

Good source of antioxidants: Much like its omega-3 content, octopus possesses good amounts of vital antioxidants.

Coupled with the other nutrients present, you significantly boost immune function and cognitive function.

What Are the Possible Side Effects of Eating Octopus?

At this point, it was evident that octopus is among the nutrient-dense class of food, making it a vital dietary addition. However, certain factors hold people back from enjoying this delicacy.

The distinctive reason why people choose to avoid octopuses is specific health risks. Seafood allergy is a common occurrence all over the world, and the effect certainly is dire.

Secondly, ethical standpoints make people avoid eating octopus. This may stem from a moral, cultural, or personal point of view; nonetheless, it still happens.

Whether your reservations are because of shellfish allergies or ethical reasons, there are a couple of things to consider before indulging in octopus.

High sodium content: The CDC, in conjunction with the guidelines set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in October 2021, advocates for a daily sodium intake of no more than 2,300mg.

In comparison, a 100g serving of octopus contains 460mg of sodium, which accounts for 20% of your daily requirements. Note that this statistic excludes added salt that comes during the different cooking processes.

For most adults, this could drastically increase their blood pressure, raising their risk of suffering from stroke, hypertension, and other heart diseases.

Heavy metal exposure: As of today, top predatory shellfish, like octopuses, come with an assortment of contaminants, including heavy metals like arsenic and mercury.

Researchers found the highest bioaccumulation in these sea creatures’ digestive glands and branchial hearts; however, you still get high heavy metal exposure from consumption.

Mercury poisoning can lead to skin disorders, damaged senses, and even congenital disabilities.

High cholesterol level: 100g of octopus has 96mg of cholesterol. For those who want to maintain their blood cholesterol levels, consuming 96mg might be a bit too much.

Furthermore, the preparation method can also increase the risk factor; deep-frying, for example, exposes you to a plethora of unhealthy ingredients, which can lead to hypertension, stroke, and heart disease.

Is Octopus Good for Weight Loss?

You can add octopus to your diet if you are keen on weight loss. This is because it contains small amounts of fat and calories while being a good source of lean protein.

This combination means that you can sustain your calorie deficit and cut down on your weight with the addition of proper exercise like running.

Nutritional Facts

Let us take a quick look at the nutrition information of octopus.

Nutritional value per 100g

The nutritional value per 100g serving of octopus is as shown in the table below.

Calories/NutrientAmount
Calories (kcal)164
Net Carbs (g)     4.4
Fats (Total) (g)2.08
Protein (g)29.8
Cholesterol (mg)96

A simple 100g serving of octopus comes with many essential vitamins and minerals. Yes, this marine sea creature possesses a good amount of vitamin B6, B12, niacin, and pantothenic acids.

These vitamins are essential in improving brain function and cellular metabolism, producing red blood cells, utilizing fatty acids, and boosting energy levels.

Furthermore, octopus contains many omega-3 fatty acids, although it does not contain the same amounts found in fatty fish. Omega-3 fatty acids fight inflammation, control blood clotting, regulate blood pressure, and improve heart health.

It is also rich in selenium, sodium, copper, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and iron, providing 20% of the recommended daily intake. These trace minerals play key roles in building a strong skeletal and immune system while fighting against oxidation.

High in protein

Octopus ranks among “lean” animal protein foods, containing a healthy portion of protein with relatively low saturated fat and calorie content. Lean protein plays a vital role in weight loss, building, and repairing worn-out tissues and muscles.

Consuming octopus is a health-conscious alternative with just 29.8g of protein per 100g serving.

Low in fats and calories

A serving of octopus contains a measly 2.08g of fat, with its calorie content peaking at 164kcal. Although, when compared to other nutrient-rich foods, the octopus has a very small fat content. Nonetheless, it does contain essential fats, making it a great addition to your diet.

Coupled with its low-calorie content, adding octopus to your low fat, low-calorie diet becomes a reality.

High in cholesterol

This is where most people draw the line when it comes to eating octopus. Of course, having 96mg of cholesterol per serving might bother those who seek to maintain their cholesterol balance. Still, they should be well aware that it contains less cholesterol than squid and shrimp.

Scientific research on the consumption of dietary cholesterol has shifted over time. Scientists believe that consuming nutrient-rich food with high cholesterol content will not necessarily raise your blood cholesterol levels.

A Word From Our Nutritionist

At this point, you are fully aware of the potential health benefits and risks you get whenever you eat octopus. There are many octopus species; therefore, you must know which is safe to eat. When purchasing fresh octopus, be sure that they keep it frozen, seeing as a frozen octopus has a long shelf life.

Another thing to note is that the cooking method employed will drastically affect the overall nutritional value.

Contrary to popular belief, octopus is best eaten raw. Improperly cooked octopus is hard, dry, and rubbery, losing much of its nutrients. On the other hand, raw octopuses have their nutrient pool intact, aside from harmful heavy metals.

If you do decide to cook octopus, baking, grilling, and steaming are great options. A dabble of olive oil instead of vegetable oil while cooking is the preferred alternative, as the latter can quickly increase the calorie and fat content.

Conclusion

Octopus is a nutritional powerhouse that delivers a wide array of nutrients to anyone capable of indulging in this delicacy. Adding it to your diet sees you gaining many health benefits, including weight loss, improved brain function, healthy cells, and cognitive health.

Written by
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
Medically reviewed byRosmy Barrios, MD
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