Shrimp 101: Nutrition Facts, Benefits, and Concerns

0
2073
Last Updated on

Shrimp is a small but nutritious type of seafood that is part of the crustaceans group of shellfish.

On the positive side, shrimp contains a broad range of essential nutrients, and it also offers some unique benefits.

However, there are also several concerns people have about consuming this seafood.

So, is shrimp a healthy choice?

In this article, we analyze the nutrition profile, health benefits, and potential concerns in full.

Nutrition Facts

A Large Cooked Shrimp.

The following nutritional values are for 100 grams of shrimp in their raw state (1);

One hundred grams of shrimp is equivalent to roughly 3-4 large shrimp or 20 small shrimp.

Calories and Macros

Calories/NutrientAmount (grams/kcal)
Calories106 kcal
Carbohydrate0.9 g
Fat1.7 g
Saturated Fat0.3 g
 – Monounsaturated Fat0.3 g
 – Polyunsaturated Fat0.7 g
 – Omega-3540 mg
 – Omega-628 mg
Protein20.3 g

Vitamins

VitaminAmount (% RDI)
Vitamin D38 %
Vitamin B1219 %
Vitamin B313 %
Vitamin B65 %
Vitamin E5 %
Vitamin A (retinol)4 %
Vitamin B53 %
Vitamin C3 %
Vitamin B12 %
Vitamin B22 %
Folate1 %

Minerals

VitaminAmount (% RDI)
Selenium54 %
Phosphorus20 %
Iron13 %
Copper13 %
Magnesium9 %
Zinc7 %
Sodium6 %
Potassium5 %
Calcium5 %
Manganese3 %
Key Point: Shrimp offers a wide range of vitamins and minerals for very few calories. It is also a good source of omega-3 and protein.

Health Benefits

Several Large Fresh Shrimps.

Shrimp have a wide range of beneficial nutrients and several other healthful characteristics.

Here are some of the primary health benefits they offer;

1) Good Source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Per 100 grams, shrimp provides 540 mg of omega-3 fatty acids in the form of DHA and EPA (1).

While this isn’t quite as high as oily fish, shrimp is still an excellent source of this essential fatty acid.

As a comparison, shrimp offers slightly more omega-3 than halibut, and more than double the omega-3 content of cod (2, 3).

Unfortunately, the majority of people are not consuming enough omega-3.

While there is no official recommended daily amount, an ‘adequate intake’ (AI) has been set at 1.6 grams for male adults and 1.1 grams for females (4).

The Importance of DHA and EPA

Additionally, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines For Americans recommend at least 250 mg per day from DHA/EPA.

For those unaware, DHA/EPA is “preformed” omega-3 which, unlike ALA plant sources, does not require conversion for the body to use it (5).

However, in a 2016 study, dietary data from 15,313 Americans revealed that the average daily DHA+EPA consumption was only 84.3 mg in adults (6).

Omega-3 possesses anti-inflammatory properties, and it is thought to lower the risk of chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer (7).

Key Point: Shrimp provides 540 mg of EPA and DHA omega-3 per 100 grams.

2) Contains the Antioxidant Astaxanthin

Shrimp contains a major antioxidant compound called astaxanthin, which we can also find in seafood such as salmon (8).

On this note, cell culture studies show that astaxanthin taken from shrimp helps to reduce oxidative stress and causes the cell death of cancer cells (9).

While interesting, it should be noted that test tube studies are very different from what happens inside the human body, so we shouldn’t read too much into this.

However, clinical human intervention studies have demonstrated that astaxanthin has benefits for skin health.

Among these benefits, multiple studies show a reduction in wrinkles and improvements to skin texture and elasticity (10).

Additionally, rodent studies show that astaxanthin supplementation can reduce blood pressure (11).

More human research is necessary to understand the potential benefits of astaxanthin better.

Key Point: Shrimp is one of the best sources of astaxanthin, a beneficial antioxidant carotenoid.

3) Rich In Vitamin D

Frequently dubbed “the sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D is a hormone that is essential to human health.

Among its many benefits, vitamin D plays a significant role in metabolism, immunity, blood pressure regulation and disease prevention (12).

The best way to get vitamin D is safe sunlight exposure, but there are some good dietary sources too.

Shrimp is one of these dietary sources of vitamin D, and it provides 152 IU per 100 grams, which is equal to 38% of the RDI (1).

Key Point: Shrimp supplies 38% of the RDI for vitamin D per 100 grams.

4) Potentially Good For the Heart

Holding King Tiger Prawn Shrimp With Wooden Chopsticks.

Is shrimp a heart-healthy food?

According to the existing evidence-base, it might just be that.

Despite previous worries over the cholesterol content of shrimp, the dietary guidelines recently dropped dietary cholesterol restrictions, noting that “cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption” (13).

The reason for this was an ever-increasing number of studies showing that dietary cholesterol doesn’t have a strong link to blood cholesterol.

For instance, recent systematic reviews have demonstrated that;

  • Dietary cholesterol does not negatively affect blood lipids in recent human intervention studies (14).
  • The current literature does not support the notion that dietary cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease in healthy individuals” (15).

Additionally, in a randomized trial, a diet featuring large daily amounts of shrimp (300 grams) improved the LDL to HDL ratio and significantly decreased triglyceride levels by 13% (16).

Shrimp also contains several nutrients linked to improved cardiovascular health, such as the previously mentioned omega-3.

Key Point: Shrimp may improve markers of cardiovascular health.

5) Nutrient Density: Low In Calories, High In Vitamins and Minerals

As shown in the nutrition facts, shrimp offers a wide range of beneficial nutrients for minimal calories (106 kcal per 100 grams).

