People around the world know lobster as a delicacy or luxury food.
Like shrimp, crab, and crayfish, lobster is a crustacean, a type of shellfish characterized by its segmented body protected by a shell (1).
Generally, people think of crustaceans as high cholesterol foods. However, they also have a high nutritional value.
This article explains all you need to know about the nutrition of lobster, including whether the cholesterol it contains should be a reason for concern. It also reviews the benefits and downsides of eating lobster and discusses how to prepare it.
Lobster is a low calorie food packed with vitamins and minerals.
A 1-cup (145-gram) serving of cooked lobster provides (2):
- Calories: 128
- Protein: 27 grams
- Fat: 1.2 grams
- Carbs: 0 grams
- Copper: 198% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Selenium: 190% of the DV
- Zinc: 53% of the DV
- Vitamin B12: 51% of the DV
As you can see, lobster is a lean protein source — it packs a lot of protein and minimal fat.
However, cholesterol content is independent of fat content, and a serving of lobster provides 70% of the DV for cholesterol (1, 2).
It also provides 280 mg of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) combined (2).
EPA and DHA are two types of omega-3 fatty acids that may protect heart health by lowering blood cholesterol levels. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend consuming about 250 mg of EPA and DHA per day (1, 3, 4).
Lobster is also an exceptional source of the trace elements copper and selenium.
While copper is involved in energy and DNA production, selenium acts as an anticancer agent and may protect against chronic degenerative diseases (5, 6).
How does it compare with other crustaceans?
Most crustaceans, including lobster, have fairly similar nutritional profiles.
Here’s a comparison of the nutritional content of a 1-cup (145-gram) serving of lobster, shrimp, crab, and crayfish (2, 7, 8, 9).
Although lobster provides more protein per serving than the other crustaceans, they are all protein-rich foods. In fact, they all pack higher protein content than finfish (1).
Another difference between these crustaceans is shrimp’s fat content, which is significantly higher than those of the rest and explains shrimp’s higher calorie count.
However, despite shrimp’s higher fat content, shrimp and lobster have virtually the same cholesterol content. In contrast, crayfish and crab provide lower amounts.
Lastly, while they are all rich in EPA and DHA, shrimp, crayfish, and crab provide lower amounts than lobster.
Lobster is a lean protein food with high amounts of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. It also contains vitamins and minerals needed for optimal health.
Lobster’s high quality nutritional profile gives it numerous health benefits.
Lobster has a high protein content.
It’s also rich in all essential amino acids — the building blocks of protein. This means that the quality of protein lobster offers may be equal to or better than that of milk, red meat, or soy (10).
Additionally, research suggests that high protein foods may aid or promote weight loss by boosting your metabolism and increasing feelings of fullness (11).
In fact, your body burns more calories when processing proteins than it does when processing carbs and fats (11, 12, 13).
Protein is also more efficient than carbs or fat at increasing feelings of fullness. It does this by reducing appetite-stimulating hormones and increasing levels of hormones that reduce hunger. Thus, eating protein may help with appetite control (11, 12, 13).
May promote brain and mental health
Omega-3s and vitamin B12 play an essential role in brain and mental health.
For example, DHA is an important component of brain cells and is necessary for the function of the cell membrane. Studies have found that omega-3 deficiency may accelerate brain aging (14, 15).
Studies suggest that people who consume diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids have a lower risk of stroke, depression, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease (14, 15, 16).
Similarly, research suggests that low vitamin B12 levels are associated with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease (17).
However, some studies suggest that taking vitamin B12 supplements seems to reduce the risk of dementia by 20% and improve brain function in older adults (18, 19).
Thus, adding lobster to your diet may prove beneficial for your brain and mental health.
May protect against heart disease
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. To help prevent this condition, public health initiatives recommend regularly eating fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids (20, 21).
Studies have repeatedly shown that long-chain omega-3s, such as EPA and DHA, have protective effects against heart disease. Fish and seafood species that provide high amounts of both — such as lobster — seem to be the most protective (21, 22).
EPA and DHA may reduce the risk of heart disease in several ways.
Studies suggest they may lower blood cholesterol levels and blood pressure. They may also reduce inflammation to help prevent atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque in the arteries, which is a risk factor for stroke (21, 22, 23).
One 2008 study found that intakes of 566 mg per day of EPA and DHA may reduce heart disease risk by 37% (24).
In a 2010 study, participants took up to 234 mg of EPA and DHA per day, and the researchers reported that for participants who took the highest amounts, the risk of heart disease decreased by 49% and the risk of heart attack-related deaths decreased by 62% (25).
May have anticancer effects
Omega-3s and selenium may give lobster cancer-fighting effects.
Research suggests that diets rich in EPA, DHA, and selenium may have a protective effect against several types of cancer, including breast, colorectal, prostate, lung, gastric, liver, and ovarian cancers (26, 27, 28, 29, 30).
Test tube and animal studies have found that the anti-inflammatory and anticancer effects of omega-3s have reduced tumor growth and spread and led to cancer cell death (26, 27, 31).
However, additional research with human subjects is needed.
