Like many other foods, shrimp has received bad press because of its cholesterol content. Forbidden during the 1990s, shrimp has found its way back to diet as a healthy alternative for the heart. Although shrimp has relatively high levels of cholesterol (about 200 mg in 12 large boiled shrimp), it only contains half the cholesterol contained in an egg.
Cholesterol and shrimp
It is low in fat and in calories and high in protein, contains vitamins D and B12. But the best news is that shrimp is also high in omega-3 fatty acids, fatty acids that have been shown to prevent heart disease. Two weekly servings of fish or shrimp with omega-3 fatty acids are as effective as taking a fish oil supplement a day.
Good and bad news about shrimp
Like most foods we like, there have been arguments for and against eating shrimp since the beginning of time. Prohibited for a long time because of its high cholesterol content, research has shown that for 75 percent of people whose serum cholesterol is not affected by diet, shrimp poses no risk of raising cholesterol levels.
Shrimp is a great low-fat alternative to other popular seafood and contains omega-3 fatty acids that have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, fatal arrhythmias, high blood pressure, cancer and even Alzheimer’s disease. However, if you are one of the 25 percent of the population at risk for high levels of cholesterol, you may want to consult with your doctor before including shrimp in your diet.
Shrimp, low-fat and low cholesterol diets
One fact that shrimp has managed to survive the cholesterol shade is that it is very low in fat. 100 grams of shrimp contain only 2 grams of fat without any of them being in the form of saturated fat. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that a diet that includes shrimp has more benefits than one that includes eggs.
The researchers found that shrimp consumption increased LDL levels by 7 percent, and increased HDL levels by 12 percent. On the other hand, eggs increased LDL levels by 10 percent but only raised HDL levels by 7 percent. It was also found that shrimp reduced triglycerides by more than 13 percent.
The benefits outweigh the drawbacks. Like any other food we choose to include in our diet, relative benefits must be weighed against the risks. It is true that shrimp is higher in cholesterol than other sources of protein, but for most people looking for a heart-healthy diet, this is not a problem.
When choosing foods, it is important to consider fat content and its other nutritional values that reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.
The controversy over eating shrimp shells
One of the most controversial issues that came up recently about the value of eating shrimp is eating its shell. Shells of shrimp and other crustaceans contain a substance called “chitosan”.
Used for years to purify water, chitosan is being investigated for its ability to lower LDL levels while increasing HDL levels and helping to lose weight. Many believe that chitosan binds to fat molecules during digestion, rendering them unable to be absorbed by the body and stored as fat. Since they are not absorbed, the body removes them from the digestive tract. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.