This fact makes shrimp very nutrient-dense.

The more nutrient-dense foods we eat, the more beneficial nutrients we can get from our diet.

Among the nutrients shrimp offer, they are particularly high in selenium, supplying 57% of the RDI for the mineral.

Selenium acts as an antioxidant in the body, and it plays an important role in DNA repair, fighting oxidative stress, and strengthening the immune system (17).

Key Point: Shrimp offers a variety of nutrients for very few calories.

6) Shrimp Has a Low Mercury Content

Almost all seafood is an impressive source of nutrients, but mercury contamination is a common concern with seafood.

Due to pollutants from factories and coal plants, mercury can settle into oceans and rivers around the world. Unfortunately, this mercury can concentrate in fish and shellfish, which poses risks to the people who consume them.

While some seafood contains very high concentrations of mercury, such as shark and bigeye tuna, others contain very little.

On the positive side, shrimp has one of the very lowest mercury concentrations out of all seafood.

For instance, the mean mercury contamination is 0.009 PPM for shrimp. This figure compares favorably to even other low-mercury seafood such as salmon (0.022 PPM) and herring (0.078 PPM) (18).

Furthermore, shrimp contain a high ratio of selenium compared to mercury (higher than 1:1). Research suggests that selenium has a role in “mitigating the toxicity of mercury” (19, 20).

Key Point: Shrimp has lower mercury concentrations than almost any other seafood.

7) Shrimp Is High In Protein

Shrimp is an excellent source of protein; it contains more than 20 grams of the macronutrient per 100 grams.

While this may not sound as high as specific cuts of meat, shrimp are more protein-dense since they offer this high amount of protein for only 106 calories.

For example, here is how their protein density compares to beef, chicken, and eggs. All values are raw (1, 21, 22);

FoodCaloriesProtein
3 Large eggs214.5 kcal18.9 g
Chicken breast (100 g)110 kcal23.1 g
80% Lean beef (100 g)254 kcal17.2 g
Shrimp (100 g)106 kcal20.3 g

As the table shows, shrimp is one of the best dietary sources of protein.

For another protein-dense shellfish, see this guide to clams.

Key Point: Shrimp is extremely protein-dense.

8) Good Source of Iodine

Iodine is an essential mineral that the human body needs to manufacture thyroid hormone (23).

Iodine deficiency can develop if iodine intake falls below 10-20 mcg per day, which can lead to hypothyroidism. A deficiency in iodine can be especially dangerous for infants and pregnant women (24).

In the United States, iodine intake has dropped by more than 50% since the 1970s, and iodine deficiencies are now present in some groups of people (25).

The best way to get iodine is from seafood, and shellfish and seaweed are especially good sources.

Amongst seafood, shrimp is one of the very best iodine sources, and a 3-oz serving (85 grams) provides around 35 mcg of iodine (26).

Key Point: Shrimp offers a valuable supply of dietary iodine.

8) Provides Taurine

Shrimp is an excellent source of taurine, which is an amino acid with several potential health-protective properties.

Research on taurine from human clinical trials has demonstrated that it may potentially (27, 28, 29);

  • Reverse blood vessel abnormalities in young patients with diabetes.
  • Lower plasma levels of homocysteine, which is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
  • Decrease the levels of oxidized lipids and reduce overall oxidative stress.

Seafood is the best dietary source of taurine, and shrimp offers the third highest concentration behind clams and octopus (30).

Key Point: Shrimp provides a large supply of taurine.

Concerns

A Large Asian Shrimp Farm.
A large Asian shrimp farm.

There are also a small number of potential drawbacks from shrimp consumption.

Here are two of the most common concerns.

1) Shrimp (Shellfish) Allergy

Shellfish allergy, particularly to crustacea (such as shrimp and crab) is one of the most common allergies in the world.

On this note, physician-diagnosed (or well-evidenced) seafood allergy is thought to affect around 2.3% of the population in the United States, which equates to millions of people (31).

The cause of this allergy appears to be a protein found in shellfish called tropomyosin. Shellfish allergy can result in severe reactions which have been known to cause serious adverse effects, and sadly, numerous deaths (32, 33).

Symptoms of an allergic reaction to shellfish may include facial swelling, difficulty breathing, a tingling feeling in the mouth, stomach cramps, and dizziness (34).

Anyone who suspects they are having an allergic reaction to shellfish should seek immediate medical attention.

Key Point: Shellfish proteins, found in shrimp, are a common allergen which can cause serious adverse reactions.

2) Chemical Contaminants In Farmed Shrimp

Although farmed shrimp from North America and Western Europe are strongly regulated, this is not the case for some imported Asian shrimp.

For instance, Vietnamese shrimp farming is particularly well-documented for using an excessive amount of antibiotics, some of which are illegal (35).

Worryingly, the FDA refused over 111 entry lines of shrimp imports in just one month in 2018. This refusal was due to the presence of potentially harmful (and banned) antibiotics and veterinary drug residues (36).

However, this asks the question of how many contaminated imports actually do pass into the country.

With this in mind, it may be better to focus on domestic shrimp rather than imported products. For peace of mind regarding potential antibiotics and contaminants, wild-caught shrimp are a good choice.

Key Point: Imported farmed shrimp from Asia are noted for having issues with banned antibiotics.

Final Thoughts

Shrimp are an excellent source of nutrition, and they offer a significant number of beneficial compounds for very few calories.

Overall, this small shellfish is a great way to increase our intake of omega-3 and protein.

Consuming shrimp should also significantly improve the nutrient density of most diets.

For more on shellfish, see this guide to oysters.

Leave a Reply

avatar
  Subscribe  
Notify of