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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, thorax and abdomen.
Prawns may be found in cold or warm waters and are also farmed. Cold water varieties tend to be smaller. There are thousands of different varieties of prawns, but in the UK, you are most likely to see tiger, king or North Atlantic prawns.
Discover our full range of health benefit guides and check out some of our delicious prawn recipes, from our prawn & pineapple salad to chilli prawns.
Nutritional profile of prawns
A 100g serving of cooked prawns provides:
• 70 kcal / 295 kj
• 15.4g protein
• 0.9g fat
• 1mg iron
• 1 mg zinc
• 30mcg selenium
• 13mcg iodine
• 1.47g salt
Top 5 health benefits of prawns
1. A useful source of vitamins
Prawns are a useful source of the B group of vitamins, including B12 and folate. These vitamins play an important role in energy production and replenishing red blood cells.
Prawns provide about 22 times the vitamin E levels of either chicken or beef. This fat-soluble vitamin acts as an antioxidant and may be protective against heart disease and cancer.
2. A source of important trace minerals
Prawns are a useful source of some harder-to-get trace minerals, such as iodine, zinc and selenium. We need iodine to support the correct function of the thyroid gland, while zinc and selenium support the immune system.
3. A source of protective antioxidants
Prawns have a pink hue thanks to a compound called astaxanthin, which is obtained through the algae that prawns eat. This compound has anti-inflammatory properties and may reduce the risk of some chronic diseases, such as heart disease and cancer, and be beneficial for skin health.
4. May support weight loss
Shellfish such as prawns is an excellent source of easily digestible, high-quality protein. It’s also low in calories and fat and may be a useful inclusion in a weight loss plan.
5. Constitutes one of the recommended two portions of seafood per week
A healthy, balanced diet should include at least two portions of fish or seafood per week, and one portion should be an oily variety of fish. Shellfish, like prawns, constitutes one of these recommended portions.
Are prawns safe for everyone?
Prawns naturally contain cholesterol, but are also low in saturated fat, which means that eating prawns is unlikely to raise the so-called ‘bad’ or LDL cholesterol. For this reason, The British Heart Foundation recommends enjoying shellfish, including prawns, as part of a balanced diet.
Prawns also contain relatively high levels of sodium when compared with white fish like cod, so if you follow a low-salt diet, you may wish to limit your intake.
Crustaceans like prawns are categorised as one of the 14 common allergens in the UK and as such must be declared on food labels. A severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis is a medical emergency and requires immediate attention. Speak to your GP if you suspect you may have an allergy.
Visit the NHS website to read more about allergies.
Don’t forget that shellfish that is not fresh or has not been stored or prepared appropriately may be a cause of food poisoning.
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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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