Lobster tails on the grill with person squeezing a lemon over it.

When people sing the praises of seafood, fatty fishes like salmon and mackerel seem to get all the attention. Though lobster can’t quite match those omega-3 powerhouses, it’s not without its unique nutritional benefits. So how can you harness the healthiness of lobster without the potential pitfalls? It’s all in how you serve it. 

Nutritional High Notes

A 3½-ounce serving of lobster has 89 calories, 19 grams of protein, and less than 1 gram of fat, making it a lean, low-calorie source of protein.

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Like other shellfish, lobster is also packed with nutrients. “Lobster provides a significant amount of minerals, such as zinc, calcium, phosphorus, selenium, and potassium, as well as B vitamins,” says Faye L. Dong, Ph.D., professor emerita, department of food science and human nutrition, University of Illinois. It’s also a low-mercury type of seafood. Mercury (a heavy metal) in fish is a concern, especially for women of childbearing age and young children, because it can damage the brain and nerves.

Though it doesn’t contain as many of the healthy omega-3 fats as some other types of seafood, you’re still getting 83 mg in a 3½-ounce serving. “If you eat lobster one day a week and a fattier fish like salmon one or two times a week, you’ll have your omega-3 intake covered for the week,” says Eric Rimm, Sc.D., professor of epidemiology and nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. 

What About the Cholesterol?

Lobster gets a bad rap for being high in cholesterol. And compared with some other foods, it is. A 3½-ounce serving of lean top sirloin steak, for example, has 64 mg of cholesterol, and the same amount of lobster has 145 mg. But a serving of lobster actually contains less cholesterol than an egg, which has 187 mg. “Dietary cholesterol isn’t as important as was once thought,” says Rimm. “In the context of an overall healthy diet, dietary cholesterol is not strongly related to an increase in blood cholesterol or heart disease.”  

Saturated fat is the more important thing to focus on when it comes to managing your cholesterol levels and risk of heart disease. And lobster has practically no saturated fat.

Eating a diet that’s high in saturated fat has been shown to increase overall cholesterol levels as well as negatively tipping the balance between “good” HDL and “bad” LDL cholesterol. That’s why the current dietary guidelines call for limiting your intake of saturated fat to 10 percent or less of your daily calories. Saturated fat has also been directly linked to an increased risk of heart disease. A 2016 study published in The BMJ found that those who consumed diets highest in saturated fat had an 18 percent greater risk than those who consumed the least.

But if you’re concerned about dietary cholesterol, pay attention to the portion size of your lobster. “It’s typical to be served half a lobster,” says Dong. “That’s about 8 ounces of lobster meat, which contains about 300 milligrams of cholesterol.”

Tips for Healthier Lobster Meals

The real problem with lobster is how it’s typically served. “Dousing your lobster with melted butter is a quick way to more than double the amount of calories and fat you’re consuming,” Rimm says. Mixing it with mayonnaise and piling it into a doughy white roll isn’t much better.

Though these are the most popular preparations, “for most people they are a treat eaten only a few times a year,” says Michael Serpa, chef and partner at the Select Oyster Bar in Boston.

For frequent lobster eaters, there are plenty of ways to enjoy it while keeping it a healthy, low-fat food.

Serpa suggests skipping the melted butter and dipping your steamed lobster in some aioli or a spicy vinaigrette. Unlike butter, which is mostly saturated fat, the primary fats in these are the healthier monounsaturated or polyunsaturated types. “Or split the lobster, grill it with lemon and herbs, and serve it over fresh salad greens,” he says.

For those who take issue with dropping live lobsters directly into a pot of boiling water, there are some, potentially more humane, options. You can put the lobster in the freezer or ice water for an hour before cooking or use a sharp knife to pierce the area directly behind the eyes before boiling it.  

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