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Is Crab Meat Healthy?

author image Melodie Anne
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.
Is Crab Meat Healthy?
A cooked snow crab next to a butter sauce. Photo Credit: alisafarov/iStock/Getty Images

Plain steamed crab meat is one of the healthiest foods you can eat. For a minimal amount of calories, you get lots of protein, a multitude of minerals and several B vitamins. You may want to select certain types of crab or keep your serving size small if you are at risk of developing heart disease, though. Some types of crab have more cholesterol or sodium than others.

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Lean and Low in Calories

Crab meat is incredibly low in calories, and almost all of the calories come from protein. Blue crab meat offers just 70 calories from a 3-ounce cooked portion. If you prefer Alaska king crab, the same amount has around 80 calories, while a 3-ounce portion of Dungeness crab contains nearly 95 calories. Roughly 80 percent to 85 percent of those calories are from protein. The final percentage of calories are from fat and a small amount from carbohydrates. Avoid all that butter or cream sauce to keep your calories and fat to a minimum. Just 1 tablespoon of melted butter adds another 100 calories, almost all of which is from fat, particularly saturated fat.

The Cholesterol Concern

Some consumers may worry about crab meat's cholesterol content. You should have a maximum of 300 milligrams of cholesterol each day or 200 milligrams at the most if your blood cholesterol is already high, states "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010." A 3-ounce serving of steamed blue crab has over 80 milligrams, and the same amount of Dungeness crab contains around 65 milligrams of cholesterol. You’ll get just 45 milligrams of cholesterol from a 3-ounce cooked portion of Alaska king crab.

Saturated Fat Consideration

While too much cholesterol in your diet can slightly raise your low-density lipoprotein, dietary cholesterol alone doesn’t always have that effect. Usually your harmful LDL cholesterol goes up when you have a lot of saturated fat in your diet, in addition to excessive cholesterol. Less than 10 percent of your calories, or 7 percent for optimal heart health, should come from saturated fat, as reported in "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010." Based on 2,000 calories daily, that’s a maximum of either 22 grams or 15 grams. So while crab meat is slightly high as far as cholesterol content, it doesn’t have much saturated fat. Three ounces of most varieties of steamed crab offer less than 0.2 gram of saturated fat.

Tips for Sodium Intake

Because crabs come from the salty sea, they do have sodium. If your blood pressure is high, you might want to limit your intake of Alaska king crab. It has over 910 milligrams of sodium in 3 ounces. If you shake on a few dashes of salt, around 1/8 teaspoon, you’ll pack on another 300 milligrams of sodium. That’s over half of the 2,300 milligrams you can have if you’re healthy; if you have hypertension, you need to limit yourself to 1,500 milligrams daily, suggests the American Heart Association. In this case, salting a portion of Alaska king crab uses up over 80 percent of your sodium allowance. Consider opting for blue or Dungeness crab meat, which each have under 340 milligrams of sodium. Skip the extra salt and season it with fresh, cracked pepper or chopped herbs instead.

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