Squid and Cholesterol: The Calamari Conundrum

The Calamari Conundrum: Is Squid Healthy?

Squid are one of the most popular seafoods eaten in the world. They have been consumed since ancient times and their popularity continues to grow. However, there are many misconceptions about squid and they may cause problems if not properly addressed. One of these myths is that squid contains too much cholesterol which causes heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and other diseases. There are some scientific studies that support this myth but others do not.

Cholesterol is found naturally in all animals including humans. Humans cannot synthesize it so our bodies must get it from food. Fish such as salmon, herring, sardines and anchovies contain very little cholesterol (less than 0.5 mg/100 grams) while squid and clams contain up to 3 mg per 100 grams!

Salmon and herring are low in fat whereas squid and clams are high in fat.

There is no reason why eating fish with less cholesterol than squid would be harmful. Eating squid does not necessarily mean that it will cause health problems. In fact, consuming too much fatty foods like shrimp, lobster, tuna and cod may increase your risk of developing heart disease because they tend to contain higher amounts of saturated fats than fish.

Using Extra-Virgin Olive Oil to Cook Your Calamari

You may have heard that extra virgin olive oil is a heart-healthy fat and since you like to cook your squid in this oil, you are helping protect against diseases of the heart. While this statement is true, studies show that the way you prepare your squid can actually negate the benefits of using extra virgin olive oil.

When you deep-fry squid, not only are you adding extra calories but you are also increasing the amount of carcinogens produced when the squid is cooked. This is true for all types of cooking oils. When these carcinogens are absorbed into your body, they may cause DNA damage that can lead to cancer.

You can improve this situation by marinating your calamari in lemon juice before you cook it. Lemon contains antioxidants that will help to eliminate the carcinogens.

What is the Best Way to Cook Fresh Calamari?

There are many ways to cook calamari but many of these techniques are not suitable for cooking fresh squid. It is best to cook fresh calamari by lightly coating it with flour and quickly frying the squid in a non-stick pan using just a little bit of oil. The following cooking methods can be used for frozen squid:

Frying in non-stick saucepan with garlic, olives and cherry tomatoes.

Grilling or barbecuing.



Step 1: Thawing and Cleaning Squid

Squid should be frozen before deep-frying. This makes the squid tender and prevents it from breaking into pieces during the cooking process. To thaw frozen squid, place the container in the refrigerator overnight or submerge the frozen squid in cold water and change the water every 30 minutes until the squid is thawed.

Squid with skin should be cleaned before cooking. To clean, remove the head and entrails first. Then rinse the body under running water to remove any sand or other debris from inside it.

Pat dry with a paper towel before cutting it into rings or tubes.

Step 2: Coating the Squid

Flour the squid with a thin coat of all-purpose flour or rice flour. This process prevents the oil from splattering and getting too hot while cooking. It also makes the squid extra crispy and crunchy after cooking.

You may also dip the squid rings and tubes in beaten eggs before coating them in bread crumbs. This will give them more flavor and keep them extra moist when cooked.

Step 3: Deep-Frying

Pour the oil into a saucepan or deep-frying pan until it is about two-thirds full and place over medium heat. Allow the oil to heat for ten minutes until a piece of bread turns golden after one minute in the oil.

When the oil is hot, lower the heat to slow down the browning reaction of the squid. Shake excess flour off the squid and carefully place the rings and tubes into the hot oil using cooking tongs. You can also place a cooling rack over the saucepan or pan so that the squid pieces rest on it and allow the oil to fully surround them as they cook.

Step 4: Serving

Squid is cooked when it turns from translucent to light pink. It will also become opaque. You can strain the oil and reuse it for up to two days.

Serve immediately with lemon wedges or a dip of your choice.

What are Some Good Ways to Use Leftover Deep-Fried Calamari?

There are many ways to use leftover deep-fried calamari if you have any. Combine with pasta, pesto and cherry tomatoes for a delicious pasta dinner. Add chopped pieces to a green salad or a chicken and feta cheese salad. Combine with cooked rice, chopped black olives and sweetcorn for a tasty lunch bowl.

What is Warm Octopus Salad?

