Prawns are a popular type of shellfish, as delicious in a curry as they are in paella and lots more dishes.
Prawns are currently suffering from a bit of a bad reputation because of their high cholesterol content1 . However, it’s likely the cholesterol in prawns is the good HDL cholesterol, which helps the body lower the bad LDL cholesterol2.
What are prawns?
Prawns are a type of shellfish found in fresh and saltwater all over the world. A wide variety of world cuisines include prawns. International dishes include Swedish skagenröra (prawns on toast) and Chinese dàzhǔ gānsī (a soup of tofu, chicken, prawns, ham, and bamboo – a favourite of the 6th Qing Emperor3). In the United States, prawns are called “shrimp”.
What are prawns good for?
Prawns are associated with a range of health benefits, including:
Lower cholesterol. Adults who ate prawns every day had less bad cholesterol and more good cholesterol than their counterparts who didn’t4.
Antioxidant ability. Prawns become pink once cooked because of the astaxanthin compound, which is derived from the algae that prawns love to eat. Astaxanthin is an antioxidant, which may reduce the risk of certain age-related diseases in adults who regularly consume it6.
The nutritional profile of prawns
An average, 113g portion of prawns contains7:
- 103% of daily selenium. Selenium helps contribute towards normal spermatogenesis and the immune system function8.
- 78% of daily vitamin B12, which can help maintain a healthy nervous system9.
- 52% of daily protein, which contributes towards maintenance and growth of muscle mass10.
- 50% of phosphorus, which supports bone and teeth health11.
How to cook prawns
Prawns are grey when they are raw, and turn a pink colour when cooked.
The best way to cook prawns to preserve their nutrient content and texture is to quickly pan or wok fry them.
To cook prawns:
- Heat a pan or wok on medium-high heat, with neutral oil or butter.
- Once the oil is heated, place the prawns in the pan and stir quickly.
- After around five minutes, the prawns will become pink and are ready to eat.
- Scatter over garlic and parsley, or other herbs and spices that suit your preference.
Who should avoid prawns
People who are allergic to shellfish should avoid prawns. Symptoms of a shellfish allergy include a tickly throat, cough, itchy or swollen tongue, or nausea after eating. In rare instances, people with severe shellfish allergies can experience anaphylactic shock after eating prawns12.
Last updated: 21st January 2021
Author: Bhupesh Panchal, Regulatory Affairs
Bhupesh started his career as a clinical toxicologist for Public Health England, advising healthcare professionals all around the country on how to manage clinical cases of adverse exposure to supplements, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, industrial chemicals and agricultural products. After 7 years in this role and a further year working as a drug safety officer in the pharmaceutical industry, Bhupesh joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.
In his spare time, Bhupesh likes to cycle and has been learning to speak Korean for several years.