Love the calamari but not the cholesterol that comes with it? That’s the dilemma for many people who enjoy fried squid.
Squid is part of the same family as oysters, scallops, and octopus. It is often served fried, which is known as calamari, and the total fat content tends to be very high due to the oil used in the frying process. Whether or not it is high in saturated or trans fats depends on the type of oil chosen for frying. Served alone, though, squid can be quite healthful due to its low amounts of saturated fat.
Is Squid a Healthy Food?
Animal products are the only dietary sources of cholesterol. Unlike other animal products, however, squid is low in saturated fat. It is saturated fat and trans fat that are typically cautioned against for those with high cholesterol by health professionals. When it’s fried and made into calamari, however, its total fat and possibly its saturated fat content goes up. In essence, what is otherwise a relatively healthy food can be made quite unhealthy.
A 3-ounce serving of uncooked squid contains around 198 mg of cholesterol and 13.2 grams of protein along with 0.3 grams of total saturated fat. It also contains healthy fats: 0.09 grams of monounsaturated fat, and 0.4 grams of polyunsaturated fat.
The American Heart Association recommends eating no more than 7 percent of your total calories from saturated fat per day if your aim is to lower your “bad” cholesterol levels, called low-density lipoprotein (LDL). They also advise reducing the percentage of calories you eat that contain trans fats. For the average American over the age of 2, that means eating no more than 16 grams of saturated fat per day, and limiting your trans fats to less than 2 grams per day.
For optimal health, the fats you eat should be monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, which can raise your levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the “good” cholesterol. HDL can help flush out bad-for-you LDL.
Squid Supplements Available
To truly wring the goodness out of calamari, squid oil is also available as a nutritional supplement. It is said to be more sustainable than other fish oils, because it is made from the byproduct of food-grade squid and is not directly farmed.
In recent years, calamari oil has gained a lot of positive media attention for its omega-3 fatty acids. Many people take omega-3 supplements or turn to eating more foods with omega-3 fatty acids — such as salmon — because of the cardiovascular benefits, which include their ability to raise HDL levels.
Cooking with Squid
Here are a few recipes that are all about squid, but don’t require you to fry it!
Broiled Calamari with Lemon and Parsley
This recipe makes use of tomato sauce and fresh seasonings. Broiling your calamari with just a dab of olive oil keeps it delicious while also low on the saturated fat front.
Gluten-Free Baked Calamari
Is this a dream? Foodies with gluten intolerances will love this recipe for happy hour favorite calamari. Baking, rather than frying, keeps it heart-healthy, and the breadcrumbs are gluten-free. Get the recipe!
Want the feel and appearance of fried calamari without all of the unhealthy fat? This alternative to traditional fried calamari incorporates Panko breadcrumbs into the crust. Then the squid is baked, which is a healthier cooking method than frying.
Roast the squid and spice it up with paprika or Middle Eastern spices like za’atar! The squid will expand and puff up as they cook, resulting in calamari that’s both juicy and chewy. Get the recipe!