Diet books, doctors and weight loss gurus tout fish left and right as excellent sources of protein and those notoriously heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. But they’re not the only creatures under the sea that make for a healthful meal. Shellfish also are an excellent source of protein, as well as many vitamins and minerals critical to healthy function and development.
With about 125 calories per 4-ounce serving, shrimp are a little less diet-friendly than some of their seafaring counterparts. However, they boast extremely high amounts of selenium, an antioxidant that can improve cardiovascular health, and Vitamin B12, which does everything from regulate the nervous system to protect against cancer to promote healthy cell reproduction.
Like many other fish, shrimp contain heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. But at 220 mg of cholesterol per serving, shrimp should be consumed in moderation, since the American Heart Association recommends no more than 300 mg of cholesterol per day for most people.
Similar to shrimp, scallops contain about 120 calories per 4-ounce serving and are high in Vitamin B12, selenium and protein. But these round, fleshy shellfish score much lower on cholesterol intake at just 40 mg per serving. Scallops offer solid amounts of phosphorous and magnesium, which help strengthen bones and teeth, as well as potassium, which improves cell and cardiovascular health.
Lobsters contain the vitamins and antioxidants common in many other types of shellfish, and are a healthy option at only 100 calories per 4-ounce serving. In addition, they are a good source of zinc, which helps maintain a healthy immune system. But with almost 170 mg of cholesterol per serving — not to mention the butter often consumed with this ocean delicacy — lobster could negatively affect heart health if eaten in excess.
For healthy eating, look no further than the crab. With about 90 calories and only 60 mg of cholesterol per 4-ounce serving, it easily outperforms many of its fellow crustaceans. Crab contains good amounts of selenium, Vitamin B12 and protein, important components of a healthy diet. However, its high concentration of sodium means it should be eaten in moderation.