The Truth About Cholesterol In Prawns
There seems to be a lot of controversy over cholesterol in prawns. Are they bad for you or good for you? First, you should understand that a prawn is not the same thing as a shrimp. In the United States, the word shrimp is commonly used while prawn is what you will here in the UK. Many people use the two words and assume that they are interchangeable however, this is not exactly true.
Some individuals believe that the difference in words refers to the size. Shrimps are smaller than prawns. Again, this is not entirely true. The actual difference is found in the structure of their gills. Shrimp have a lamellar gill structure while prawns have a branching structure. Shrimp have larger front pincers while prawns have their largest pincers as their second pair. It is important to be aware of this difference when following recipes because in some cases, the two should not be switched.
The Cholesterol Debate
Cholesterol in prawns has stirred up a bit of a debate in recent years and has caused quite a bit of confusion. Some people believe that individuals with high cholesterol need to stay clear of prawns as well as oysters and mussels. This is actually not true.
Although prawns have high flesh cholesterol, it does not raise the cholesterol levels in your body. In fact, cholesterol in prawns can actually lower our own personal levels. Any cholesterol found in crustaceans is absorbed poorly anyway and since they are low in fat, so they have an advantage. The cholesterol that you really need to avoid is that which is found in animals fats and processed food such as margarine.
Healthy levels of cholesterol are important for brain health and your overall well-being. If you have a healthy liver, it will make whatever you are lacking in your body. If you completely eliminate all cholesterol from your diet, your liver has to work extra hard to balance this out.
Nutritional Value Of Prawns
Prawns are low in fat and high in protein which allows them to fit into anyone's diet. Although cholesterol in prawns is high, they are extremely low in saturated fat. This is why they do not raise your personal cholesterol levels when you eat them.
Prawns also are very high in omega-3 fatty acids which prevents against circulatory diseases, heart disease and other illnesses. They are also high in vitamin B12, iodine, zinc, potassium, phosphorus, iron, selenium, magnesium and calcium.
Buying Fresh Prawns
Whenever possible, try to purchase prawns that you know are fresh. Many markets are selling prawns that have been previously frozen and then thawed out to sell. A dead giveaway will be if they are being stored or displayed on ice.
Frozen raw prawns are not a bad option since freezing does not really alter the flavor. What you do want to avoid are prawns that have been already shelled and cooked and then frozen. These are usually tasteless and a total waste of money.
It is recommended to buy prawns and cook them still in their shells. This ensures that most of the moisture and flavor is retained. When purchasing fresh prawns, follow these guidelines:
- The shells must be glossy and firm, never slippery or broken.
- The shells or head should not be discolored. This indicates that the prawns are going bad.
- Always avoid prawns that smell like ammonia. Fresh prawns should smell salty and fresh.
- The eyes need to be shiny and prominent. Avoid prawns that have eyes missing or those that are shrunken inward.
Storing Fresh Prawns
Immediately after purchasing, prawns must be refrigerated. This is a rule for all seafood. While they can be stored for up to three days, it is always recommended to cook them the day they are purchased. Ideally, you should store them on a bowl of ice in the bottom of your fridge since this is the coldest area.
They can be stored in an airtight container or their original package but always allow them to remain in their shell.