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Eating Squid:-Wacky News, Health Benefits and Proper Preparation

Tim Boyer's picture

“Squid Sperm Inseminates Woman’s Mouth” is but one of many turns of phrase highlighting a recent news story about a woman who ate squid at a seafood restaurant only to have to be taken to an emergency room later for treatment due to a stinging sensation in her mouth resulting from live squid spermatophores from her improperly prepared squid dish. While this bit of news may make some think twice before ordering raw or lightly cooked calamari, the truth is that squid offers many health benefits and is easy to prepare properly for dinner at home.

The following is a summary of the basic biology of a squid, the benefits of eating squid, as well as instruction on how to prepare squid and serve it for a delightful and healthy meal.

Squid Biology and Health Benefits

Unlike a parasitic fluke or other live organism that can be found in some species of raw fish served at a seafood restaurant, squid spermatophores are nothing more than specialized “packages” of sperm approximately 1 centimeter in length that contains 7 to 10 million packed sperms. To aid transfer of sperm to a female, the body of a squid spermatophore contains a filament and chemical “cement” that aids attachment of the spermatophore to the surface of tissue it comes in contact with.

Squid is served in a number of ways ranging from entirely raw to deep fried in oil mixed in a calorie-high batter. In the example of the unfortunate woman who wound up with live squid spermatophores in her mouth, the squid had been improperly prepared and was only lightly cooked through par broiling.

Squid from reputable sushi restaurants are imported fresh daily from Japan. However, some restaurants serve domestic squid species instead such as long-fin and short-fin squid from the Atlantic Ocean or Humboldt from the West Coast and the Gulf of California in Mexico. Less reputable restaurants actually serve cuttlefish—a related, but different species—from Vietnam that is labeled on menus as squid. Unfortunately, knowing for sure what you are getting at any table is difficult to ascertain without DNA analysis.

There are ecological and well as health benefits to eating squid. Squid is considered to be one of the more sustainable species of ocean life that currently is not at risk of overfishing. Moreover, squid can serve as a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and a substitute for oily fishes that are at risk of being overfished for a rapidly growing fish market.

Nutrition facts about squid state that one serving size (3 oz. or 85 grams) of raw squid is rich in vitamin B-12, riboflavin, and phosphorous as well as significant amounts of magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, niacin and vitamin B-6. Total protein content is 13 grams with only 4 grams of carbohydrate and essentially no saturated fat.

Squid have an unusual anatomy that consists of a cartilaginous quill (backbone,) ink sac, parrot-like beak, tentacles with suction cups and an assortment of internal organs including the reproductive system with stored spermatophores in males.

Squid Preparation for Dinner

Proper preparation of squid for dining is best learned through an instructional video available free on the internet; however, a brief summary of the steps are outlined below:

Step 1: Cut off the squid head just above the eyes where the head meets the body.

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Step 2: Feel for the quill near the edge of the cut and gently pull the quill out of the body, being sure to remove the quill intact. Small bits left in can be difficult to bite into.

Step 3: Holding the squid body upside down over a bowl, reach into the body cavity and gently pull out the internal organs being careful not to break the ink sac, which if broken will not ruin the squid, but may stain your clothing.

Step 4: Peel the skin away from the body and slice off the two “fins.” You should now have a hollow tube of squid to slice into rings for cooking.

Step 5: Pick up the head and using your thumbs, squeeze the head to cause the hard beak and mouth to emerge through and away from the head.

Step 6: Scrape away the suction cups on the tentacles and slice for cooking.

Simple Squid Dish

A healthy recipe for cooking your properly prepared squid is a brief and simple stir fry. To a hot wok or pan with a little olive oil, pre-cook some diced garlic, and then add the thinly-sliced squid and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add a touch of fresh parsley the last 30 seconds of the stir fry and serve with noodles or rice for a complete and filling dish.

Image Source: Courtesy of Wikipedia


Science 2.0 Squid A Day: “That Squid On Your Plate Could Inseminate Your Mouth”

“Penetration of the oral mucosa by parasite-like sperm bags of squid: a case report in a Korean woman”
Journal of Parasitology 2012 Feb;98(1):222-3; Park, GM et al.

Video: How to Clean a Squid

Squid Spermatophores Biology