Eating shrimp as part of a balanced diet can offer a person several key nutrients, and it may be good for their heart and cardiovascular health.
Doctors previously recommended against eating shrimp as part of a heart-healthy diet, citing the high levels of cholesterol it contains.
Even for people with high cholesterol, the advantages of eating shrimp appear to outweigh the disadvantages.
Learn more about the benefits of eating shrimp in this article.
The United States Department of Agriculture note that 100 grams (g) of shrimp contains 189 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol.
The 2015–2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest eating as little dietary cholesterol as possible. They do not recommend a specific amount, but they do say that a person who follows a healthful eating pattern will consume around 100–300 mg of cholesterol per day.
In the past, doctors thought that all cholesterol was bad for health. However, experts now believe that high density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good,” cholesterol may balance out the negative impact of low density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad,” cholesterol, resulting in a healthful balance.
In other words, “good” HDL cholesterol may help reduce the risk of heart disease, which LDL cholesterol increases.
In 1996, a group of scientists found that eating shrimp increased the levels of LDL cholesterol, but that levels of HDL cholesterol also rose. They suggested that shrimp might support heart health rather than making it worse.
Foods high in saturated and trans fats can also increase LDL cholesterol levels. However, 100 g of shrimp contains less than 0.3 g of fat, and most of this is unsaturated. In other words, the fat content of shrimp is unlikely to increase levels of LDL cholesterol.
In one 2018 study, researchers noted that most foods that are high in cholesterol are also high in saturated fat. Shrimp and egg yolk are exceptions. Both are low in saturated fat but high in other nutrients. The authors suggest that shrimp and egg are healthful foods that will not increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
The American Heart Association (AHA) even list shrimp as a food that can lower cholesterol levels — as long as people do not fry it.
This article provides some tips on lowering cholesterol levels.
Eating shrimp may not increase cholesterol levels, but people should consider a number of factors when including it in the diet. The following sections detail these factors.
Although shrimp may be heart-healthy, some cooking methods may not be.
To ensure that shrimp is as heart-healthy and low in cholesterol as possible, a person can:
- bake it, boil it, grill it, or cook it with little to no oil
- season it with spices, garlic, and herbs
- add lemon juice to it
They should try not to:
- fry or sauté it in butter or oil
- serve it in a creamy or buttery sauce
- add unnecessary salt when cooking and eating it
- serve it with over processed carbohydrates, such as white pasta
At the store, people should always check the packaging or ask the seafood department where the shrimp came from. Shrimp can pick up contamination from pollution in the sea and as a result of unregulated shrimp farming practices.
However, even the information on the label cannot guarantee that shrimp is safe. Both farmed and wild-caught shrimp run a risk of containing pollutants.
Products with labels saying “sustainably farmed” or “MSC certified” usually indicate better choices. MSC stands for the Marine Stewardship Council.
Mercury is a particular concern with some types of seafood. However, according to the AHA, the mercury content in shrimp is likely to be low.
Storage and cooking
People should try to only buy shrimp from reliable sources, as improper storage can increase the risk of food poisoning.
It is important to keep shrimp cold. In a refrigerator, store fish at 40°F or colder for up to 2–3 days. Keep it in the coldest part of the fridge. To store for longer than 2 days, put it in a plastic box and freeze it. Do not let store-bought frozen shrimp defrost.
After cooking, cool the shrimp quickly and put it back in the fridge within 2 hours.
Also, be sure to prepare and cook it properly. Bacteria proliferate at 40–140°F, so people should remove shrimp from the fridge and cook it at once until the flesh becomes opaque. The inside needs to reach a temperature of 145°F to cook.
Some people may have an allergic reaction to shrimp. Shrimp are shellfish, so people with a shellfish allergy should avoid them.
People with shellfish allergies should also avoid anything that may have come into contact with shrimp, including any foods prepared with the same utensils.
Signs of an allergic reaction include:
- hives or a rash
- difficulty breathing
If a person has any of these symptoms, they need immediate medical attention, as they may be experiencing anaphylaxis. This is a severe allergic reaction that can quickly become life threatening.
In this article, learn how to recognize anaphylaxis and what to do if it occurs.
Overfishing has led to many types of marine life becoming endangered. For those concerned with eating sustainable shrimp, Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafoodwatch.org provides this page to help a person choose wisely.
Shrimp offers a variety of nutrients. Apart from cholesterol, 100 g of cooked shrimp provides the following nutrients:
- 99 kilocalories of energy
- 24 g of protein
- 0.3 g of fat
- 0.2 g of carbohydrate
- 70 mg of calcium
- 0.5 mg of iron
- 39 mg of magnesium
- 237 mg of phosphorus
- 259 mg of potassium
- 111 mg of sodium
- 1.64 mg of zinc
This means that shrimp is low in calories but high in protein and a variety of other essential minerals.
Other types of seafood, including crab and lobster, vary in their levels of cholesterol and other nutrients. These, too, may offer health benefits.
Crab meat is high in protein and low in fat and calories. Crab contains less cholesterol than shrimp, plus a range of vitamins.
Crab contains more sodium than shrimp, however. This may make it unsuitable for people with high blood pressure.
Lobster contains more cholesterol than shrimp. It is also low in calories and saturated fat but high in protein, omega-3, and selenium.
What are the other health benefits of lobster? Find out here.
Salmon is rich in healthful omega-3 oils.
It has a higher fat content than both lobster and shrimp but less cholesterol per serving than shrimp.
Salmon is also high in protein, and it provides B vitamins.
These boost energy and support metabolism and a healthy nervous system.
Oysters, clams, and mussels
Oysters, clams, and mussels are rich in nutrients such as iron, zinc, vitamin B-12, phosphorus, niacin, and selenium. Clams can lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol.
Doctors now consider shrimp safe for most people to eat, whatever their cholesterol levels. In moderation, shrimp consumption can provide many essential nutrients.
People who follow a strict diet set by a doctor or dietitian should ask their provider before consuming shrimp.
Those with a known seafood allergy should avoid shrimp altogether.
Is raw shrimp safe to eat in sashimi?
Few experts recommend eating shrimp raw, although with great care and attention, people can eat certain kinds of shrimp — such as sweet shrimp — raw.
When eating raw shrimp, make sure that the shrimp is very fresh and without any fishy smell. Also, make sure that it comes from a reliable source, and that people have handled it carefully. Most of the time, staff at sushi restaurants will boil shrimp.
Experts recommend that children, pregnant women, and people with a weakened immune system do not eat shrimp.Miho Hatanaka, RDN, LD Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.