Doctors previously recommended against eating shrimp as part of a heart-healthy diet, citing the high levels of cholesterol.
However, after years of research and better understanding of what contributes to heart disease and higher cholesterol, scientists now consider eating shrimp to be an excellent addition to a well-rounded diet.
Is shrimp high in cholesterol?
Shrimp may be eaten as part of a balanced diet, and the way it is prepared is key to its effect on cholesterol.
One serving of shrimp contains 189 milligrams of cholesterol, which translates to roughly 60 percent of the total recommended amount of cholesterol per day.
This high level of cholesterol was the reason why doctors used to believe that shrimp was bad for heart health.
It was thought that shrimp would increase levels of LDL, or "bad cholesterol" in people, but it is now known that is not the case.
Shrimp can actually increase the levels of HDL, or "good cholesterol" thereby supporting heart health.
Are they safe to eat for people with high cholesterol?
Shrimp are now generally considered safe for people with high cholesterol to eat. They contain a number of useful nutrients.
Despite the higher cholesterol levels, shrimp contain minimal saturated fat and no trans fat. Both trans and saturated fat are considered factors to increasing bad cholesterol.
As part of a balanced diet, shrimp can be a good addition. People on a strict diet set by a doctor or dietitian should ask their provider before including shrimp.
Things to consider when eating shrimp
What is more damaging to cholesterol and a heart-healthy diet is not the shrimp so much as the way it is prepared.
Here are some general tips and suggestions for preparing shrimp to be as heart-healthy and low in cholesterol as possible:
- bake, boil, grill, or cook with little to no oil
- season with spices, garlic, and herbs
- add lemon juice
- fry, sauté in butter or oil
- serve in a creamy or buttery sauce
- add unnecessary salt when cooking and eating
- serve with over-processed carbohydrates such as white pasta
Check the bag, box, or with the seafood department as to where the shrimp were caught or raised. Shrimp from farms in other countries often have higher levels of pollutants because of the unregulated farming practices.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to tell whether or not the shrimp being sold comes from a safe farming practice or even if it was caught in the wild. Both farmed and wild-caught shrimp run a risk of containing pollutants, so look for the labels, "sustainably farmed" or "MSC-certified" that indicate better choices.
One last consideration for consuming shrimp is that it is a known allergen to some people. Shrimp are shellfish, so people allergic to shellfish should avoid eating them.
Shrimp are low in calories, high in protein, and a great source of selenium and B12.
Shrimp, like most seafood, offers a variety of nutrients that are recommended in any diet.
Some additional benefits of shrimp include:
- Excellent source of selenium, an antioxidant that helps reduce the free radicals often responsible for premature aging and disease.
- Great source of vitamin B12 that helps with red blood cell creation among other benefits.
- Good source of phosphorus that is essential for removing waste and repairing tissues and cells.
- Provides choline, copper, and iodine to the diet, which are all necessary to the body's functions.
- Also provides astaxanthin, an antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation and fight signs of aging.
Shrimp vs. other seafood
Seafood is getting a lot of praise lately from doctors and dietitians who recommend adding seafood regularly to a balanced diet. Shrimp, like a lot of shellfish and other food sources found in the sea, are high in cholesterol. This does not mean that they are necessarily dangerous for people to consume regularly, however.
Other popular seafood options may offer less cholesterol and similar health benefits. Here are a few other seafood sources and how they compare to shrimp.
Crab meat, like most seafood, is high in protein and is low in fat and calories. Crab contains less cholesterol and contains an assortment of vitamins.
However, unlike shrimp, crab is naturally higher in sodium levels. This makes it a bit of a challenge for people with high blood pressure.
One of the pricier alternatives to shrimp is lobster. This shellfish has a slightly higher level of cholesterol than shrimp. However, like shrimp, lobster is also low calorie, low in saturated fat, high in omega-3 and selenium, and has about 24 grams of protein in a single serving.
Although salmon may have a higher fat content than shrimp, it has less cholesterol per serving.
Salmon is rich in heart healthy omega-3. Salmon also has a higher fat content than either lobster or shrimp. Salmon has less cholesterol per serving than shrimp.
A serving of salmon is also high in protein and filled with B vitamins, which boost energy and support metabolism and a healthy nervous system.
Additionally, salmon is an excellent source of potassium and phosphorus, a nutrient that helps bone development. Potassium helps regulate the heart and blood pressure. For the most nutrients, look for wild salmon.
Oysters, clams, and mussels
This group of seafood is packed full of nutrients such as iron, zinc, B12, phosphorus, niacin, and selenium. Clams both boost good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol.
Though shrimp is high in cholesterol, it is still considered a good choice for anyone, even those concerned about their heart health.
People on strict diets should talk with their doctor before adding shrimp into their diets.
All people should consider the potential risks of purchasing farm-raised shrimp that may contain more pollutants than fresh-caught shrimp.
In moderation, shrimp consumption for the average person can add many nutrients essential to the human body.