When it comes to healthy eating, the underwater world is your oyster. Shellfish is rich in protein and low in

When it comes to healthy eating, the underwater world is your oyster. Shellfish is rich in protein and low in calories. Shrimp and lobster are almost completely devoid of saturated fat, and they’re good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. These are the same heart-smart fats found in fatty fish and renowned for their ability to reduce the risk of heart disease, a goal that’s at the top of the list for anyone with diabetes. It’s true these crustaceans are relatively high in cholesterol, but it’s saturated fat, more than dietary cholesterol, that raises levels of cholesterol in the body. An average serving of shellfish has about one-third the cholesterol found in one egg, so moderate consumption generally isn’t a problem. In fact, shellfish helps protect against heart disease.

Lobster, the upper crust of the crustacean world, happens to be a particularly rich source of a littleknown mineral called vanadium, which some studies suggest may enhance insulin’s effect in the body, helping to keep an anchor on blood sugar. (In human studies at Harvard’s Joslin Diabetes Center, vanadium improved insulin sensitivity and lowered cholesterol, too. In another study, at Temple University in Philadelphia, vanadium supplements were shown to lower blood sugar.)

Despite how rich it tastes, lobster is one of the lowest-fat shellfish as long as you don’t plunge it into a pool of melted butter. It’s lower in fat than beef, pork, and even chicken.

Health Bonus
Most shellfish are rich in copper and zinc, both important for your immune system to function at its peak. They also pack an astounding amount of vitamin B12, which may help ward off depression, heart disease, and even Alzheimer’s. And they’re super sources of selenium, an anti-cancer mineral.

Clams are stuffed (pun intended) with sterols, the cholesterol-lowering compounds we’ve mentioned elsewhere.

Glycemic Load: Very low
Clams, oysters, mussels, and scallops should be alive when you buy them. That means the shells will be tightly closed or should close when you tap them. You can store them in the fridge in a container covered loosely with a damp cloth, but don’t store them in water. The shells will open during cooking (discard any that don’t). Steam for 4 to 9 minutes or boil for 3 to 5 minutes after the shells open.

Eating shellfish raw (think oysters on the half shell) or less than well done is risky business. They may harbor bacteria, viruses, and parasites, all of which are killed by cooking.

Many large supermarkets now carry large bags of frozen shrimp, so stock your freezer. Thaw them according to package directions, and you have the makings of a fast, high-protein meal. Think shrimp stir-fry.

Menu Magic
Keep it simple. Too often, shellfish are topped off with butter or creamy sauce or dipped in bread crumbs and fried. A generous squeeze of lemon juice (another Magic food) will usually suffice, especially if you don’t overcook the shellfish; overcooking makes them dry.

  • Serve boiled shrimp with cocktail sauce as a health-smart party appetizer.
  • Use shrimp in stir-fries instead of chicken or beef. Add them in the last 5 minutes to avoid overcooking.
  • Add cooked shrimp, clams, or mussels to your favorite pasta sauce.
  • Chop some cooked shrimp and sprinkle over a green salad to add low-fat protein. Use a lemony dressing.
  • Make crab salad by mixing lump crabmeat (canned is fine) with vinaigrette dressing. Serve over greens.
  • Top pizza with minced cooked clams.
  • Toss some shrimp, scallops if you have them, and even fish chunks with olive oil and lemon juice, skewer them, pop them on the grill, and you’re ready to eat in 5 minutes.
  • Place a cooked medium shrimp, some small chunks of avocado and tomato, and a bit of salsa onto a lettuce leaf. Roll it up and eat!
  • Put together shrimp tacos by combining shrimp, lettuce, tomato, a bit of shredded cheese, and green salsa in a corn taco shell.
  • Order steamed clams as an appetizer.
  • Instead of creamy, high-fat clam sauce like you’d get at a restaurant, make linguini with clams using canned clams (minced), garlic, olive oil, chopped hot peppers, and chopped tomatoes.
  • Perfect Portion: 3 ounces (85 g)
    If this is your main meal of the day, up to 6 ounces (170 g) is an appropriate serving.

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    Originally Published in Reader's Digest