Blue crab, nutritional properties: protein and light
The “war” on the crustacean that is invading our seas is being fought at the table. With its nutritional properties it is suitable for feeding adults and children, but be careful about allergies
It is a threat to our seas, an avid predator of mussels and clams. The blue crab (Callinectes tasty) is causing millions of euros of damage to the economy of Italian marine areas with its uncontrolled reproduction. To save the invaded coasts (the many specimens are now addicted to mutual cannibalism) it was decided to bring it to the table and it is now possible to buy it at low prices in some fishmongers.
But what are the properties of this crustacean native to the Atlantic coasts of America? We asked doctor Francesco Francininutritionist, head of the Artificial Nutrition Operational Unit of the Padua Hospital.
Blue crab, a treasure chest of proteins and selenium with few calories
«Its meat – explains the specialist – has a composition similar to that of other crabs: it is a source of excellent foods proteins rich in essential amino acids with a very modest fat content and completely free of carbohydrates. Essential amino acids are called this because the human body is not able to synthesize them, so we need to take them from outside.”
In addition to being a food low in calories and light (reminiscent of the flavored lobster) could also help us fight aging. «Like the other inhabitants of the sea – adds Francini – he is rich in selenium. It is a trace element, an essential mineral for some antioxidant enzymes in our body, and is therefore a defense against free radicals. The blue crab is not irreplaceable in our diet, but it is a good alternative to other types of fish and meat that we can take advantage of today given the competitive prices.”
Blue crab: many properties but little pulp
«The blue crab is a good protein source on a qualitative level, but on a quantitative level in each crab there are a few grams of protein» clarifies the doctor.
In simple words, if we wanted to satisfy the protein needs necessary for the body in a day we would need to eat several blue crabs, because the pulp contained in each is minimal (the carapace is not edible), or in any case integrate with other protein sources. «If we wanted to compare them to a sea bream, we would need at least 10 to reach the same quantity».
The false myth of shellfish rich in cholesterol
«Crustaceans aren’t that rich in cholesterol, it’s a false myth”, the doctor makes clear. «In any case, dietary cholesterol is not harmful. The body carries out an endogenous synthesis of cholesterol: the liver takes care of producing it. If we take in more through food, the body automatically produces less.”
However, allergy sufferers must be careful when including blue crabs in their diet. «Crustaceans can be a source of direct allergies. Or cause other skin reactions, similar to urticaria, because they cause the release of histamine. Furthermore, like all sea creatures, if they live in contaminated waters they assimilate pollutants (arsenic, mercury, and so on) which could have toxic effects. The checks on the presence of the latter are the responsibility of the specific ASL services that verify the wholesomeness of food. However, generally the contaminants are deposited in the fatty matter and since crabs are marine beings poor in fat, unlike salmon or tuna, for example, they retain less.”
Blue crab, a natural disaster for our coasts
The crustacean is proving to be a threat to Italian fishing in the Po delta, but its presence is recorded throughout the peninsula, from Puglia to Abruzzo, from Lazio to Liguria, up to Sicily. The first reports in the Mediterranean (Ispra data) date back to 1949 but it is about ten years since the blue crab began to develop and spread on our coasts. In addition to destroying mussel and clam farms, the biodiversity, and the ecosystem, the blue crab ends up damaging the nets with its sharp claws, putting the survival of many businesses in the fishing sector at risk.
Therefore the fishermen and farmer chefs of Campagna Amica Coldiretti suggest fighting the invasion of the “sea killer” at the table by indulging in many recipes: from blue crab with rosemary to crab salad to spaghetti with garlic sautéed with crab. And there are already several Italian chefs who have tried their hand at blue crab, including it in their recipes.