Why I Do Not Eat Shellfish

A Guest Post by: Dr. David Jockers

Why I Do Not Eat Shellfish

People are always asking me about the safety or dangers involving shellfish consumption. My parents raised me following many Jewish traditions and so I personally do not eat shellfish. Our intention was to live as Jesus had lived. I maintained this nutritional law growing up because it is what I was told.

Today, however, I have researched the Biblical practices and nutrition and toxicity regarding shellfish consumption. Since it has been my decision to avoid shellfish. Many spiritual leaders today eat pork and shellfish but I tend to believe that these foods are hindering their optimal potential for mental, emotional and spiritual health.

Spiritual Health & the Food We Eat

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To be clear, I do not believe that our spiritual salvation is dependent on the food we eat. I do believe it affects our cognitive though, energy and risk of illness. Our energy coupled with our mental and physical health influence our spiritual health and many individuals would agree that our spiritual walk is evident in how we serve and love people.

We face challenges and taller hurdles to serve and love people when we are affected by fatigue, poor mental clarity and/or if we suffer from a chronic disease. In this regard it is a critical decision that people should consider a dietary lifestyle focused on high quality foods to intentionally prosper in our spiritual walk.

Why I Avoid Pork

It is my health philosophy that I teach and live by where we should honor God with our bodies, mind and spirit and only consume foods with maximum nutrients and limited toxins. Therefore it is easy for me to reason why pork consumption is detrimental to my personal values. Pork is low in critical nutrients and is extremely high in environmental contaminants and parasites, especially when compared to grass-fed beef, bison, venison, lamb and other comparable meats.

You can read this article here to learn why I do not endorse the consumption of pork and to learn the healthiest ways to prepare pork if you decide you want to continue consuming it.

Why Avoid Shellfish?

Unlike pork, shellfish may not seem as clear cut in its nutritional values. Some types of shellfish like oysters and krill actually contain a high amount of nutrients which can be hard to obtain from other food sources.

For instance, shellfish is high in the critical nutrient zinc. This essential mineral is vital to human health and is a common deficiency in many of our diets. Very important for immune function, the highest concentration of zinc is found in oysters and can further benefit skin and fertility health. In general, both shellfish and seafood are good sources of the trace mineral selenium which stimulates both immune and thyroid function (1).

The long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are also found high in concentration in krill and shrimp. These omega-3 fats are critical for supporting brain health, reducing inflammation and improving neurological and cardiovascular function (2). Shrimp and krill eat red algae also making them an excellent source of the powerful antioxidant astaxanthin. Astaxanthin is what gives these shellfish their natural pink color (3).

From this perspective it seems natural that shellfish consumption would be a great source of nutritional compounds. Unfortunately, modern society overuses fossil fuels containing heavy metals such as methyl mercury which ultimately ends up in our waterways. As a consequence, seafood is highly contaminated with heavy metals. Although the rich sources of selenium and zinc contained in the food can help remove heavy metals from our body, do the nutritional benefits truly outweigh the environmental toxicity risks?

What does Leviticus 11:9-10 Tell Us?

The following command includes fish like sharks, rays, catfish, eels, paddlefish, hagfish and lampreys which do not have scales. It also includes crustaceans and mollusks.

“These you may eat, of all that are in the waters. Everything in the waters that has fins and scales, whether in the seas or in the rivers, you may eat. But anything in the seas or the rivers that has not fins and scales, of the swarming creatures in the waters and of the living creatures that are in the waters, is detestable to you.

You shall regard them as detestable; you shall not eat any of their flesh, and you shall detest their carcasses. Everything in the waters that has not fins and scales is detestable to you.”

Detestable is a strong word choice used to convey “deserving intense dislike.” Why does God want us to find the creatures He created detestable? We must look further at the nature of the animals to understand this concept.

What is the Nature of Shellfish?

Shellfish are scavengers which by nature will have a high toxic load. Scavengers are nature’s cleanup crew designed to break down dead and decaying matter on land, lakes, rivers and the ocean.

The nocturnal scavengers, lobsters, roam the bottom floor of the ocean consuming dead animals and debris. They are known to bury dead fish so that they may consume the rotting flesh later and are similar to the vultures in the sky. Crabs sweep the ocean floor consuming anything. They are like trash cans and even eat other dead crabs.

Shrimp are bottom dwellers which eat all sorts of dead animal remains along the ocean’s bottom. Actually, there is a higher level of cannibalism in shrimp possibly evident of certain parasites they contain.

The tiny parasite, Pleistophora mulleri, was found in a 2015 study to increase the cannibalistic performance of shrimp and also found infected shrimp to have an unquenchable appetite (4). Researchers observed the shrimp voraciously rip through their sibling shrimp in a significantly shorter period of time than a non-infected shrimp would typically have taken to eat.

Unfortunately there is no process used to determine which shrimp are infected by parasites and which are not. When shrimp catchers pull up their netted catch they are unaware of infection as they all appear and possibly taste the same.

