Known as the world’s most expensive shellfish, abalone is not only a rare delicacy but it also packed with many vital nutrients. Let’s take a closer look at the nutritional value of abalone and the range of health benefits it can provide.
What is Abalone?
Abalone is a type of mollusk from the family Haliotidae and genus Haliotis, which means “sea ear”, referring to the flattened shape of the shell.
The abalone has a single shell and a tough, muscular foot that has strong suction power, enabling the abalone to cling to rocky surfaces. It is found primarily along the coastlines of California, Mexico, and Japan.
There are more than 100 species of abalone around the world and the largest species is Red abalone, which can grow up to 12 inches in length, and is found commonly in Northern California.
The name “Abalone” comes from the Spanish-American word “Aulone”, which is the name of the animal. Abalone is also known by many different names around the world, such as Ormer in the English Channel, Mutton shells in Australia, Pāua in New Zealand, Awabi in Japan, and Perlemoen in South Africa.
In Mandarin, abalone is called “Bao yu” meaning of definite abundance. Chinese people give each other gifts of abalone during Chinese New Year to wish each other abundance of wealth in the coming year.
The abalone is regarded by the Chinese as a great delicacy in Asian cuisine. The flavour is very similar to a clam or scallop, but much firmer, chewier, and meatier. It can be pan-fried, stir-fried, sautéed, steamed, stewed or eaten raw like sashimi.
Abalone shells can be used to make jewelry, buttons and ornaments. In traditional Chinese medicine, abalone shells are used to treat conditions and symptoms associated with liver heat, such as headache, dizziness, red eyes, and blurred vision.
Abalone Nutrition Facts
Abalone is highly nutritious and is an excellent source of protein, iodine, and omega-3 fatty acids. It also provides numerous important vitamins and minerals and is low in fat.
According to the USDA Nutrient Database, a 3-ounce (85 grams) serving of mixed species, cooked fried abalone contains:
- 161 calories
- 9.39 g of carbohydrates
- 16.7 g of protein
- 5.76 g of fat
- 502 mg of sodium
- 0.2 mg of copper
- 184 mg of phosphorus
- 47.6 mg of magnesium
- 31.4 mg of calcium
Abalone Health Benefits
1. Cancer prevention
Research has shown that abalone extract possess anti-cancer properties by inducing the death of tumor cells and necrosis.
A 2010 study, published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, showed that abalone visceral extract may inhibit tumor growth and promote CD8+ T cell proliferation and cytolytic function .
2. Reduces heart disease risk
Abalone contains omega-3 fatty acids, particularly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are known to lower the risk of heart disease. These fatty acids may reduce the risk of heart disease by reducing the level of blood triglycerides in humans .
3. Boosts immune system
The omega-3 fatty acids in abalone could benefit the immune system as well.
Researchers from Michigan State University and East Carolina University found that foods high in the omega-3 fatty acid compound DHA seemed to boost activity of a white blood cell called a B cell, a vital part of the body’s immune response .
4. Regulates thyroid function
Thyroid hormones are required for normal growth and development of tissues such as the central nervous system. Abalone contains significant amounts of iodine which plays an essential role in the function of the thyroid gland.
Abalone also provides copper which helps stimulate thyroid function by boosting hormones and improving metabolic functions.
5. Keeps the liver healthy
Abalone is a natural liver supporter and boosts the detoxifying power of the liver. It works by supporting the metabolic functions of the liver. It can also prevent liver damage from regular or excessive alcohol consumption.
6. Prevents joint pain
The health of your joints determines how mobile and flexible you are. Rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and injury to the joints are common diseases that cause severe disability in many people.
Abalone is naturally rich in glycosaminoglycans, which promotes healthy joints and connective tissues. It supports joint mobility, thus helping to reduce arthritis pain and inflammation.
7. Maintains bone health
Due to the high amount of phosphorus and calcium present in abalone, it is very beneficial for our bone health. Phosphorus works with calcium to help improve bone density and keep the bone healthy.
8. Weight management
Abalone has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that help to maintain metabolic equilibrium, preventing fat accumulation. It has been used in most detox diets because of its ability to support various metabolic functions of the body.
Selection and Storage
Abalone is available fresh, frozen, dried, or canned. If you are buying fresh abalones, look for those that are still alive. The flesh should be firm and should contract when touched. Also, choose those that are relatively small for best flavor.
Fresh abalone should be kept in the refrigerator in a bowl, covered with a damp cloth, and cooked the same day. If you don’t intend to cook it right away, freeze it as soon as you get it home.
Abalone can be stored in the freezer for up to three months. For freezer storage, be sure to wrap it tightly in a layer of plastic wrap and place them in a freezer bag.
For canned abalone, pay attention to the origin, brand, and the expiry date of the canned abalone. Usually those from Japan, Mexico, Australia, and New Zealand are of a better quality.
Here’s how to clean and prepare fresh shelled abalone:
- Wash shelled abalone in clean running water with brush or scrubber.
- Remove the abalone meat from the shell with spoon by moving the spoon around the edge, between the meat and the shell, until it separates from the shell completely.
- Lift out flesh, remove the intestines and the hard parts of the mouth at the V-shape end of abalone with small knife, and then wash thoroughly.
- After cleaning, slice or chop the meat and cook as desired.