Whelks are marine snails – they are also known as gastropods, or edible mollusks. In the United States, they are more commonly known as scungilli. Regardless of what nomenclature is used, these tasty little creatures are packed full of protein with an extremely low fat content.
Image Credit/Whelk in Fish Market/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
Why eat Whelk?
Here are nutrition facts for whelk as a food source.
- Calories 234
- Fat – 1 gram – 2 percent saturated fat, zero trans fat
- Sugar – 7 grams
- Protein – 41 grams
- Carbohydrates – 13 grams
- Cholesterol – 110 milligrams
- Sodium – 350 milligrams
Whelks are chock-full of important vitamins: riboflavin, niacin, folate, and vitamins A, C, B6, and B12. Eating a 3 ounce serving of steamed whelks provides 257% of the recommended daily allowance for vitamin B12.
These edible mollusks add plenty of minerals to the diet – calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, phosphorus, manganese, copper, and selenium. Many of these valuable vitamins and minerals are lacking in today’s diets, and most individuals benefit from adding them back into meals by eating whelk. To learn more about planning healthy meals, read “Tips for Planning Healthy Diets for the Digestive System.”
Where to Buy Whelk
Whelk meat is available at supermarkets, gourmet food stores, or seafood markets, both canned and fresh. Canned whelk can be purchased online from Amazon – a 29 ounce can cost $19.99. It is precooked and ready to use in a favorite recipe or eat out of hand. Use the scungilli the same as any seafood – toss with pasta, batter and fry, or fold them into sauces and serve over rice.
When purchasing whelk, it is important to determine if they are operculum on or operculum off. The operculum is a sliver of horn that is sometimes attached to the whelk when it is removed from the shell – it looks like a hard crust on the top. This should be removed prior to eating.
If the whelks are purchased still in the shells, store them in the refrigerator until ready to prepare. To prepare, steam them for about five minutes, and then remove from the shells like oysters or mussels, pulling gently but firmly to remove the meat. For more information on how to prepare whelk, please watch the video “How to Prepare, Eat, & Enjoy Whelks.”
The Health Benefits of Eating Whelk
If you are wondering why you should eat snails, consider this: eating high protein foods makes individuals feel fuller longer, and regulates blood sugar levels. Even though the cholesterol content is fairly high, the low carbohydrate count, the high protein, and the low fat offer enough benefits to balance having whelk as an occasionally treat. Also, the small amount of fat in them is saturated, or heart-healthy, fat rather than unhealthy fat, and should not raise cholesterol levels significantly. For more information on how to add protein into meal plans, read “Foods with High Protein Top 10 Diet Choices.”
In addition, whelks are a rich source of essential fatty acids (EFAs), and may help prevent heart disease or cancer when used in moderation in a nutritionally balanced diet.
While whelks are not for everybody, seafood lovers may want to try this unusual but highly nutritious mollusk at least once. Knowing the nutrition facts for whelk as a food source will help you decide whether or not to include them in your diet.