Prawns are a shrimp-like shellfish in the biological group of marine animals known as the decapods. Despite some anatomical differences between true shrimp and prawns, these closely related creatures are nearly identical from a nutritional perspective, due to similar feeding habits and body composition. Prawns are an excellent source of high-quality protein and several important vitamins and minerals that support your good health. Prawns are low in calories and contain no carbohydrates. Although the cholesterol content of prawns is significant, these shellfish also contain heart-healthy, omega-3 fatty acids.
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Prawns are a good source of complete protein, providing your body with all of the building blocks necessary for the production of new proteins. A 3-oz. serving of boiled or steamed prawns contains about 100 calories and more than 22 g of protein, roughly the same amount found in a comparable serving of beef or chicken. Your body requires dietary protein to support the ongoing function of every organ and tissue in your body. Dietary protein also serves as a backup source of fuel for energy production.
Dietary cholesterol and saturated fats are termed "bad" fats because of their association with atherosclerotic heart disease, a condition in which fat deposits obstruct the arteries that supply your heart with blood. Like other types of animal meats, prawns contain cholesterol; a 3-oz. serving of boiled or steamed prawns includes approximately 165 mg of cholesterol. This amount approaches the recommended 200 mg limit for daily cholesterol intake if you have preexisting heart disease or an elevated cholesterol level. Even if you have no health problems, a 3-oz. serving of prawns contains more than 50 percent of the recommended daily limit of 300 mg of cholesterol. The cholesterol content of prawns does not mean you should avoid this otherwise nutritious food. When you include prawns in your meal plan, limit the amount of cholesterol you consume in other foods that day.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are unsaturated fats that support your heart health by potentially reducing your blood triglyceride level. A high level of these blood fats often contributes to the development or worsening of atherosclerotic heart disease. A 3-oz. serving of steamed or boiled prawns provides you with approximately 0.6 g of omega-3 fatty acids.
Vitamins and Minerals
Prawns provide you with significant amounts of vitamins B-12, B-6 and niacin. These vitamins aid your body in producing energy, manufacturing red blood cells and maintaining normal nerve function. Prawns are rich in iron, a mineral your body requires to produce red blood cells and oxygen-carrying muscle proteins. Other important minerals in prawns include zinc, selenium, copper, magnesium and phosphorus. Zinc and selenium promote healthy functioning of your immune system. Magnesium, phosphorus and copper aid in numerous metabolic processes and help you maintain strong bones.
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- USDA Agricultural Research Service: What's in the Foods You Eat Search Tool
- "Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, 16th Edition"; Dennis L. Kasper, M.D., et al., Editors; 2004
- American Heart Association: Know Your Fats
- American Heart Association: Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Colorado State University Extension; Water-Soluble Vitamins; Jennifer Anderson, Ph.D., et al; August 2008