Mussels for muscles: how to cook them – and increase your Omega-3 intake

Mussels are a great source of long chain omega-3 fatty acids, and are a more environmentally friendly option than some other fishy alternatives.

Want a great way to bump up your Omega-3 intake that’s more environmentally sustainable?

A nutrition scientist at Deakin’s Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN) has found mussels are a great source of long chain omega-3 fatty acids, and is a more environmentally friendly option than some other fishy alternatives.

An international study led by Dr Lee Hamilton found that eating mussels three times a week was enough to help meet recommended omega-3 targets of participants.

Just one in five people globally meet recommended omega-3 targets, and there is not enough omega-3 in the ocean’s fish stocks to service the world’s needs.

“Most people don’t get enough long chain omega-3 fatty acids because they’re not eating enough oily fish. But if the world’s population did hit that target through oily fish consumption, it would decimate the ocean’s fish stocks,” Dr Hamilton said.

He says mussels are generally farmed sustainably and have a very low carbon footprint in comparison to other meats, including farmed salmon. Additionally, because they are filter feeders, sustainably farming them means that they have a minimal impact on the marine environment.

Now he wants people to know that mussels are a simple and healthy meal option – so he has shared a simple recipe (below).

Omega-3s are a family of essential fatty acids, needed for proper brain development in growing kids and in adults they play an important role in inflammatory balance.

“The Australian Heart Foundation recommends two to three portions of fish per week, including some of the oily fish that contain high amounts of long chain omega-3s. The aim is to achieve an intake of 250-500mg of omega-3 per day,” Dr Hamilton said.

“For people not meeting omega-3 requirements, introducing mussels to their diet a few times a week could be a good strategy.

“They are also a good source of protein, important for maintaining and building muscle.”

The pilot study was carried out with Dr Hamilton’s aquaculture colleagues at Stirling University in Scotland. It aimed to determine if providing mussels as the protein component of a few lunchtime meals per week could be effective at improving study participants’ omega-3 index.

The team monitored the diets of 12 Scottish university students for a week, before feeding them a third of their calories at lunch with mussels as the main protein source in the meal, three times per week for two weeks. After two weeks there was a significant improvement in the omega3 index of the participants demonstrating that mussel consumption is a viable strategy to improve omega 3 intake.

Simple Mussels in White Wine and Garlic Sauce with Bread – Serves 2

If you are not sure about how to prepare mussels, there are some great how-to videos on YouTube, like this one

This meal should provide about 600mg of long chain omega 3 fatty acids and about 20g protein.


1 large onion or handful of shallots

2 cloves garlic

50g butter

250ml white wine

250ml vegetable stock

1kg prepared mussels in their shells

Lemon wedges, parsley and crusty bread, to serve



Finely chop the onion and garlic and sauté them in 50g butter in a very large pot for 1-2 minutes.

Once the onions are softened, add all the liquid and turn up the heat. When boiling, add the prepared mussels and cover with a lid to steam the mussels. Shake the pan regularly to distribute the mussels and check that nearly all the mussels have opened – this should take about five minutes. If not, give them a few more minutes.

Garnish with parsley and lemon wedges and serve with your favourite crusty bread.


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