Crab: Are There Health Benefits?

Delightfully salty with a slight hint of mineral sweetness, crab delivers all the appeal of seafood without the fishy aftertaste that some people prefer to avoid. Available in varieties such as Dungeness and Alaskan King, this crustacean is caught and enjoyed all around the world. 

Historians believe that crab was one of the earliest foods enjoyed by coastal populations. Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of crab and other edible marine animals along the Eritrean coast. Additional archaeological discoveries from the Chesapeake Bay area suggest that crab was also among the most popular foods for Native Americans and early colonists.

Today, crab is regarded as a plentiful source of easily caught meat in some areas and as a delicacy in others. China is the world's largest exporter of crab while the United States imports and consumes the most. 

Nutrition Information

Crab meat has many of the same nutrients as other popular types of seafood but with lower levels of mercury than marlin, swordfish, grouper, and tuna.

Crab is rich in:

A 1-cup serving of cooked crab contains:

  •  97 calories
  •  21 grams of protein
  •  Less than 1 gram of fat
  •  0 grams of carbohydrates
  •  0 grams of fiber
  •  0 grams of sugar

Potential Health Benefits of Crab

Crab is packed with protein, which is important for building and maintaining muscle. Crab also contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, and selenium. These nutrients play vital roles in improving general health while helping prevent a variety of chronic conditions.

It can help:

Improve heart health. The omega-3 fatty acids in crab provide many benefits related to heart health. These important nutrients may help lower triglycerides, reduce blood clotting, and make it less likely that you'll develop an irregular heartbeat.

Prevent anemia. Many of the nutrients found in crab, including vitamin B12 and folate, help reduce the risk of vitamin deficiency anemia. People with vitamin deficiency anemia do not have enough healthy red blood cells and may experience fatigue or weakness as a result.

Keep your brain strong. Research suggests that people who eat seafood, such as crab, at least once per week have a reduced risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. This protection may stem from the high levels of omega-3 fatty acids found in seafood products.

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Potential Risks of Crab

Crab may be lower in mercury than many other kinds of seafood, but it can still be a concern depending on how it is caught and prepared. Brown crab meat can also have high levels of cadmium, which is toxic if you take in too much.

Crab also has a good bit of sodium (237 milligrams in a 3-ounce portion).

Healthy Alternatives

If you're hungry for seafood, but want a little less sodium, great choices include:

  • Salmon
  • Flounder
  • Raw clams
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on December 21, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Environmental Monitoring and Assessment: "Cadmium in the Shore Crab Carcinus Maenas Along the Norwegian Coast: Geographical and Seasonal Variation and Correlation to Physiological Parameters."

JAMA: "Fish Consumption, Brain Mercury, and Neuropathology in Patients With Alzheimer Disease and Dementia."

Mayo Clinic: "Omega-3 in Fish—How Eating Fish Helps Your Heart," "Vitamin Deficiency Anemia."

 Nature: "Early Human Occupation of the Red Sea Coast of Eritrea During the Last Interglacial." 

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