Jellyfish are bell-shaped marine animals that are found in oceans all over the world (
Large and often colorful, they’re commonly known for their gelatinous bodies and long tentacles, which contain specialized stinging cells that can shoot out rapidly, injecting venom into predators and prey (
While some jellyfish species are toxic to humans, others are safe to eat.
In fact, jellyfish is commonly consumed in Southeastern Asia, as it’s believed to offer several health benefits (
This article reviews when jellyfish is safe to eat, as well as its possible health benefits and risks.
Before eating jellyfish, it’s important to be aware of how to safely consume it.
There are at least 11 species of jellyfish that have been identified as edible for human consumption, including Rhopilema esculentum, which is popular in Southeastern Asia (4, 5).
As jellyfish can spoil quickly at room temperature, it’s important to clean and process it soon after being caught (
Traditionally, jellyfish is preserved by using an alum-salt mixture to dehydrate the meat. Alum is a brining component that acts as an antiseptic, reducing the pH while maintaining a firm texture (6).
One study looking to collect safety and quality parameters for edible jellyfish found that jellyfish cleaned and processed using traditional methods had little to no signs of contamination from bacteria or other potentially dangerous pathogens (
As a result, it’s important to only consume jellyfish products that have been thoroughly cleaned and processed appropriately.
Another important factor for safety is the color of the product.
Freshly processed jellyfish typically has a creamy white color that slowly turns yellow as it ages. While yellow-colored products are still safe to eat, ones that have turned brown are considered spoiled and unsafe for consumption (5).
Several species of jellyfish are safe to eat. To reduce the risk of foodborne illness, it’s important to only eat products that have been cleaned and processed thoroughly and are still white or slightly yellow.
Soon after being caught, jellyfish is cleaned and processed, usually by dehydrating it in a brining solution (5).
Before consumption, it’s often recommended to desalt jellyfish and rehydrated it by soaking it in water overnight to improve texture and reduce the salty taste (5).
Despite its name, prepared jellyfish has a surprisingly crunchy texture. However, depending on how it’s prepared, it can also be slightly chewy.
It has a delicate taste that tends to take on the flavors of whatever it’s cooked with. Still, if not desalted, it can be quite salty.
You can eat jellyfish in many ways, including shredded or sliced thinly and tossed with sugar, soy sauce, oil, and vinegar for a salad. It can also be cut into noodles, boiled, and served mixed with vegetables or meat.
Prepared jellyfish has a delicate flavor and surprisingly crunchy texture. It’s frequently eaten as a salad or cut like noodles and boiled.
In several Asian countries, eating jellyfish is associated with a variety of health benefits, including helping treat high blood pressure, arthritis, bone pain, ulcers, and digestive issues (
While most of these claims have not been supported by research, there are some potential health benefits of eating jellyfish.
High in several nutrients
Several species of jellyfish are safe to eat. While they may differ in nutritional content, they’ve generally been shown to be low in calories while still serving as a good source of protein, antioxidants, and several important minerals (
One cup (58 grams) of dried jellyfish provides approximately (
- Calories: 21
- Protein: 3 grams
- Fat: 1 gram
- Selenium: 45% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Choline: 10% of the DV
- Iron: 7% of the DV
It also contains small amounts of calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus (
While low in fat, studies have shown that about half of the fat in jellyfish comes from polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), including both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are essential in the diet (
PUFAs, and omega-3 fatty acids in particular, have been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, especially when eaten in place of saturated fat (
Finally, research has found that several species of edible jellyfish contain high levels of polyphenols, which are naturally occurring compounds that have been shown to have potent antioxidant effects (
Regularly consuming polyphenol-rich foods is thought to promote brain function and protect against several chronic conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer (
Excellent source of selenium
Jellyfish is an excellent source of selenium, an essential mineral that plays a major role in several important processes in your body.
It has been shown to have antioxidant properties, protecting your cells from oxidative stress (
As such, adequate selenium intake has been linked to a reduced risk of several illnesses, including heart disease, certain forms of cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease (
Additionally, selenium is important for metabolism and thyroid function (
While jellyfish is rich in this important mineral, more research is needed on the benefits of eating this marine animal specifically.
High in choline
Choline is an essential nutrient that many Americans don’t get enough of (
With 10% of the DV for choline found in 1 cup (58 grams) of dried jellyfish, it’s considered a good source (
Choline has many important functions in the body, including DNA synthesis, nervous system support, the production of fat for cell membranes, and fat transport and metabolism (
It has also been linked to improvements in brain functioning, including better memory and processing. It may even help reduce symptoms of anxiety. However, more research is needed (
Despite the benefits of eating more choline-rich foods, research on the effects of consuming jellyfish specifically is needed.
Good source of collagen
Many of the proposed therapeutic benefits of jellyfish are thought to be due to its rich collagen content (
Collagen is a type of protein that plays an essential role in the structure of tissues, including tendons, skin, and bone.
Consuming collagen has also been linked to various potential health benefits, including improved skin elasticity and reduced joint pain (
Specifically, collagen from jellyfish has been analyzed for its potential role in lowering blood pressure.
One test-tube study on collagen from ribbon jellyfish found that its collagen peptides exhibited significant antioxidant and blood-pressure-lowering effects (
Similarly, another 1-month study in rats with high blood pressure observed that the daily intake of jellyfish collagen significantly reduced blood pressure levels. While promising, these effects have not yet been studied in humans (
Additional animal studies have noted that jellyfish collagen protected skin cells from sun damage, improved wound healing, and helped treat arthritis. Still, these effects have not been studied in humans (
Jellyfish is low in calories yet high in protein, antioxidants, and several minerals, particularly choline and selenium. While animal studies suggest jellyfish collagen may have health benefits, including reduced blood pressure, human studies are lacking.
Only a few species of jellyfish have been determined safe for human consumption.
That said, while safe for most, some people have been diagnosed with allergies to the animal after experiencing an anaphylactic reaction after eating cooked jellyfish (
Additionally, proper cleaning and processing are important for reducing the risk of foodborne illness from bacteria or other potentially hazardous pathogens (
There’s also concern that the method of preserving jellyfish could result in exposure to high levels of aluminum.
Aluminum content in jellyfish products
One traditional way of processing jellyfish employs a brining solution containing alum.
Alum is a chemical compound, also known as potassium aluminium sulfate, that’s sometimes used as an additive for preserving foods (35).
While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has certified it as a generally recognized as safe (GRAS) substance, there are concerns regarding the amount of aluminum retained in jellyfish products as a result of using alum (35, 36).
High levels of dietary aluminum have been suggested to play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Yet, it’s uncertain how much of an effect, if any, aluminum has on these conditions (
One study looking at dietary exposure to aluminum in Hong Kong observed high aluminum levels in ready-to-eat jellyfish products (
While the average aluminum exposure in adults was not found to be dangerous, the study did raise concern that frequent intake of high aluminum products like jellyfish could expose individuals to potentially dangerous levels of this substance (
When thoroughly cleaned and processed, jellyfish is likely safe for most individuals. However, there’s concern that frequent intake of alum-treated products could result in overly high dietary exposure to aluminum.
Certain species of jellyfish are not only safe to eat but also a good source of several nutrients, including protein, antioxidants, and minerals like selenium and choline.
The collagen found in jellyfish may also contribute to health benefits like reduced blood pressure. Still, research in humans is currently lacking.
While there are some concerns over the use of alum in the processing of jellyfish, occasional or moderate intake is unlikely to result in excessive exposure to dietary aluminum.
Overall, when purchased from a reputable retailer, jellyfish can be a low calorie yet nutritious way to add a uniquely crunchy texture to your dishes.