Eating Shrimp: What Are The Benefits And Risks?

Shrimp, which falls under the category of shellfish, is considered to be the most widely served seafood in the United States. The popularity can be attributed to a number of factors from the taste to the versatility.

Notably, they are low in calories as well as fat, particularly saturated fat which is the dangerous kind. Estimates would say a 3-ounce serving of cooked shrimp is estimated to contain 100 calories and 1.4 grams of total fat.

The same serving also provides close to 20 grams of protein, which makes up a majority of its calorie content. Other nutrients found in shrimp include selenium, iron, iodine, phosphorus, niacin, zinc, and magnesium, according to Robin Danowski, an assistant professor of nutrition at La Salle University.

The aforementioned nutrients are tied to a range of benefits such as increasing energy levels, reducing inflammation, boosting immune system function, improving thyroid health, and reducing the risk of several chronic diseases. 

So far, so good — but the crustacean has its fair share of downsides to watch out for. For one, shrimp should be avoided by those who suffer from a shellfish allergy, which is one of the top allergies in the United States

You may be exposed to contaminants when consuming farmed shrimp as they come from farms that overuse antibiotics and other chemicals. To ensure safety, use Seafood Watch as a resource to find your best options and stick to purchasing shrimp that feature these trustworthy labels. Taking these steps is important both for your health as well as the environment.

Moving onto heart health, we know that two servings of seafood per week are recommended by the American Heart Association. Though there are concerns about mercury intake, you do not have to worry about shrimp as it is among the seafood varieties that are low in mercury.

However, guidelines from the association also say that one should not consume more than 300 milligrams of dietary cholesterol per day. Shrimp happens to be quite high in cholesterol as a 3-ounce serving contains nearly 180 milligrams.

On the days you choose to eat shrimp, you should adjust the rest of your meals so you do not go over the daily cholesterol limit. Furthermore, experts note that saturated fat — which, as mentioned before, is low in shrimp — is what influences the risk of heart problems.

"It’s really saturated fat, not dietary cholesterol that is more strongly linked to cardiovascular risk," noted Amy Keating, a Consumer Reports dietitian. 

Keating also emphasized how the method of cooking the shrimp can make a big difference. "Avoid pan frying or deep frying your shrimp, which can add fats. The healthiest option is to grill or steam them," she added.