Shellfish Allergies

Shellfish trigger allergies which send more people to the hospital every year more so than any other food allergen. Most individuals with shellfish allergies are affected by the crustacean group. An estimated 6 million Americans alone or 1 in every 50 people have a shellfish allergy (5).

Compounds can be different in fish and shellfish and produce different allergen responses. This is why people that are allergic to one or the other may not necessary have to avoid both shellfish and fish groups.

Researchers have discovered that the allergy trigger is a protein called tropomyosin. This protein is found in the muscles of all animals. They also found that 2 regions called epitopes attach the IgE allergy antibody to the shellfish tropomyosin. These compounds have greatest similarities within species (6).

Shrimp, lobster and crab which make up the crustacean group trigger the highest number of allergic responses. These individuals can eat mollusks like scallops, mussels and clams because the tropomyosin epitopes are not identical.

What about Mollusks?

Mollusks are considered filter feeders and are found in streams, lakes and coastal areas. These creatures don’t hunt their prey but instead remain stationary to pump water over their gills trapping salt, silt, bacteria, viruses, plant debris and parasites for consumption. These water purifiers are the ultimate filter feeders.

The FDA alarms that mussels, raw oysters and clams contribute to 85% of seafood related sickness (7). Mollusks carry salmonella, E Coli, cholera, hepatitis A and the Norwalk virus. Even though we should never eat these foods raw, the cooking process does not guarantee complete elimination of the toxins either.

Individuals with low stomach acid levels or people with weakened immune systems should avoid mollusk consumption as the risk for infection is significantly high. As waterways continue to become flooded with toxins from chemical pollutants in our society, mollusks will continue to take on a higher toxic load.

Shellfish spoils quickly and easily making them the perfect food source for pathogenic bacteria. Even though generally cooked, shellfish is difficult to properly prepare. Millions of people are exposed to undercooked or spoiled crab, shrimp, oysters and other shellfish alike. These food sources pose a tremendous threat of bacteria, viruses and active parasites.

Bioaccumulation in Shellfish

Compared to the Biblical days the world around us is much more contaminated. Our oceans, rivers, lakes and waterways have a higher toxicity level in the 21st century than ever before. Methyl-mercury is certainly an issue because it originates from burning fossil fuels. It is taken up into the Jet stream and precipitated down mostly into the oceans in the form of rain.

Bioaccumulation is a major issue for such contaminants as mercury and lead in mollusks. Both fish and crustaceans are able to excrete some of these contaminants and may not have as high a toxic load. Crustaceans have the highest risk of carrying parasites and accumulating xenoestrogen.

Xenoestrogenic chemicals are found in industry products like plastics as well as pesticides and dioxins. These contaminants are often found at the bottom level of the waterways where shellfish gather. Most marketed shrimp are sourced from areas where there may be no restrictions on PCB, dioxin and the presence of other contaminants.

A Health Message from God?

In early Biblical days, infectious disease was the greatest threat to shortened lifespans. Disease could quickly demolish families, tribes and cities easily in the pre-medical era. Health principles are contained in the book of Numbers, Leviticus and Deuteronomy to help us minimize infectious disease.

I believe God called shellfish detestable because He wants us to understand the health threat they pose in our lives given their bacterial, parasitic and viral load. There was no refrigeration in the Biblical days but there were also fewer environmental dangers. The major risk would have been infectious microorganisms.

The environment has drastically changed today. Our waterways and therefore shellfish are significant sources of industrial toxins. Although we can prepare foods better with cooking methods we cannot rid them of toxins.

The narrative of the Hebrew people found in the Old Testament provides a description of a culture seeking to not only survive but thrive in a hostile world in the promised land of Israel. It is then logical to understand that God would provide nutritional advice on practices that may harm tribal health.

Although I have personally never consumed pork, I have in fact tried mussels, shrimp and octopus. Although the taste is decent, these foods are nothing that my body desires or requires.

About the Author

Dr. David Jockers is a Maximized Living doctor, functional nutritionist, corrective care chiropractor, exercise physiologist, and certified strength & conditioning specialist. He currently owns and operates Exodus Health Center in Kennesaw, Georgia.

Sources for this Article:

  1. Bryszewska MA, Måge A. Determination of selenium and its compounds in marine organisms. J Trace Elem Med Biol. 2015 Jan; 29:91-8. PMID: 25468190
  2. Köhler A, Sarkkinen E, Tapola N, Niskanen T, Bruheim I. Bioavailability of fatty acids from krill oil, krill meal and fish oil in healthy subjects–a randomized, single-dose, cross-over trial. Lipids in Health and Disease.2015;14:19. PMCID: 4374210
  3. The role of astaxanthin in shrimp pigmentation. Link Here
  4. Eaten alive: cannibalism is enhanced by parasites Royal Society Open Science Link Here
  5. More Americans allergic to seafood than any other food News Medical Link Here
  6. Studies Unmask Protein Culprit Behind Allergy to Shrimp The New York Times Link Here
  7. Han F, Wang F, Ge B. Detecting Potentially Virulent Vibrio vulnificus Strains in Raw Oysters by Quantitative Loop-Mediated Isothermal Amplification. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 2011; 77(8). PMID: 25892595

This post currently has 8 comments.

