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Shrimp: Good or bad?

Is shrimp good for you?

Shrimp is packed with nutrients, but some people worry about its cholesterol levels and how it's farmed. So, the question is, is shrimp good for you?

Is it healthy?
This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts, and fact-checked by experts.
We look at both sides of the argument and strive to be objective, unbiased, and honest.
Is shrimp good for your health? Nutrition, downsides, and more
Last updated on January 22, 2024, and last reviewed by an expert on October 8, 2023.

While shrimp is low-calorie, it’s packed with vital nutrients like iodine and antioxidants that can be beneficial for your health. However, its cholesterol levels are on the higher side.

Is shrimp good for your health? Nutrition, downsides, and more

Shrimp is a favorite seafood for many.

It’s not only delicious but also offers essential nutrients, like iodine, which can be hard to find in other foods.

Yet, there’s a debate about its healthiness due to its cholesterol levels.

There’s also a discussion about whether farm-raised shrimp can be less healthy than those caught in the wild.

This article delves into the facts to decide if shrimp should be on your plate.

In this article

Shrimp provides nutrients without piling on calories

The nutritional profile of shrimp is noteworthy.

For just 84 calories in a 3-ounce portion, you get a nutrition boost.

Moreover, this portion offers a mix of over 9 vitamins and minerals.

Nutrition profile of shrimp

Here’s what you get in a 3-ounce (85-gram) portion of shrimp:

One standout nutrient in shrimp is iodine, a mineral crucial for the thyroid and brain, which many might not get enough of. Additionally, shrimp offers beneficial omega-3 fats.

Summary: Shrimp stands out nutritionally. While being calorie-conscious, it gives a rich dose of protein, healthy fats, and a range of vitamins and minerals.

Shrimp’s cholesterol content explained

While shrimp is known for its cholesterol content, the full story is more nuanced.

In a 3-ounce (85-gram) serving, shrimp offers 161 mg of cholesterol.

The common perception is that foods high in cholesterol raise blood cholesterol, leading to heart concerns. But studies indicate that only about a quarter of individuals react strongly to dietary cholesterol. For many, the impact on blood cholesterol is minor.

Interestingly, most blood cholesterol is made by your liver. Consuming cholesterol-rich foods may cause your liver to produce less.

The good fats in shrimp

Beyond its cholesterol, shrimp offers healthy nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids.

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While many cholesterol-rich foods also pack saturated fats, shrimp is an outlier.

While we need more insights into shrimp and heart wellness, its beneficial properties might balance out its cholesterol levels.

Summary: Despite its cholesterol content, shrimp brings in omega-3s and has shown potential health benefits in studies.

Shrimp’s antioxidant boost

Shrimp boasts a powerful antioxidant called astaxanthin, derived from the algae they eat. This antioxidant gives shrimp its unique reddish hue.

Consuming astaxanthin can help combat inflammation by blocking free radicals from harming your cells. Researchers are exploring its potential in preventing various chronic ailments.

Beneficial for the heart and mind

Research indicates astaxanthin may fortify arteries, possibly lowering heart attack risks. It might also raise the “good” cholesterol, HDL, crucial for heart health.

Moreover, for the brain, astaxanthin’s anti-inflammatory traits could fend off cell damage leading to memory issues or conditions like Alzheimer’s.

However, the effects of astaxanthin from shrimp on overall health require further study.

Summary: Shrimp offers the antioxidant astaxanthin, studied for its potential in supporting heart and brain health.

Farm-raised shrimp and antibiotic concerns

The high demand for shrimp in the U.S. means we often source it from overseas.

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In fact, a whopping 75 to 80% of seafood consumed in the U.S. comes from abroad, with top suppliers being Thailand, China, Canada, Indonesia, and Vietnam.

This influx of shrimp often comes from farms, meaning the shrimp grow in large tanks immersed in water.

Concerns with imports

Farm-raised seafood, especially from abroad, might be treated with antibiotics due to disease vulnerabilities. Yet, the U.S. disallows antibiotic use in shrimp and similar seafood.

Thus, it’s against the law to bring shrimp with antibiotics into the U.S. The task of ensuring this falls to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

However, with the vast quantity of shrimp imports, it’s challenging for the FDA to check each batch. As a result, some antibiotic-treated shrimp might slip through.

While there’s no conclusive evidence that antibiotic-treated shrimp harms us directly, there’s concern over antibiotic resistance. This can lead to diseases that resist treatment.

To steer clear of antibiotic concerns, you might consider wild-caught shrimp, which is antibiotic-free. Plus, shrimp sourced and processed within the U.S. guarantees no antibiotic content.

Summary: While some foreign farm-raised shrimp may have antibiotics, choosing wild-caught or U.S.-sourced shrimp can help you avoid these concerns.

The reality of shrimp allergies

Shrimp, like other shellfish, ranks among the top nine food allergens in the U.S., joining the list with items like peanuts, milk, and wheat.

Shrimp allergies mainly stem from a protein in them named tropomyosin. There are also other proteins, like arginine kinase and hemocyanin, that might cause allergic reactions.

Allergic reactions to shrimp and shellfish

Shrimp allergy symptoms can differ, including:

A smaller group might face anaphylactic shocks from shrimp. This severe reaction can escalate to unconsciousness or even be fatal if not addressed immediately.

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For those with a shrimp allergy, avoiding it altogether is the safest bet. Note that even the vapors from cooking shrimp can initiate a reaction. Hence, it’s vital to also steer clear of environments where shrimp is being prepared.

Summary: For those allergic to shrimp, especially the protein tropomyosin, steering clear of it is crucial. Avoiding direct and indirect exposure can prevent severe reactions.

How to pick high quality shrimp

When selecting shrimp, it’s essential to prioritize freshness and ensure they’re in good condition.

Raw shrimp should feel firm to touch. Their shells should exhibit a clear and grayish-green, pinkish tan, or soft pink hue. If you notice black edges or spots on the shell, it’s a sign of diminishing quality.

Both raw and cooked shrimp should exude a gentle, sea-like or salty aroma. If there’s an overpowering “fishy” or ammonia scent, the shrimp is probably past its prime and should be avoided.

For the best shrimp, source from a reliable vendor who is well-informed and can clarify details about where the shrimp comes from and its handling process.

How to prepare and cook shrimp

When you cook shrimp, they should be firm, appearing white with a touch of red or pink.

Whether you’re looking at appetizers or main dishes like curries or stir-fries, shrimp is a versatile ingredient. They can be breaded or even skewered for kebabs.

Summary: For top-notch shrimp, pay attention to its smell and appearance. Always buy from a trustworthy source to guarantee quality.


Shrimp is packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and is an excellent source of protein. It’s not only nutritious but also beneficial for the heart and brain, thanks to omega-3 fatty acids and the antioxidant astaxanthin.

Even with its cholesterol content, shrimp doesn’t seem to adversely affect heart health.

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While shrimp has many positives, there’s a note of caution regarding farm-raised variants potentially laced with antibiotics.

But by being vigilant and choosing reputable sources, you can easily get premium shrimp. All in all, shrimp is a nutritious addition to a well-rounded diet.

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