Corals are some of the most beautiful creatures found in the sea. They consist of dozens of beautifully vibrant colors and grow in large numbers. Most coral reefs are found in areas where there are a lot of people, leading many to wonder if corals are edible. After all, some fish eat coral, so are they safe for human consumption?
You can’t eat coral because it’s as hard as a rock, which would be bad for your teeth, esophagus, and digestive system. Many corals produce toxins that could cause extremely detrimental side effects. Furthermore, those who’ve tasted coral report that it has a strong, pungent flavor.
In this post, I’ll break down whether or not you can eat coral, what it tastes like, and if soft corals are on the menu. I’ll also explain why some people take coral calcium as a supplement and which animals regularly eat coral. Enjoy!
Is It Safe to Eat Coral?
It’s not safe to eat coral because many types of coral contain toxins known as Palytoxin. This chemical is released as a defense mechanism to deter predators. This toxin can cause breathing issues, stomach discomfort, indigestion, and more. In some cases, it’s potentially fatal for people who own large coral aquariums.
Here’s a list of additional reasons coral isn’t safe to eat:
- Eating coral would cause mouth, throat, stomach, and intestinal pain. Coral is made almost entirely of solid calcium carbonate. This rough, jagged substance would be similar to biting a handful of rocks. The sharp edges would undoubtedly cause cuts and abrasions internally.
- Some corals are toxic, making them dangerous for people and many animals to consume. The South Australian Government warns people that eating or disturbing corals can cause them to release toxins that get in their bodies through direct and indirect contact. This toxin doesn’t have to be ingested to cause harm.
- Coral isn’t sold for dietary purposes, so it’d be unsafe to eat pet corals. All corals that are sold in stores or online aren’t prepared to eat. Not only does nobody ever eat coral, but they also wouldn’t be able to ingest the chemicals used to clean, transport, and feed to the corals.
- Coral reefs are loaded with high amounts of calcium, most of which would overload your daily needs. Coral calcium is sold in capsules that I’ll describe in detail later in the page. However, directly eating coral would put your body in a dangerous state with high calcium levels in the blood.
- Coral is protected by most countries, states, and cities. Although this problem isn’t unsafe from consumption, you can land yourself with a massive fine, jail time, and other legal troubles by gathering, eating, or disturbing the local coral reef. Corals are endangered for many reasons, so you wouldn’t be able to retrieve them safely.
Whether you’re concerned about pain, dangerous calcium levels, or legal matters, there’s nothing safe about eating coral. They’re far from the top of the food chain for humans, and eating coral wouldn’t provide any nutrition to make it worth the effort.
You might’ve heard someone mention that they’ve eaten coral. Unfortunately, a simple misunderstanding or verbal mixup can lead people to believe they have. In the following section, I’ll clarify the truth about eating foods that make people think they’ve consumed coral.
Can You Cook and Eat Coral?
You can’t cook and eat coral because it doesn’t soften or break down. You’d be consuming sharp shards of a rock-like substance. Coral is incredibly jagged and dense, which is why only a small handful of sea-dwelling animals can consume it. Cooking a coral would simply burn the outer edges, but it wouldn’t make it more edible.
However, I’ll explain why people often think they can eat coral.
Coral Mushrooms Can Cause a Mixup
Coral mushrooms are a type of fungi that look like coral, but they’re on land. Despite the name, they’re unrelated to coral, they don’t contain the same nutrients, and they feel, taste, and smell completely different. Coral mushrooms are unique and have plenty of nutrients, making them perfectly edible for most people.
Coral Calcium Is a Health Supplement
We can’t eat coral, but coral deposits contain calcium that people manufacture for its natural health benefits. Coral deposits are made of crushed, dead coral and leftover food they’ve eaten. This combination is a powerhouse of calcium, helping people achieve their daily intake without reaching for milk, cheese, yogurt, and other common sources.
Fish Eat Coral, so Why Can’t Humans?
If a tiny fish can chomp on coral, it might lead you to believe that a human definitely can. Contrary to popular belief, many fish have stronger teeth than humans. Their digestive systems have evolved to handle the sharpness of coral. For example, a parrotfish eats coral and leaves its droppings all over the place. The droppings make up most of the sand in the area.
Humans have a remarkable ability to make food out of almost anything in the animal kingdom. However, coral stands unmatched in its environment, preventing most species from turning it into a snack. It doesn’t matter how you chop, fry, dice, or cook it; There’s nobody on the planet who can stomach a fresh coral.
But what about soft corals? They’re not nearly as hard as traditional corals, so they might be okay to eat, right? Not so fast! They’re equally as dangerous as I’ll describe below.
Are Soft Corals Toxic to Humans?
Soft corals are toxic to humans because they have a chemical poison referred to as PTX. Many soft corals are Zoanthids, which contain heavy amounts of the toxin. Soft corals are usually easier to take care of in an aquarium, but they can’t be kept for human consumption. PTX is so strong that it can be absorbed through the skin.
Hard and soft corals can both contain PTX, so there’s no reason to risk it. Even if you could bypass the toxin, you’d run into the aforementioned reasons that you should never try to eat coral. From the toxicity to severe side effects, you shouldn’t eat corals. More info on this can be found here.