  1. Mary
    August 8, 2016

    You are way smarter than I am. It’s been a long time since I have read those particular verses in the Bible. Are salmon, tuna, cod, and haddock okay to eat then? I have no idea if they have fins and scales. Thank you.

  2. RobinRobin
    August 7, 2016

    I have read a study that 20 minutes after a person eats pork their blood work looks as if they have stage four cancer. Our God is a scientist and He gave us an instruction manual. Years ago I had been confused about the New Testament “giving us permission” to now eat pork, but when you read scientific evidence of what it does to you along with the toxin saturated shellfish, you have to realize that God had reasons for restricting it in the first place. I know that my family feels better not ingesting these things. I am curious though about some of the new practices such as, pool & pond-raised shellfish. Depending on the conditions, there should be less toxins. Good article.

    • Darlene Toombs
      August 13, 2016

      I am curious to know where in the New Testament we are given permission to eat pork… certainly I have not read it. Even in the Old Testament God did not give man permission to eat flesh foods until after the flood as there was yet no vegetation and also because He wanted to shorten man’s lifespan to prevent wickedness arising again??????

      Excellent article by the way..thank you:)

      • Robin
        August 21, 2016

        Hi Darlene.
        The prohibitions God gave against eating pork (i.e. Lev 11:7-8, Deut 14:8, Isa 65:4, Isa 66:17) were a part of the ceremonial laws of the Old Covenant. In short, ceremonial laws were given to symbolically purify and cleanse God’s people. They pointed forward to Jesus Christ through whom we are now purified and cleansed (The New Covenant).

        While science has shown us that pork and the other “unclean” foods that God prohibited are indeed unhealthy, they are no longer forbidden foods. There are several verses in the New Testament that show us this & since you have stated that you have not read it, I will list the scriptures so that you may study it for yourself.

        Mark 7:14-19 We don’t follow the dietary laws in Leviticus because Jesus fulfilled the whole law and told us specifically that all dietary restrictions, by His authority, have been lifted.(Now I’m not going to go out & pick up a skunk & eat it & I do pray over every meal, but I will not tempt the Lord.
        Rom 14:2-31
        Cor 10:25
        Col 2:16-17 &
        Acts 10:14-15 when Peter was on the rooftop in Joppa, God gave him a vision 3 times.

        The Bible tells us that in the end times, there will be an increase in those who command others “to abstain from meats which God hath created” 1 Tim 4:1-4.

        The reason why certain religions, such as Judaism and Islam, prohibit the eating of pork and other “unclean” foods is because they do not accept that Jesus cleanses all who trust in Him by His shed blood on the cross.

        Most importantly, Jesus Himself declared ALL foods clean.
        If God through His son, has declared all foods to be clean because the lessons of separation and holiness taught by the laws of uncleaness in the Law of Moses, have been fulfilled in Christ, then who are we to insist that such laws should still be binding? As the angel said to Peter, “What God has cleansed, we must not call profane (unclean).”

        If the argument is valid that because these restrictions are mentioned in the book of Leviticus that we should still do them, we are making a huge mistake. These things were fulfilled in Christ. They are the shadow pointing forward to Him and His work. He is the substance. We no longer need these “teaching aids” (see Galatians 3:24) because now we see the work and person of the Lord in all the glory given to Him by His Father.

        Leviticus, in 75 verses talks about the law of the burnt offering. Why don’t we do that too? In 44 verses it talks about the Tabernacle. Should we be building tabernacles and offering bulls, sheep, and goats too? That’s all in Leviticus just like the prohibitions against eating pork. If someone curses their father or mother, the law in Leviticus requires that the guilty child should be put to death (Leviticus 20:9). Should we be doing that because it is in the Law? You can’t pick and choose. Once you decide that obedience to one part of the Law of Moses is essential, you must then keep the entire Law. It’s an all or nothing situation. (See Galatians 5:3; 3:10).
        We are not under the Law but under grace and the only rituals the Lord requires of us are those of Baptism and the partaking of bread and wine in remembrance of Him and His work.

        I hope you have found this helpful.

        God bless!

        • Denise
          October 9, 2016

          God did not change what is clean to eat. He already gave us the information. He was saying it is okay to eat with gentiles. Please as much as we want to believe it’s okay (it’s not a salvation issue). Jesus came to fulfill the law not change it

          • Debbie
            April 25, 2017

            Amen. Yeshua Himself said He did not come to abolish the Torah (God’s instructions), but to fulfill. A better translation (from Hebrew translation), would be to fully preach. He showed us what it meant to follow Torah. He was against the extra rules man put in place in the Talmud.

      • Jan
        August 29, 2017

        There is no authority to eat pork or any unclean foods in the New Testament. It is a misunderstanding of a few verses. The preachers are misinformed as well. God does not change. If the food was inclean in the Old Testament, it is still unclean in the New Testament.


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