What New and Beneficial About Shrimp
- Shrimp can be a unique source of the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory carotenoid nutrient astaxanthin. It is possible for a single 4-ounce serving of shrimp to contain 1-4 milligrams of astaxanthin. In animal studies, astaxanthin has been shown to provide antioxidant support to both the nervous system and musculoskeletal system. In addition, some animal studies have shown decreased risk of colon cancer to be associated with astaxanthin intake, as well as decreased risk of certain diabetes-related problems. Importantly, the astaxanthin content of shrimp can vary widely, mostly in proportion to the amount of astaxanthin in their diet. In addition, the source of astaxanthin in the diet of shrimp remains an ongoing controversy. Since over half of the shrimp consumed both in the U.S. and worldwide are farmed, the diets that they consume depend on the approach of the producers. Both synthetic forms of astaxanthin and naturally occurring forms found in phytoplankton and zooplankton have been used in shrimp farming. In general, when purchasing farmed shrimp, we believe that it makes sense to select shrimp that have consumed natural and plentiful amounts of astaxanthin from natural dietary sources including marine algae and zooplankton. You will find more recommendations regarding shrimp selection in our How to Select and Store and Individual Concerns sections below.
- At 56 micrograms in every 4 ounces, shrimp is an excellent source of the antioxidant mineral selenium. Recent research studies show that the selenium contained in shrimp can be well absorbed into the human body. In one study, we’ve seen an estimate of about 80-85% for total selenium absorption from this shellfish. Since selenium deficiency has been shown to be a risk factor for heart failure and other forms of cardiovascular disease, as well as for other problems including type 2 diabetes, compromised cognitive function, and depression, treat buying ativan online, shrimp may have a unique role to play in your meal plan if your health history places you at special risk in any of these areas.
- A second mineral benefit often overlooked in shrimp is its unusual concentration of copper. Not only does shrimp rank as a very good source of copper at WHFoods, but it is also our only fish to achieve this very good rating. Several recent studies show the copper richness of shrimp to be a standout among other fish. Researchers have pointed to a copper-containing protein in shrimp called hemocyanin as a likely reason for shrimp’s unique copper richness. (This copper-containing protein is involved is the shrimp’s oxygen metabolism.)
- Shrimp is often included on the “avoid” list for persons wanting to minimize their dietary intake of cholesterol. The 220 milligrams of cholesterol contained in a 4-ounce serving of shrimp makes this approach a legitimate concern. However, despite its high cholesterol content, several recent research studies have noted some desirable aspects of the fat profile in shrimp. One of these desirable aspects is shrimp’s omega-3 fat content. Four ounces of shrimp provides about 325 -375 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids, including about 50% EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and 50% DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). EPA and DHA are especially important omega-3s for cardiovascular and nervous system health. In addition to this great mixture of omega-3s, shrimp also provides an unusual omega-3:omega-6 ratio of approximately 1:1. Since higher ratios of omega-3:omega-6 are associated with decreased risk of many chronic diseases—including obesity, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes—this aspect of shrimp’s fat content should be a huge plus, especially in meal plans with excessive amounts of omega-6s. Finally, it is interesting to note that according to recent studies, cholesterol is not the only sterol in shrimp. This type of fat is found in smaller amounts in the form of clionasterol and campesterol. While chemically similar to cholesterol, these other sterols function as anti-inflammatory molecules and they are associated with decreased levels of LDL-cholesterol, which would be considered a health benefit by many researchers. When looked at from this broader perspective, risks related to the high cholesterol content of shrimp might be overshadowed by its omega-3 and sterol composition—but we will need future studies to help us understand more about the big picture involving shrimp and fat. As always, if you have concerns that have you need to be cautious about cholesterol intake, discuss the inclusion of shrimp in your diet with your healthcare practitioner.
This chart graphically details the %DV that a serving of Shrimp provides for each of the nutrients of which it is a good, very good, or excellent source according to our Food Rating System. Additional information about the amount of these nutrients provided by Shrimp can be found in the Food Rating System Chart. A link that takes you to the In-Depth Nutritional Profile for Shrimp, featuring information over 80 nutrients, can be found under the Food Rating System Chart.