Some local critters that look like corals are edible, though.
Do Humans Eat Sea Anemone Living Near Coral?
Humans eat sea anemones living near coral, but never the coral reefs. Sea anemone is often confused with coral because they look similar, live in the same habitat, and have the same diet. Unlike coral, the sea anemone is soft, edible, and non-toxic. People enjoy it with all sorts of seasonings and side dishes throughout coastal regions.
So, how can you eat sea anemones?
- Many people consume deep-fried sea anemones. Shanghaiist mentions these sea creatures are paired with fries or chips. Whether they’re battered, fried raw, or anything in between, there’s no denying the popularity of eating different types of sea anemone throughout the year.
- Seasoned, cooked anemone is very popular in many coastal countries. They’re a top food source for towns and tribes that don’t have access to global food chains. Instead, divers retrieve the sea anemone and eat them the same day. This catch-and-cook method provides the freshest taste on the menu.
Sea anemones are scavengers and eat whatever they can get their ‘hands’ on. For this reason, many people refer to them as bottom feeders, categorizing them as a less-than-desirable dish. Nevertheless, it’s worth trying an anemone if you have the chance and haven’t eaten one before.
It’s also important to keep in mind that sea anemones can sting. You shouldn’t try to capture them in the sea. Instead, let expert divers handle the gathering process and enjoy deep-fried or cooked anemone. Frying them immediately prevents them from stinging, letting you eat them within minutes of being prepared.
Sea anemones might look similar to corals, but they’re the only edible selection between the two creatures. One is ultra-soft and edible; The other is rock-hard and inedible. All of that being said, people still try to make the most out of what corals have to offer. While we can’t eat them, there’s a handful of ways to reap their health benefits.
Why Do People Consume Coral Calcium?
People consume coral calcium because it provides a quick dose of calcium to promote bone density, reduce the risk of certain muscle diseases, increase bone and muscle healing, and more. Coral calcium also has magnesium and a few other minerals to help people reach their daily dosage.
Here’s what coral calcium can do for your health:
- According to Healthline, humans absorb coral calcium more efficiently than most other sources of calcium. Crushed and refined coral calcium is as pure as it gets, helping consumers gain the effects relatively quickly.
- Coral calcium comes with many other nutrients needed to promote muscle, bone, and blood health. Selenium, chromium, and a handful of other minerals are packed into coral calcium. The amount depends on the coral’s diet and local environment.
- Adequate levels of calcium are good for healthy teeth. Coral calcium is a great way to help people strengthen their oral health by increasing their jaw strength, the connection between their teeth and bones, and their enamel. If you suffer from excess cavities, it might be worth getting your calcium levels tested.
- Coral calcium promotes optimal cognitive functioning. Many of the best brain-healthy foods contain calcium. However, they also leave lactose intolerant people out of the equation. You can use coral calcium to balance your brain’s need for the mineral.
Keep in mind that there are side effects of taking coral calcium. Coral is very high in many minerals, so it’s important not to overdose. Excessive amounts of calcium, magnesium, and other minerals can lead to various unwanted problems, such as headaches, fatigue, and more. Also, some corals are packed with heavy amounts of metal.
That being said, proper dosage and doctor-recommended prescriptions of coral calcium can have a host of benefits. It’s the only form of coral we humans can consume, so why not give it a shot?
Barefoot Coral Calcium Complete comes with plenty of calcium, magnesium, vitamin A, B, D, and many other naturally occurring vitamins and minerals. These tablets offer a dairy-free way to get the amount of calcium you need without enduring the side effects of lactose intolerance. Every bottle includes 240 capsules, so you’ll be set for a long time.
What Does Coral Do to Your Body?
Coral doesn’t do anything beneficial for your body if you eat it raw, but taking it as a supplement can provide calcium. However, excessive amounts of coral calcium can be detrimental to your health. It’s important to contact a medical professional before consuming high amounts of coral calcium in capsule form.
Raw coral doesn’t do anything good for your body. Our digestive systems aren’t able to break down the coral. In fact, it’d be quite similar to eating sand (and the feeling would be the same, too).
If you’re determined to consume coral, try the coral calcium tablets instead.
What Animals Eat Coral?
Parrot Fish, Butterfly Fish, hundreds of sea slug species, and some sea stars eat coral. They have durable digestive systems that can handle the coral’s density. These species often eat coral for the worms and other bugs crawling on the coral, but they also benefit from the calcium, magnesium, and chromium.
Sciencing claims parrotfish eat coral regularly and audibly. Nearby swimmers can hear the crunching sound. Parrotfish eat so many corals that their droppings make up the vast majority of the sand found in coral reefs.
The critters swimming and living in and around coral reefs add the necessary protein for parrotfish, sea slugs, and sea stars to live, breed, and thrive.
Now that you know all about what happens when people eat coral, you can be sure to ensure its beauty from a distance. Coral calcium is carefully extracted, so it’s crucial that you never try to get it from the source. Leave it to the professionals to provide the supplement if your doctor suggests it for bone growth and other health benefits.
- SA Health: Palytoxin Poisoning
- NCBI: Coral Toxicity
- Healthline: Coral Calcium
- Sciencing: What Eats Coral Reefs?
- Shanghaiist: Sea Anemone