Crustaceans and their health benefits 

Published 11:52 am Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Let’s continue our series on food from the sea, with the second classification of shellfish, the crustacean. 

Crustaceans commonly include crab, lobster, prawns and shrimp, with their freshwater counterpart being the crayfish. 

Crustaceans are a very rich source of amino acids, the chemical building blocks of protein. Our bodies utilize proteins to build and repair muscle, and to make hormones and enzymes. Protein also helps red blood cells carry oxygen to all parts of the body, as it is one of the main components of hemoglobin. 

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Crab and lobster are both excellent sources of dietary zinc. Zinc is the second most abundant trace mineral in the human body, after iron. This mineral is essential for many of the body’s functions and systems, including wound healing, immune system response, proper blood clotting, thyroid function, and the senses of taste and smell. By the way, we’re not too far off from cold and flu season, and viruses don’t like zinc. One way zinc reduces the severity and duration of viral infections is by competing for receptor sights so viruses can’t take hold and infect cells.

Chitin, an animal fiber found within the shells of crustaceans, not only is an excellent source of insoluble fiber, but also has other potential health benefits. This fiber is often used to manage blood  cholesterol levels, to help the gastrointestinal tract function smoothly and to promote the growth of beneficial intestinal bacteria, and can even assist in weight loss. 

Glucosamine is a natural compound found in crustaceans, particularly shrimp, crab and lobster. It assists joints by increasing the cartilage and synovial fluid surrounding them. 

All shellfish are good sources of vitamin B12, but certain crustaceans like crab and lobster provide higher levels. This vitamin is required by humans and animals for red blood cell formation, cell metabolism, nerve function and the production of DNA. It also gives the body the tools it needs to convert food molecules into energy. 

Think all blood is red? Think again. The reason human blood is red is that hemoglobin, the iron-rich glue that helps transport oxygen throughout the body, has an iron component. When iron reacts to oxygen, it becomes red. Some crustaceans, like the horseshoe crab, have blue blood because it contains a copper-based respiratory pigment called hemocyanin. Horseshoe crabs aren’t true crabs at all, but are more closely related to spiders and other arachnids. They’ve also existed nearly unchanged for at least 445 million years, well before dinosaurs existed. 

Think the term “shrimp” always denotes individuals that are weak? Meet the pistol shrimp, one of my favorite creatures! This guy might be petite, but he sure packs a wallop. 

You see, the pistol shrimp has a specialized claw that it cocks, somewhat like the hammer of a gun. When it clamps down, the claw slams shut with such force, and so fast, that it fires a tiny air bubble at 60 miles per hour to stun its prey. When that bubble pops, it generates heat that reaches 8,000 degrees. That little bubble is loud, too. When it bursts, the sound it emits is that of 210 decibels. For comparison, a vacuum cleaner is 78 dB, a hammer drill is about 114 dB and a military jet aircraft take-off from an aircraft carrier with afterburner at 50 ft. is at 130 dB.

David Crocker is a nutritionist and master personal trainer. Questions? Email David at or text to 864-494-6215.