Since crabs have ten legs, they are called decapods. Crabs grow in size by a process of molting – they shed their hard shell, and swell up in size by ingesting lots of water. For a few days, they are covered only by a soft shell, which gradually hardens, until the next molting. Some gourmets prefer these soft-shelled crabs, claiming they are more succulent and sweet. Whatever the preference, crab-meat is universally considered a delicacy.
But there is a widespread notion, that crabs are not good for your health. Nutritionists however argue that crab meat is nutritionally good as it is high in vitamins and high quality proteins and amino acids. It is also rich in minerals such as calcium, copper, zinc, phosphorus and iron, while having lower levels of fat and carbohydrates. Crabs belong to the group of aquatic creatures called crustaceans, identified by their hard shells and ten appendages or legs. Seafood lovers around the world enjoy eating hundreds of species of crabs, though the most commonly eaten crabs are blue crabs. Crab health benefits are so well known that these hard-shelled creatures account for one fifth of all the food caught from the seas, rivers, lakes, and other water sources. The taste, texture and nutritional benefits of crab meat make it a versatile delicacy used in a wide variety of dishes like salads, soups, pates, starters, or served as a main course. Crabs are a sweet and succulent delicacy that is extremely popular universally.
Good for diabetics: Along with all other shellfish, crabs are rich in chromium, which helps insulin to metabolize sugar, and thereby lowers the blood glucose levels in the body.
Anti-cancer properties: All shellfish and crab too, have plentiful amounts of selenium. Selenium is an anti-oxidant, and cancels out the carcinogenic effects of cadmium, mercury and arsenic, which can cause tumors. Higher levels of selenium in the blood lead to lower rates of cancer. In fact, lysate, which is extracted from the blue blood of the horse-shoe crab is used for detection of spinal meningitis and for fighting cancer.
Heavy Cholesterol? While blue crabs have 28mg of cholesterol per ounce, Dungeness crabs have only 22mg and Alaska king crabs have as little as 15mg. Compare this with chicken – 22mg and a sirloin steak – 25mg. While crab meat crab meat is low in saturated fat, the presence of chromium helps to increase the level of HDL (good cholesterol) in the body, and thus reduces the risk of strokes and coronary and circulatory heart disease. In fact, crabs contain sterol, which restrict the absorption of other cholesterol, eaten during a meal.
Omega-3 fatty acids: Crabs, like all shellfish, are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which it gets from phytoplanktons and algae. Omega-3 fatty acids, help in reducing the stickiness of blood platelets, thus making red blood cells more flexible and ensuring smoother flow. Omega-3 helps to reduce the level of tri-glycerides and LDL (low-density lipo-proteins), which choke up artery walls as deposits.
Dungeness crab, known for its flavor, flaky white meat, and attractive orange colored shell is a popular choice among those who are health conscious as it is rich in proteins, vitamins and minerals. Dungeness crab health benefits include prevention of heart disease and inflammation due to arthritis, thanks to the omega 3 fatty acids in it. Crab cakes, made with meat of Dungeness crabs or blue crabs, are a favorite among seafood lovers in America. Baked, broiled, sautéed, pan fried, or deep fried, crab cakes, made from fresh crab meat and herbs, are served with a variety of sauces or salsa to enhance the crispy, buttery texture of the meat. These may be served as part of breakfast buffets, as starters, or to accompany a light salad, so that crab meat health benefits may be availed at any time of the day. However, one must stick to moderate quantities, and in case you are on a very restricted diet, first consult your dietician or doctor.
Crab Meat Nutrition
In the last few years, the shift towards healthier eating has been accelerating. The modern American is usually very savvy about the ingredients that go into any recipe. All packaged foods carry nutritional data, including calorie counts. This allows you to select foods that have low or nil quantities of harmful saturated fats, sodium, or processed sugar. Many people already avoid processed foods, since these contain high volumes of salt, saturated fats and preservatives. People are also seeking healthier sources of animal protein in their diet. Traditional sources like red meat, poultry, and eggs typically contain high levels of cholesterol. This can clog up your arteries, increasing the risk of serious heart disease. They also contain saturated fats that are difficult to digest and can lead to obesity. A popular alternative for healthy protein is the humble crab. Crab meat is rich in protein, low in calories, and has no carbohydrates. A single 4 oz serving contains less than 100 calories! This makes it ideal food for bodybuilders or those on a low carbohydrate diet. However, the crab health benefits go much beyond just weight management.
Many of the crab meat health benefits can be traced to the presence of omega-3 fatty acids. These are very heart-friendly and help to reduce cholesterol levels. In fact, studies show that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids improves the ratio of “good” high density cholesterol (HDL) to “bad” low density cholesterol. Many heart specialists use this ratio to gauge your heart disease risk. Crab meat omega-3 fatty acids also appear to have a positive effect on the human brain. Medical research shows that people consuming omega-3 fatty acids from seafood show some improvement in brain function. This can help to delay certain conditions, such as Alzheimer’s and senility. Other medical conditions that may benefit from a diet containing omega-3 fatty acids are arthritis, hypertension, and depression. These fatty acids are also thought to help diabetics by reducing the risk of sudden spikes in blood sugar. Children can especially benefit from a crab meat diet, since omega-3 fatty acids are important for their normal growth and development. Crab meat is also a great source for many essential vitamins and minerals. It contains vitamin B6, which is used by your body to produce amino acids and fresh blood cells. Crab meat also contains folate, which is essential for the smooth working of your central nervous system. Other useful nutrients include chromium, which is used by your body to control the processing of sugar in the diet. This helps to regulate the blood sugar level. Diabetics can profit from this, since chromium aids insulin in controlling blood sugar. Crab also has trace amounts of selenium, a mineral that acts as an anti-oxidant. This helps to reverse some effects of ageing, such as cellular damage of the skin. Crab meat is also very low in mercury, which is harmful to humans and can be present in high percentages in certain other seafood.
Try to get fresh crab and cook it yourself. While tinned crab meat is usually quite safe, it is better to avoid any crab side effects due to contamination. It is recommended that you find crab recipes that do not overcook the meat. This is because crab is also a rich source of many other vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. If you overcook your crab, you will lose out on many crab health benefits. If you ever get tired of your crab recipes, you can check out tuna. This fish is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids and offers you many of benefits of crab meat as you enjoy a different new flavor!
Cautions About Crab
If you have an allergy to crab meat you should be careful not to eat it or dishes that may contain crab. If you are allergic to crab, you may also be allergic to other types of shellfish, including lobster and prawns. The symptoms of a crab allergy can be as minor as a skin rash or as dangerous as anaphylaxis, which can lead to death if not treated promptly. Crab also contains moderately large amounts of purines, which are necessary for the healthy functioning of the body, but in some individuals can cause gout.
Crab may also easily cause food poisoning if it is not treated and prepared correctly. Crab must be fresh, without a strong odor and should be kept cold or frozen if it is not eaten immediately.
Crab is an excellent addition to most diets, being low in fat and calories, but high in protien and nutrients. Crab can be prepared in many different ways which makes it easy to include in regular meals.
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