While often labeled as unhealthy because of its high cholesterol content, shrimp is making a comeback on the healthy eating front. Says Candy Harrington, author of Shrimp My Way; Low Calorie, Easy Prep and Simply Delicious, “Granted, the 220 milligrams of cholesterol in a four-ounce serving of shrimp is nothing to sneeze at; however researchers have found that the risks associated with the cholesterol in shrimp are greatly overshadowed by the other healthy attributes of the crustacean. Of course anyone with high cholesterol should check with their doctor before jumping on the shrimp bandwagon; however for the bulk of the population, shrimp is a nutritious and healthy option.”
With that in mind, here’s Candy’s roundup of the health benefits of shrimp.
- Low Calorie Content
Shrimp is naturally low in calories, with just six calories in one medium shrimp. That said, the key to keeping the calories down is in the preparation. Stay away from shrimp that is fried or accompanied with a heavy sauce, and instead opt for grilled, stir-fried or baked shrimp.
- Low Glycemic Index
With no carbohydrates, shrimp boasts an impressive glycemic index of 0. Foods with a low glycemic index cause only a moderate increase in blood glucose, while foods with a high glycemic index can cause blood glucose to rise over optimum levels. Eating foods with a low glycemic index is especially important to pre-diabetic people, as it can stop or slow the progression of the disease.
- Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Four ounces of shrimp provides about 350-375 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for a healthy cardiovascular system. Shrimp also has a high ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats, which is associated with a decreased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
- Good Sterols
Shrimp also contains the good sterols — beta-sitosterol, campesterol and brassicaster, which function as anti-inflammatory molecules. They work with the omega-3 fatty acids to lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and improve heart health.
- Astaxanthin Source
Shrimp is a good source of astaxanthin, a carotenoid that is known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Recent studies have shown that astaxanthin may reduce the risk of colon cancer, and help eliminate immune-related problems of diabetes.
- High in Selenium
A four-ounce serving of shrimp contains 45 micrograms of selenium. Selenium has been found to boost the immune system to fight off cancer cells and bacterial infections. Selenium also increases good cholesterol (HDL) and promotes a healthy cardiovascular system.
- Good Protein Source
Shrimp is packed with protein — 34 grams, in a six-ounce portion of shrimp. Protein is essential for a healthy circulatory and respiratory system, and for helping your body fight off illness.
- Packed with Vitamin B-12
A six-ounce portion of shrimp contains two micrograms of vitamin B-12, just a tad shy of the recommended daily allowance. A vitamin B-12 deficiency can cause muscle weakness and vision problems.
- Filled with Iron
A six-ounce serving of shrimp contains just over four milligrams of iron, which helps prevent anemia. Vitamin C aids in the absorption of iron, so consider including foods high in Vitamin C in your shrimp dish. A shrimp and broccoli stir-fry is an excellent choice.
- High in Vitamin D
Shrimp is high in Vitamin D, which builds strong bones and teeth, and regulates the absorption of calcium by the body.
- Good Zinc Source
Last but not least, shrimp is also a good source of zinc, a mineral known for its immunity boosting properties. New studies have found that a zinc deficiency also impairs progesterone secretion in female mice, and effects the function of the prostate gland and impairs sperm production in men.