Friday, February 17, 2012

Steamers: Health Under The Waves!



As you probably all know by now, I'm a HUGE fan of seafood.  I would definitely consider myself more surf than turf, and for good reason.  Most fish and shellfish have more protein, more omega-3 fatty acids, and greater vitamin density than land meat counterparts.  "Steamers," or steamed clams, are no exception.  They are a fantastic diet choice for anyone looking for a large protein content with barely any saturated fat.  Those little shelled up tasty morsels are actually one of the best lean protein sources you can find, and your next trip to Red Lobster or Weathervane should definitely include them as an appetizer in your meal.

First, let's explore the background of the "steamer."  This name is a pretty common nickname for the soft shelled clam, which are harvested off the coast of New England and can usually be found being served in any little ocean town in that general area.  My favorite place for seafood?  Nothing beats the little family run crab-shacks of Maine, and I've had some of the best steamers EVER in a place called "Bob's Seafood," in a town called Windham, in the great state itself, of course.  Bottom line is, if you want great seafood, come to my home turf of New England.  You won't regret the trip.  Now, onto the health benefits of steamers:

Low Calorie:  Steamers are a very low calorie food, perfect for someone with a strict calorie count they're trying desperately to stick to.  How low calorie are they?  Well, 1 lb of littleneck steamers (in shell) are only about 55-70 calories.  That's LOW!  And if you like the bigger clams?  Well, you're still in for a low calorie treat.  Here's the nutritional sheet for 8 large clams, or 12 medium ones (again, steamers are generally much smaller):

Nutrition Facts
Amount Per Serving
Calories
137.6
Calories from Fat
16.2
Fat
1.8
g
3
%
Saturated Fat
0.17
g
1
%
Polyunsaturated Fat
0.52
g
Monounsaturated Fat
0.15
g
Cholesterol
63.2
mg
21
%
Sodium
708.2
mg
30
%
Potassium
525.6
mg
15
%
Carbohydrate
4.8
g
2
%
Dietary Fiber
0.0
g
0
%
Protein
23.7
g
47
%
Alcohol
0.0
g
Vitamin A
10
%
Calcium
9
%
Vitamin D
2
%
Thiamin
9
%
Niacin
15
%
Vitamin B6
5
%
Phosphorus
24
%
Selenium
65
%
Vitamin C
32
%
Iron
130
%
Vitamin E
4
%
Riboflavin
22
%
Vitamin B12
1,379
%
Manganese
0
%
Copper
27
%
Magnesium
4
%
Zinc
17
%

High Protein:  Well, as you can see by the nutritional facts above, steamers are an incredible source of lean protein.  It really varies depending on clam size, but for one serving of steamed clams you can easily get between 10-25 grams of high quality, lean as HECK protein.  That's awesome, especially if you're a regular gym rat and need to build those muscles back up BIGTIME.  They're also a very low carb food, so they'll work beautifully as a protein source on ketogenic diets as well.  

Fat Content:  Not only are steamers low in fat, but the little bit of fat they do have is completely healthy for you.  Like most other fish and shellfish, steamers are very rich in monounsaturated fat and the essential fatty acid Omega-3.  O3 is extremely heart healthy, and lowers bad cholesterol quite effectively when consumed regularly in your diet.  It's also a great anti-inflammatory, which is very important for optimal bloodflow and bodily repair.  With steamers, fat is your friend.



Mercury:  The mercury scare with seafood has been a pretty big deal these days, and has caused quite an uproar in the health community, leading to all sorts of recommendations like limiting seafood intake to once or twice a week.  While I don't buy into the hype quite as much as some, and there's good proof that this mercury problem is overstated, you still want to be careful if you consume seafood a LOT (like me...).  Too much mercury isn't a good thing, that's for sure.  The good news is that steamers, compared to most other seafood, are VERY low in mercury.  So crack open a few and rest easy while you chew, because steamers, and clams in general, are definitely considered a low mercury seafood.

Vitamins/Minerals:  Well, I've posted a complete vitamin and mineral profile of steamers above, but I'll restate a few of the obvious ones just for the sake of completion.  Steamers are EXTREMELY high in vitamin B12, providing over 1300% of the daily value in one serving!  Vitamin B12 is water soluble, and is critical to proper brain and nervous system function.  B12 is very difficult to synthesize, so getting B12 in natural foods is very important.  

Steamers are also high in vitamin C, providing about 30% of the daily value per serving.  They are also packed with selenium, and the metals iron and copper.  


There it is, a health profile for steamers, which might just be one of the tastiest low calorie high protein foods on the market.  If you get a chance, ORDER SOME, you won't be sorry.  Just watch out for the sodium content, it can get pretty high, especially if you're dipping each little morsel in brine.  Also, watch out for that other dipping sauce, the delicious yet fat and calorie packed melted butter.  Appreciate the steamer for its remarkably savory flavors, and skip the butter.  Trust me, you'll be fine, and feel a lot better about yourself.  

I'm off to get some of these little suckers tonight.  CAN'T WAIT!

Good Luck!



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