By Dr. Victor S. Sierpina

When I mention shellfish, do you think of it as healthy?

Shrimping, one of our primary local industries, brings us lots of wonderful shellfish, which are high in protein, essential minerals and actually low in saturated fat and calories. Surprised?

Well, so was I as I looked into the health benefits of shellfish. By now, we all know about the health benefits and anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 fatty acids that come from cold-water seafood like salmon, tuna, halibut, sardines and herring.

Shellfish also contain significant levels of these healthy fats, though overcooking can reduce the levels.

Shellfish include lobsters, shrimp, oysters, scallops, clams, crabs, prawns, squid, octopus and mussels.

Shellfish are quite low in fat. Even shrimp and lobster have less than 1 gram of fat per serving, and very little of the fat they contain is saturated fat.

Of course you can load on unhealthy fats by frying and adding heavy toppings. Broiling, boiling, steaming or grilling are heart-healthy choices.

Shellfish also have other non-cholesterol sterols that reduce cholesterol absorption in the gut.

I discovered in my reading that even though shrimp is fairly high in cholesterol, it is not a saturated fat and is not absorbed in a way that raises cholesterol levels substantially.

Same for prawns. Moderation, of course, if you have high cholesterol levels or heart disease.

A couple of weeks ago, my wife, Michelle, brought home some inexpensive frozen mussels from the grocery store.

I had quit ordering them steamed as one of my favorite appetizers when we ate out.

Several restaurants presented me with some slightly stinky ones, somewhat past their prime date, and despite the wine, garlic and herb seasoning, could not conceal their overripe status.

So I thought I would try making some mussels on my own. Not only were they delicious, I spooned up or sopped up with all of the superb juices with some nice Moroccan olive bread.

Above is the recipe, which I adapted from “Mindful Eating,” by Jan Chozen Bays. This recipe was low in calories, fat and carbs.

It had only 140 calories, 2.5 fat grams and carbs, 9 grams; fiber, 1 gram; and protein, 2 grams; per serving. Another good part is that I picked all the herbs and tomatoes fresh from my own garden.

Serve the home-cooked mussels in bowls. And with a sauce this good, a big spoon and a bread of your choice will make sure you don’t let any of the tasty liquid go to waste.

Of course, if you do not want to cook, there are plenty of great seafood places in Galveston for any shellfish of your liking.

I am fond of Olympia Pier’s grilled octopus, Trattoria La Vigna and Mario’s 61st Street cold octopus salad and raw oysters when in season at any Landry’s establishment and of course at Clary’s.

Think healthy preparation, portion size and toppings to maximize your enjoyment and the benefits of shellfish.

Dr. Victor S. Sierpina is the WD and Laura Nell Nicholson Family Professor of Integrative Medicine and Professor of Family Medicine at UTMB.