Anti-Inflammatory and Antioxidant Support
We don’t usually think about seafood as a source of antioxidants, but shrimp features at least three unique antioxidants in its nutrient composition: the xanthophyll carotenoid called astaxanthin, and the minerals selenium and copper.
Astaxanthin is the primary color pigment in many shrimp, and it helps provide their tissue with its red and orange shades. While many reddish-orange foods get their color from other carotenoids (or from flavonoids), shrimp are especially concentrated in this one particular type of carotenoid. (Astaxanthin often accounts for at least two-thirds of all carotenoids in shrimp.) It is possible for a 4-ounce serving of shrimp to contain 1-4 milligrams of astaxanthin. In animal studies, astaxanthin has been shown to provide antioxidant support to both the nervous system and musculoskeletal system. In addition, some animal studies have shown decreased risk of colon cancer to be associated with astaxanthin intake, as well as decreased risk of certain diabetes-related problems. Under natural conditions, shrimp get astaxanthin through their diet, by consuming smaller organisms that contain this carotenoid, including algae and zooplankton. When farmed, the astaxanthin content of shrimp depends on the composition of their feed. Both synthetic forms of astaxanthin and naturally occurring forms of astaxanthin have been used in shrimp farming, and the use of synthetic astaxanthin remains a topic of ongoing controversy. In general, when purchasing farmed shrimp, we believe that it makes sense to select shrimp that have consumed natural and plentiful amounts of astaxanthin from natural dietary sources including marine algae and zooplankton. You will find more recommendations regarding shrimp selection in our How to Select and Store and Individual Concerns sections below.
Selenium and Copper
In the world of antioxidants, few enzymes are more important in our body than glutathione peroxidase (GPO). GPO helps protect most of our body systems from unwanted damage by oxygen-containing molecules. It is critical in body systems like the lungs, where exposure to these molecules is especially high. GPO is an enzyme that cannot function without the mineral selenium.
At 56 micrograms in every 4 ounces, shrimp is an excellent source of this antioxidant mineral. Shrimp is not only rich in selenium; research studies show that the selenium found in shrimp can be well-absorbed into the human body. In one study, we’ve seen an estimate of about 80-85% for total selenium absorption from this shellfish. In addition to risk of problems involving lung function, selenium deficiency has been shown to increase our risk of heart failure and other forms of cardiovascular disease, as well as for other problems including type 2 diabetes, compromised cognitive function, and depression.
Copper is also classified as an antioxidant mineral, and one of its key roles in our health is related to the function of an enzyme called copper-zinc superoxide dismutase (SOD). SOD is found in the major fluid compartment of our cells (called the cytosol) and it is known to play a major role in regulation of oxygen metabolism and prevention of oxidative stress. Shrimp is our only fish at WHFoods to qualify as a “very good” source of copper in our rating system and it stands out in this respect as a source of antioxidant minerals. Not be overlooked, of course, is the fact that we also rank shrimp as a good source of zinc—the second mineral required for effective SOD function.
Protein and Peptide Support
At nearly 26 grams per 4-ounce serving, shrimp ranks as a very good source of protein at WHFoods, and provides over half of the Daily Value (DV) in each serving. In fact, among all WHFoods, shrimp ranks as our 8th best source of protein. The protein richness of shrimp is one of the reasons this shellfish is relied on in so many different culinary traditions.
When the protein in fish (or any other food) is broken down during digestion, smaller protein fragments called peptides are formed. (Peptides are chains of amino acids. Proteins are too, but they are longer chains and more complicated in their structure.) Some relatively short peptides—consisting of only 10-25 amino acids—have been found to be present in partially digested shrimp proteins and appear able to stimulate release of the hormone cholecystokinin (CCK) from cells that line our intestinal tract. Release of CCK is important for many reasons, including the role of CCK in regulating appetite. Our feeling of satiety (lack of appetite) is partly related to the levels of CCK in our digestive tract. By helping trigger release of CCK, shrimp peptides may play a role in helping us feel full. In the long run, this feeling of satiety may also be an advantage in helping to decrease our risk of obesity. Research on shrimp peptides and satiety is in its early stage, and largely limited to animal studies at this point. But we expect to see increasing interest in this area of shrimp and health.
