Crawfish are good for you – but hold the salt

Elizabeth S. Reames, Benedict, Linda F.  |  3/12/2008 7:40:43 PM

News Release Distributed 03/07/08

Whether you like them fried, boiled or in a stew, crawfish are a Louisiana favorite. And for the next few months, crawfish can be found on dinner tables and in backyard boils across the state.

Crawfish not only taste great, they're good for you, according to LSU AgCenter nutritionist Beth Reames. Crawfish are an excellent source of high quality protein and low in calories, fat and saturated fat. They also are a good source of vitamin B12, niacin, iron, copper and selenium.

“Like with everything – too much of a good thing is not good,” Reames said. “Too much spicy, salted boiled crawfish and the accompaniments – corn, potatoes and onions – can lead to sodium overload and edema. Crawfish, corn, potatoes and onions are naturally low in sodium, but their sodium content increases after boiling in salted water.”

Reames said salt, which is sodium chloride and therefore contains sodium, is important in helping the body maintain normal cell function and a proper fluid balance. Too much salt, though, can lead to too much sodium in the blood, causing water retention and uncomfortable swelling of the hands, feet and sometimes abdomen.

“For healthy people, this is a temporary condition and the fluid will be excreted. In addition, any weight gain associated with the excess fluid accumulation – water weight – will disappear with fluid loss,” she said.

A serious problem related to too much salt is high blood pressure. High blood pressure increases the risk for heart disease and strokes. Approximately one third of people with high blood pressure in the United States are especially salt-sensitive.

“This means that if they eat too much salt, it will cause or worsen high blood pressure,” Reames said.

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the most recent, recommend eating no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, about the amount in one teaspoon of table salt. The average American adult consumes between 4,000 and 9,000 milligrams of sodium daily.

Reames recommends that while enjoying crawfish, be sure to munch on the fresh vegetable appetizers and follow with fruit for dessert. Fruits and veggies are high in potassium and help blunt the effects of salt on blood pressure and may reduce the risk of kidney stones.

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Contact: Beth Reames at (225) 578-1425, or breames@agcenter.lsu.edu

Writer: Linda Foster Benedict at (225) 578-2937, or lbenedict@agcenter.lsu.edu
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