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The dreaded “C” word is probably your first nutritional worry with seafood, but cholesterol levels in crustaceans like crab are actually fairly nominal, says Vidya G. Bhat, a dietitian from Nutrition Network Services. “Cholesterol levels in crab are higher than red meat, but lower than eggs,” she says. “Seafood also contains protective polyunsaturated fats that can cause the liver to produce more HDL (good) cholesterol.” What’s more, the jury is still out about the impact of food on cholesterol levels in our body, says Bhat. Why? Our liver usually manufactures about 85 per cent of cholesterol in our bodies and US studies have even shown that consuming seafood once or twice a week does not raise cholesterol levels, and might actually help in preventing heart disease. “There is less cholesterol in crab than squid,” says Teo Kiok Seng, another nutritionist from Nutrition Network services.
Those lovely white crab sticks you see in sushi rolls and yong tau foo stalls are actually made from fish with white flesh such as pollock or hake, says Valerie Tan, a dietitian from the Dietetic and Food Services at Changi General Hospital. “Crab sticks are made with various texturising ingredients, flavourings and colourants,” says Bhat. This means that it’s a processed food that’s potentially very high in sodium as well as preservatives, though it’s usually lower in cholesterol compared to real crabmeat, according to Bhat.
Dig It Up
So you’ve ordered a 1kg crab all for yourself – but you’re actually only going to chomp on 100-150g of crabmeat at best. “Most crabs display a meat yield of 10-15 per cent of their body weight,” says Tan. So unless you slurp up all the gravy or eat crab five times a week, you really aren’t committing a drastic nutritional sin. According to the Health Promotion Board, a 100g portion of chilli crab gives you 11g of protein, 9g of fat, 536mg of sodium and 147mg of cholesterol – much less than a plate of chicken rice (25g protein, 23g fat, 47mg cholesterol, 1,287mg sodium). If you’ve got a taste for the black pepper variety, do take note that it features a higher level of sodium than chilli crab. Also, even though crab may be a good source of protein, phosphorus, zinc, copper, calcium and iron, Tan advises crustacean fans to remember to consume the dish in moderation.