Furthermore, DHA seems to enhance the effect of cisplatin — a common chemotherapy drug — on tumor spread and death. It may also be beneficial in reducing drug-induced side effects (26).
Research also suggests that selenium’s antioxidant capacity may play a role in its potential anticancer effects. Studies have shown that selenium may promote tumor death and help prevent cancer from spreading (29, 30, 32).
Other potential benefits
Adding lobster to your diet may have some additional health benefits, thanks to the selenium it contains.
Lobster’s high selenium content may be beneficial for people with autoimmune thyroid diseases, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (33, 34).
Selenium may also help boost immunity, since the nutrient is involved in biological processes that ensure normal cellular function necessary for a healthy immune response (35, 36).
While the research on some of the nutrients in lobster seems promising, it is important to note that no studies reflect the benefits of eating lobster directly.
Scientists need to do more research to investigate the health benefits of lobster in humans.
Nutrients in lobster may offer beneficial effects for heart and mental health and weight loss. They may even help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer.
While lobster has a relatively high amount of cholesterol, this may not be a health concern. Some research suggests that cholesterol from food sources is not associated with heart disease risk (37, 38).
However, some of these studies have been lower quality, and scientists need to do more high quality studies to investigate this topic further (38).
Older studies explain that this is because your body can regulate its cholesterol production based on how much cholesterol you eat (39).
While dietary cholesterol may increase LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, it also increases HDL (good) cholesterol levels. Thus, it maintains the LDL-to-HDL cholesterol ratio and avoids increasing the risk of heart disease (37, 38).
However, this is not the case for everyone. Research has found that about one-quarter of the population is more sensitive to higher cholesterol intakes (37).
Lobster contains a high amount of cholesterol, but this is not a health concern for most people. Studies have found that cholesterol from food sources does not appear to increase the risk of heart disease.
Regardless of lobster’s nutritional benefits, there are certain potential hazards you should take into account when buying or consuming it.
Lobster is a highly perishable food that requires proper handling to avoid microbial contamination. Improper handling may lead to foodborne illnesses.
However, you are more likely to get a foodborne illness from eating raw or undercooked lobster.
Some of the most common disease-causing bacteria linked to improperly handled crustaceans — and raw seafood in general — are Vibrio species, Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella species, and Shigella species (1).
Symptoms associated with consuming these bacteria include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, fever, stomach cramps, and headaches (1).
Thus, it would be best to avoid consuming undercooked lobster. You may want to pay close attention to lobster handling.
Crustaceans are some of the most common allergens that may cause severe food reactions, and lobsters are among the most allergenic (40, 41).
Symptoms of an allergic reaction to lobster may range from mild to severe.
In extreme cases, coming into contact with lobster may lead to anaphylaxis. This is a life threatening allergic reaction that causes your airways to narrow, making it difficult to breathe (41, 42).
The protein tropomyosin is the major allergen in shellfish. The structure of this protein is similar in crustaceans and mollusks, so cross-reactivity is very likely (43).
In other words, if you’re allergic to any crustacean, like lobster, you may also have allergic reactions when consuming clams, scallops, oysters, mussels, and other shellfish. The opposite is also true: If you have a shellfish allergy, you may also be allergic to lobster.
There is currently no cure for food allergies. Managing an allergy requires avoiding the allergen. You may need to seek emergency treatment if you come into contact with an allergen (42).
Heavy metal contamination
As a result of water pollution, lobsters and other shellfish may become contaminated with heavy metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, and arsenic (1).
Consumption of heavy metals through foods may be detrimental to your health. It may cause brain and kidney damage and heart abnormalities and may affect babies’ brains (1, 44, 45).
That said, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies lobster as a low mercury food and suggests it is safe to eat two to three servings of lobster per week (46).
However, people who are pregnant or breastfeeding, as well as children, may be more sensitive to the effects of heavy metals and should limit their intake.
Lobsters may become contaminated with heavy metals and microorganisms that cause foodborne illnesses. They are also highly allergenic.
Lobster has a tender texture and mild flavor that pairs well with a variety of dishes.
Lobsters are usually cooked by steaming or boiling. You may also find them cut into medallions, frozen, or commercially processed into multiple products, such as canned or pickled lobster (10).
To keep your lobster on the healthier side, be mindful of preparation and cooking methods that significantly increase calorie and fat content. For example, frying lobster or mixing it with mayonnaise or butter may boost its fat content considerably.
Here’s a healthy recipe for lobster zucchini noodles that you could try.
Lobster’s texture and flavor make it easy to include in a wide variety of dishes. Boiling and steaming are two traditional and healthy cooking methods. Frying or serving it with butter or mayonnaise can increase the fat content considerably.
Lobster is a type of crustacean rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals.
Adding it to your diet may be beneficial for weight loss and mental health and may help reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.
However, lobsters are highly allergenic. They may also become contaminated with disease-causing microorganisms or heavy metals. More sensitive individuals, such as those who are pregnant, should limit their intake.
Be sure to eat fresh and fully cooked lobsters to avoid any potential bacterial contamination. If you want to keep your lobster on the healthier side, avoid dipping it in butter or mayo.