Other Health Benefits
At only 7 calories per shrimp, we can eat a relatively large amount of this shellfish without using up too many of our daily calories. For example, a person eating 1,800 calories per day could consume 20 shrimp and only be “spending” about 8% of his or her daily calories. This very low calorie cost would not be so remarkable if it were not for the fact that shrimp provides us with significant amounts of so many nutrients. We usually have to eat foods with a far greater calorie content to get the nutrient richness provided by shrimp. For example, those same 20 shrimp that provide us with about 140 calories also provide us with 25 grams of protein or 50% of the Daily Value (DV).They also provide nearly 2 micrograms of vitamin B12—over 80% of the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) level for adults. When this nutrient richness list for shrimp is continued across the list of other vitamins and minerals provided by this fish, it becomes striking how much nourishment can be provided by shrimp for less than 10% of a total day’s calories.
Shrimp are crustaceans (just like lobsters and crabs) and they belong to a category of living things called arthropods. Like all arthropods, shrimp have their skeleton on the outside instead of the inside ) and this outer skeleton (technically called an exoskeleton) is one of the features that gives shrimp their unusual look—almost like having a head shield that blocks out all of their features except their eyes, mouth opening, and antennae. In the U.S., consumers don’t typically eat the outer skeleton, heads, or tails of shrimp, even though these parts are often rich in nutrients and commonly consumed in most other countries. Shrimp account for about 30% of all seafood consumed in the U.S. Out of 14-15 pounds of total seafood per year consumed by the average U.S. adult each year, about 4-5 pounds come from shrimp. (Salmon and tuna have typically engaged in a tug-of-war for second place, and are typically consumed in average amounts of approximately 2-3 pounds per year. Shrimp are produced, sold, and consumed in a variety of different forms, including fresh, frozen, breaded, cooked, dried, and in paste form. In addition, you will find shrimp that are peeled, unpeeled, veined, deveined, and with head on or head off.
It would be difficult to find a WHFood with greater diversity than shrimp. While we are accustomed to thinking about foods like potatoes as involving a wide variety of colors and shapes (for example, large brown russets, medium sized golds, or small fingerlength reds), there are hundreds of commercially important shrimp species and literally thousands of total species worldwide. Yet, there is no relationship between the species of a shrimp and its color. You can find pink, red, white, brown, blue, and green shrimp, but within each of these color categories can be found a wide variety of shrimp species. No less diverse are the habitats of shrimp. These remarkable crustaceans can live in freshwater, saltwater, brackish water, or a combination of habitats. (Brackish water—also sometimes called briny water—is simply water that falls in between freshwater and saltwater. It is more salty than freshwater and less salty than saltwater.) In terms of saltwater habitats, the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans serve as the top three saltwater habitats for shrimp. Added to this unusual diversity of habitats is the tendency of some researchers to group shrimp together based on the average water temperature of their environment. Warm-water shrimp come from tropical waters in southern parts of the world, and cold-water shrimp come from colder northern waters.
The terms “shrimp” and “prawns” can be confusing. Even scientists often use these words inconsistently. In the popular press and in many restaurants, larger shrimp—often from freshwater habitats—are referred to as “prawns,” while smaller shrimp—often from saltwater habitats—are called “shrimp.” In terms of size, “large” typically means that you get about 40 or less per cooked pound (in comparison to about 50 for “medium” and 60 for “small”). But from a science perspective, both shrimp and prawns can come from saltwater or freshwater, and there is no absolute standard for measuring small, medium, or large. In this article and throughout our website, we’ll be using the word “shrimp” as a general term that includes all species—even those which might be referred to as “prawns” in some research studies or in some restaurants.
Many people ask about the way shrimp sizes (small, medium, large, jumbo) are determined. While there is no precise method typically used for shrimp sizing, count per pound is the most common method used. (Count per pound refers to the number of shrimp that you get when you purchase or consume one pound.) With small cooked shrimp, that number is usually around 60. With medium cooked shrimp, it falls to about 50 (since the shrimp are bigger, and each one weighs more). For large shrimp, the count per pound is about 40. For jumbo shrimp the count per pound is about 30.
