Can I Eat Shrimp as Part of a Low-Fat Diet?


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In its raw form, shrimp is lower in fat than most other animal proteins. However, the cooking method that you choose when preparing the shellfish can make a big difference in not only the fat content but also the other nutritional facts, including calories.

Fat Content of Shrimp

Shrimp that's been baked, broiled, or grilled without any extra fat, such as butter, has less than a gram of fat per 3-ounce serving, while shrimp that's been breaded and fried has more than 10 grams per serving.

Not only is non-fried shrimp incredibly low in fat, but it's also essentially free from saturated fat. This type of fat raises levels of LDL cholesterol, often referred to as the "bad" cholesterol.

Shrimp is a good source of EPA and DHA, two types of omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids lower elevated triglycerides, curb joint pain, and potentially have an effect on depression and dementia.

Nutritional Makeup of Shrimp

While you're wondering about the fat content of shrimp, consider the other nutritional facts, too. The exact amount of nutrients in a single piece of shrimp is going to vary on its size, as this crustacean is available from small to jumbo. However, a 3-ounce serving is considered standard, no matter what the size.

Shrimp prepared in a healthful manner is low in calories with just 84 per 3-ounce serving, which is less than a 3-ounce chicken breast that's so often considered the gold standard of healthy proteins. Shrimp is a carb-free food—unless you choose to bread or flour it, of course—but it provides 18 grams of protein per serving. The shellfish also serves up more than 50 percent of the recommended daily amount of selenium, a mineral that plays a significant role in metabolism, as well as a good amount of vitamin B12, phosphorus and choline, copper, and iodine.

Shrimp also contains astaxanthin, an antioxidant that may benefit both the nervous and musculoskeletal systems. However, the astaxanthin content in shrimp varies due to the differences in diet in farmed shrimp.

Cholesterol and Mercury Concerns

Shrimp contains about 166 milligrams of cholesterol per serving, and that has given it a bad reputation. Shrimp contains nearly 85 percent more cholesterol per serving than other varieties of seafood.

However, research suggests that foods that are high in dietary cholesterol alone don’t raise blood cholesterol levels as much as foods that are high in saturated fat. In the case of shrimp, this is possibly due to the protective properties of omega-3 fatty acids. Because of this, the Dietary Guidelines Committee in 2015 recommended removing the 300 milligram limit on daily intake.

Shrimp is also a source of mercury, which can be problematic when too much is consumed on a regular basis. Luckily, shrimp is lower in mercury than many other forms of seafood such as swordfish and large tunas. Stick to 12 ounces of lower-mercury seafood, including shrimp, per week to avoid any build-up in your system.

Article Sources
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  1. US Department of Agriculture. FoodData Central. Shrimp. Updated April 1, 2019.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cholesterol myths and facts. Updated February 11, 2019.

  3. US Department of Health and Human Services. Scientific report of the 2015 dietary guidelines advisory committee. February 2015.