Also known as sannakji, this is a dish of chopped and seasoned octopus tentacles served in a hot stone pot. The diner dips the tentacles into a bowl of seasoned vinegar sauce and eats. It is not for the squeamish as the suction cups sometimes still stick to the tentacles when served. Chew very carefully!

What is Haemultji Maeng-Eun-Jee?

This is a spicy crab dish with green peppers and onion in a gochujang sauce. Gochujang is a thick, spicy paste made from red chilies, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans and salt. It is a very popular Korean dipping sauce and condiment made by mixing gochujang, vinegar, sugar and salt.

What is Bossam?

This is a traditional Korean dish of boiled pork served with traditional accompaniments. The pork is served wrapped in ggombi and topped with sliced radish and mustard greens. The meat is usually sliced by your guest as you enjoy drinks together before the meal begins. The host usually provides the knife for your assistance.

What is Ggori Ma Jeongol?

This is a spicy crab, clam and shrimp soup with vegetables. The soup is usually spicy but this can be adjusted to taste. Ggori means ‘crab’, ma means ‘mussel’ and jeongol means ‘stew’. It is usually made with fresh seafood but can be made with frozen seafood if necessary.

What is Japchae?

This is a stir-fried dish of sweet potato noodles, vegetables and meat or shrimp. It is a popular party dish in Korea and is usually served in a sizzling stone pot, hence the name japchae, which means ‘bottle-jar’. You may also find it spelled japche or chapchae. The noodles are similar to the Italian vermicelli.

What is Dweji Bulgogi?

This is a spicy pork dish where the meat is marinated for 10 hours and then cooked in sauce made from gochujang, doenjang, honey, apple juice and ginger. The meat is then sliced and served with an onion salad and served with warm white rice. It is usually eaten in the fall or winter months.

What is Doenjang Jjigae?

This is a soybean paste stew with vegetables and meat. It is very hearty, nutritious and delicious. It can be made with pork, beef, seafood or a combination of these with soybean paste, onions, carrots, cabbage, potatoes, green peppers and garlic.

What is Bindaettok Kae Jung?

This is a spicy stir-fry of seasonal vegetables with sliced pork, shrimp or crabmeat. It is usually eaten in the summer or autumn and is served with steamed white rice. The key to a good bindaettok Kae Jung is the sesame oil, gochugaru (Korean ground chili flakes) and onions.

What is Galbi Jjim?

This is a sweet and savory braised ribs dish. The ribs are boiled in a seasoned sauce of soy sauce, garlic, brown sugar, ginger, green onions, carrots and water. The sauce is then thickened with potato starch and the ribs boiled in this mixture until they are tender and the sauce has reduced and thickened.

What is Gimbap?

This is a delicious snack of seaweed rice wraps with varied ingredients inside. These can include cheese, ham, eggs, spinach, tuna, crabsticks, pickled radish, kimchi and many more delicious ingredients. To eat, simply roll up gently into a cylinder and dip into any sauces provided.

What is Jjinmpa?

This is a very spicy pork dish where the pork is cubed and marinated in a chili sauce made with gochujang, gochugaru (Korean chili flakes) soy sauce and garlic. It is usually eaten with a bowl of steamed white rice to help alleviate the heat from the chilies.

What is Gyeranppang?

This is a sweet and spicy pancake made from eggs, rice flour, baking powder, olive oil and gochugaru (Korean chili flakes). It can be served in a variety of ways such as rolled up and filled with minced pork and vegetables, wrapped around fish or even filled with chocolate and enjoyed as a dessert!

You can find these and many more delicious recipes in my cookbook: “Authentic Korean Cooking: A Collection Of Family and Friends’ Favorite Recipes” available on Amazon.

Thank you for your time and I hope you enjoy the delicious recipes!

Sources & references used in this article:

Healthy Deliciousness’: Discovering the Secret to Healthy Eating via Social Media. by W Ariyasriwatana – 2018 – scholarspace.manoa.hawaii.edu

Seafood Handbook: The Comprehensive Guide to Sourcing, Buying and Preparation by J Peterson – 2009 – books.google.com

Flavourville by L Chesterman – 2003 – books.google.com

Feeding a yen: Savoring local specialties, from Kansas City to Cuzco by C Trillin – 2003 – books.google.com