Are prawns good for you?
Learn about the nutritional benefits of these shellfish, packed with protein, vitamins and minerals, plus our favourite healthy recipe ideas.
What are prawns?
Prawn is the common name for a small aquatic crustacean, also known as ‘shrimp’. They have a thin exoskeleton, which is generally removed before eating, and their bodies are divided into three segments – the head, the thorax and the abdomen.
Prawns can be found in fresh and saltwater, as well as farmed varieties, and can be found in varying sizes too. There are thousands of different varieties of prawns, but in the UK you will most likely see tiger, king or North Atlantic prawns.
When raw, they are a blue-grey or transparent colour which then turns pink when cooked.
Nutritional profile of prawns
100g cooked prawns has 70 calories. They are made up of 84 per cent water, with around 15g protein and less than 1g fat, of which is pretty evenly split between saturated and unsaturated fat. There is negligible carbohydrate in prawns because it's an animal protein.
Prawns also have a good nutritional profile with an array of vitamins and minerals, including a lot of the B vitamins which we need for energy and to help support the nervous system. They also contain some calcium and iron, which are both involved in healthy blood formation and clotting, as well as being a good source of selenium which is important to support the immune system and reproduction, as well as thyroid health.
Do prawns contain cholesterol?
Yes, prawns naturally contain cholesterol but are also low in saturated fat which means that eating prawns is unlikely to raise ‘bad’ or LDL cholesterol.
There was a very small 2010 study which took 23 healthy men and gave them either 225g of cold water prawns or an equivalent weight of fish as a control for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, it was concluded that eating cold water prawns had no significant effect on LDL cholesterol in both concentration and density.
The British Heart Foundation recommends enjoying shellfish, including prawns, as part of a balanced diet.
Can you be allergic to prawns?
Yes – prawns and shellfish are common allergens. Speak to your GP if you experience any concerning symptoms, such as a tickly throat or cough, sneezing or an itchy tongue after consuming prawns.
Less commonly, a severe allergic reaction can occur, known as anaphylaxis. This is a medical emergency and requires immediate attention.
Visit the NHS website to read more about allergies.
How to select and store prawns
You can buy prawns fresh or frozen in the UK. The latter will have been frozen as soon as they're caught to preserve their freshness. They must be defrosted thoroughly before cooking – do not refreeze them once they are thawed.
If you're buying fresh prawns they should smell fresh with little or no ‘fishy’ smell. Avoid any prawns with dry or cracked shells, or, if you're buying them raw and peeled, they should have a blue-grey colour and turn pink once cooked.
Healthy prawn recipes
This page was published on 2nd March 2020.
Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.
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