Can You Eat Jellyfish?

Large, colourful and most well known for their stinging tentacles, jellyfish are free-swimming marine animals found in oceans all over the world, from surface waters to the deep sea.

It is composed of a bell-shaped head made of a jelly-like matter from which this unique animal gets its name and long tentacles with specialized stinging cells that inject venom into predators and prey alike (1).

While some species of jellyfish are toxic to humans, others are perfectly safe to eat – it’s all in how you prepare it. In fact, jellyfish are consumed as a delicacy in some parts of South East Asia.

Let’s take a look at the risks that surround eating jellyfish, and how to mitigate them.

Currently, there are about 11 species of jellyfish that are considered to be edible, most of which are found in South-East Asian waters (2). Some of them are considered to have unique properties such as being an aphrodisiac or having the ability to heal bone and muscle pain.

 However, even some species of edible jellyfish can be toxic to humans if prepared incorrectly. In particular, cannonball jellyfish contain toxins that can cause cardiac issues in humans if ingested (3).

Jellyfish must be cleaned and processed as soon as possible after being caught as they can quickly go bad at room temperature. Then, an alum-salt brining mixture should be used to dehydrate and better preserve the meat’s texture. As alum has antiseptic properties, this will ensure the jellyfish is cleaned of bacteria and other pathogens (4).

Once the jellyfish is appropriately cleaned and the meat is preserved, it can be cooked in a variety of ways – shredded or sliced for a salad, cut into noodles, served with vegetables and meat, etc.

In several Asian communities, eating jellyfish is believed to provide a myriad of health benefits. For example, it is considered to help with treating high blood pressure, arthritis, bone pain, ulcers and more. However, not all of these claims have been substantiated by research.

Regardless, jellyfish is high in protein while being low in calories, making it an extremely healthy option for a snack. It contains important minerals such as selenium, choline, iron, calcium and magnesium. It’s also chock-full of other nutrients like collagen and polyunsaturated fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids (5).

Collagen is an important protein involved in the structure of tissues. Consuming collagen can help combat high blood pressure, improve skin elasticity and reduce joint pain (6).

Polyunsaturated fatty acids are essential to the human diet. They are also associated with lowering the risk of heart disease (7).

Antioxidants such as polyphenols are also found in jellyfish. Polyphenols are well known to protect against several chronic conditions, including heart disease and cancer. They also promote healthy brain function (8).

In conclusion, you can certainly eat jellyfish, and they will make a great addition to your diet due to all the nutrients they contain. They can also help combat certain chronic conditions and improve your overall health – just make sure you’re consuming an edible species!

References:

  1. Cegolon, L., Heymann, W. C., Lange, J. H., & Mastrangelo, G. (2013). Jellyfish stings and their management: a review. Marine drugs11(2), 523–550. doi:10.3390/md11020523
  2. Hsieh, Y. P., Leong, F. M., Rudloe J. (2001). Jellyfish as food. Hydrobiologia, 451(1), 11-17. doi:10.1023/A:1011875720415
  3. Li R., Yu H., Yue Y., Liu S., Xing R., Chen X., Wang X., Li P. (2014). In Depth Analysis of the in Vivo Toxicity of Venom from the Jellyfish Stomolophus Meleagris. Toxicon, 92, 60–65. doi:10.1016/j.toxicon.2014.10.002
  4. Bleve, G., Ramires, F. A., Gallo, A., & Leone, A. (2019). Identification of Safety and Quality Parameters for Preparation of Jellyfish Based Novel Food Products. Foods (Basel, Switzerland)8(7), 263. doi:10.3390/foods8070263
  5. Khong, N. M., Yusoff, F. M., Jamilah, B., Basri, M., Maznah, I., Chan, K. W., Nishikawa, J. (2016). Nutritional composition and total collagen content of three commercially important edible jellyfish. Food Chem, 196, 953-960. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2015.09.094
  6. Choi, F. D., Sung, C. T., Juhasz, M. L., Mesinkovsk, N. A. (2019). Oral collagen supplementation: a systematic review of dermatological applications. Journal of Drugs and Dermatology, 18(1), 9-16.
  7. Hooper, L., Summerbell, C. D., Thompson, R., Sills, D., Roberts, F. G., Moore, H. J., & Davey Smith, G. (2012). Reduced or modified dietary fat for preventing cardiovascular disease. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews2012(5), CD002137. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD002137.pub3
  8. Cory, H., Passarelli, S., Szeto, J., Tamez, M., & Mattei, J. (2018). The Role of Polyphenols in Human Health and Food Systems: A Mini-Review. Frontiers in nutrition5, 87. doi:10.3389/fnut.2018.00087