Everyone is always going on about the benefits of omega 3s and heart-healthy, deep water ocean fish. But what about shrimp? Do they have nutritional benefits?
Yes, shrimp definitely have some nutritional benefits but, like many ocean fish, it is controversial. Unfortunately, we’ve messed with our oceans so much that now the previously healthful seafood coming out of it can often cause more harm than good. Fortunately, shrimp isn’t on the high mercury seafood list and is generally considered a safe ocean food.
However, the farming and catching practices of some shrimpers around the globe is questionable. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium site, domestic shrimp is your best bet if concern for sustainable fishing practices is important to you (as it should be). Although domestic shrimp can be more expensive, their fishing practices reduce the amount of other potentially endangered sea life, known as “bycatch”, caught in the shrimping nets. According to the World’s Healthiest Foods site, “Shrimp from the Gulf of Thailand can have 14 pounds of bycatch per pound of shrimp!”
Also, domestic shrimp farms are much more thoroughly regulated for the use of chemical antibiotic agents in the shrimp. “In June 2002 the FDA announced an increase in sampling of imported shrimp to determine the presence of chloramphenicol, a potent antibiotic used to fight serious infections in humans and by some shrimp farmers to control bacterial growth in ponds,” reports one site. Chloramphenicol is illegal for use in Canadian and American shrimp farms, but not in many other shrimp farms around the world. For this reason, it’s important to source your shrimp and other seafood from fishmongers who can tell you exactly where it’s coming from.
Once you know your shrimp is coming from a good source, their nutrient density make them an excellent lean protein source. They’re a particularly good source of the amino acid tryptophan, important for many brain chemicals responsible for mood and perception. Shrimp are a great source of vitamin B12 and vitamin D, as well as minerals selenium (chronically low in Western populations and found to be vitally important for cancer prevention and treatment), iron, phosphorous, zinc, copper and magnesium. And although not in as abundant quantities as cold-water fish like tuna and salmon, shrimp are a good source of omega-3 fats EPA and DHA.
Although some have recommended avoiding shrimp in the past due to its high cholesterol content, now that significant evidence points to dietary cholesterol having little to no affect on blood cholesterol levels, this recommendation is out of date and unnecessary. In fact, one study found that people eating 300 grams of shrimp per day lowered their blood triglyceride levels by 13%. Also, the B12 in shrimp lowers blood levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that can directly damage blood vessel walls and has been shown to increase risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease. So it’s not just deep-ocean fish that should be considered “heart-healthy”.
Adding shrimp to your diet is a great way to increase the amount of nutrient-dense foods you’re eating. I definitely recommend the domestic varieties of shrimp for many reasons, not the least of which is that I find them much tastier. It’s worth the few extra dollars at the seafood counter, believe me. In the fading days of summer, try taking advantage of the few grilling opportunities you have left with some shrimp on the BBQ.
Written by Doug DiPasquale