Tips for Preparing and Cooking
Tips for Preparing Shrimp
Shrimp can be cooked either shelled or unshelled depending how you will be using them in a recipe. There are various methods to removing the shell. One way is to first pinch off the head and the legs and then, holding the tail, peel the shell off from the body. If shelling frozen shrimp, do not defrost them completely as they will be easier to shell when they are still slightly frozen.
A much-debated question about shrimp involves the need for de-veining. The dark “vein” that runs lengthwise down the back of the shrimp is not actually a vein at all, but rather the shrimp’s digestive tract. Like the other parts of a shrimp, it is both edible and contains nutrients. However, many people dislike the texture of this shrimp part, and they also dislike the idea of eating what amounts to the shrimp’s intestine. We’ve searched for research on the nutrient contents of the shrimp’s “vein,” as well as the potential contaminant contents, but we have not found helpful information in this regard. Luckily, the vein of the shrimp is easy to see, and if you want to remove it, you can do so fairly easily with a shrimp deveiner. These devices are inexpensive and available at most kitchen supply stores; they make the job of shrimp deveining fairly easy. An alternative method is to very carefully slice down the back of the shrimp with a knife and hold the shrimp under cold running water to allow the force of the water to rinse out the vein contents.
How to Enjoy
A Few Quick Serving Ideas
- Combine chopped shrimp with chopped scallions, tomatoes, diced chili peppers, garlic, lemon juice, and a little olive oil. Season to taste and serve this fragrant shrimp salad on a bed of romaine lettuce.
- Serve cold cooked shrimp with salsa dip.
- Cut up cooked shrimp and add it to vegetable soups.
- Make a quick, easy and healthy version of pasta putanesca. Add cooked shrimp to spicy pasta sauce and serve over whole wheat noodles.
See some of our favorite Recipes
Allergic Reactions to Shrimp
In the United States, beginning in 2004 with the passage of the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA), food labels have been required to identify the presence of any major food allergens. Since 90% of food allergies in the U.S. have been associated with eight food types as reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, it is these eight food types that are considered to be major food allergens in the U.S. and require identification on food labels. The 8 food types classified as major allergens are as follows: (1) wheat, (2) cow’s milk, (3) hen’s eggs, (4) fish, (5) crustacean shellfish (including shrimp, prawns, lobster and crab); (6) tree nuts (including cashews, almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts and chestnuts); (7) peanuts; and (8) soy foods.
As you will notice in the list above, fish and crustacean shellfish account for two of the eight major food allergen groups posing a risk in the average U.S. diet. Approximately 2-3% of U.S. adults have been estimated to have physician-diagnosed and/or well-documented allergic reaction to some type of seafood.
In the FALCPA food allergen labeling list above, “fish” refers to finfish and it includes finfish like cod, tuna, salmon, and sardines that we feature as WHFoods. “Crustacean shellfish” includes shellfish like shrimp and prawns, as well as other shellfish not profiles at WHFoods, for example, lobster and crab. But this category does not include shellfish that belong to the mollusc family. Scallops (which we include as one of our 100 WHFoods), clams, oysters, and mussels are examples of shellfish belonging to the mollusc family. There is well-documented research evidence to show that some individuals may be allergic to molluscan shellfish like scallops. (In many instances, this allergic reaction has been shown to involve a specific muscle protein called tropomyosin.) However, allergic reactions to shellfish in the mollusc category (like scallops) appear to be less frequent and generally less severe than allergic reactions to shellfish in the crustacean category (like shrimp). For this reason, the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act included crustacean shellfish but excluded molluscan shellfish. However, we would still include molluscs as a category of possible individual concern in terms of food allergy risk.
Research suggests that a particular family of proteins found in shrimp (and in other shellfish as well) called tropomyosins may be commonly involved in immune-based allergic reactions to shrimp. In fact, some studies suggest that the majority of adverse immune reactions to shrimp may involve tropomyosin proteins. Interestingly, immune sensitivity to these proteins appears to lessen over the course of development, such that adults typically show less sensitivity than children. In addition, even though tropomyosin proteins are found in animal foods as well as seafoods, there appears to be less risk of allergic reaction to these proteins in animal foods versus seafoods.
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