By: Michelle Benoit, RDN, LDN, NCTTP
Crawfish season is upon us, which means that we will likely be partaking in a crawfish boil with friends and family. For people in south Louisiana, crawfish boils are not only about the food, but the fellowship that comes with it. But what effect might crawfish have on your heart?
When it comes to whether or not a crawfish boil is heart-healthy, the crawfish alone are not necessarily the issue. Crawfish actually have some health benefits. They are low in calories, a good source of protein, and provide many essential vitamins and minerals.
- A serving of crawfish, which is about 3 ounces of peeled crawfish tails, is only 70 calories.
- Not only are crawfish low in total fat, providing about 1 gram per serving in the form of unsaturated fat, they contain zero saturated fat.
- There are 14 grams of protein in a 3 ounce serving of crawfish.
- They contain a high proportion of omega-3 fatty acids.
- They are high in B vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, iron, zinc, phosphorous, and niacin.
The drawback comes with preparation and portion. Deep frying or preparing crawfish in rich sauces adds extra calories and unhealthy fat. At a crawfish boil, the average person eats 3 pounds of boiled crawfish, which equates to 6-8 ounces of crawfish tails. This amount could provide 232 milligrams of cholesterol, and the American Heart Association recommends no more than 300 milligrams per day. At a crawfish boil, your “plate” is actually a tray. This makes it difficult to identify portions, as well as stick to a healthy portion size.
But the unhealthiest part of the boil is the sodium. For those with high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease, the recommended amount of sodium per day is 1500-2000 mg. This can be far exceeded in a single serving of boiled crawfish and vegetables depending on the seasonings used. Too much sodium intake will cause fluid retention, which can cause stress on blood vessels and the heart.
When it comes to making healthy choices at crawfish boil, there are a few things you can do to still enjoy this Southern tradition.
- Be mindful of your portion sizes.
- Use low-sodium boil seasoning blends or your favorite salt-free herbs and spices.
- Include extra non-starchy vegetables like onion, garlic, mushrooms, green beans, bell peppers, carrots, artichoke and brussels sprouts to make it a more well-rounded meal.
- Drink plenty of water and limit alcohol intake.
These things will help you to still enjoy crawfish without sacrificing your health. Happy crawfish season!