Shrimp – interesting facts about your favorite shellfish

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Shrimp – interesting facts about your favorite shellfish

Shrimp – a favorite shellfish featured on menus across the country, have the distinction of being the most-consumed seafood and the top seafood import in the United States.  In 2010, the National Fisheries Institute stated that the average American ate 4 pounds of shrimp compared to 2.7 pounds of tuna, the second most consumed seafood. This beloved food source comes from around 2,000 different kinds of shrimp and some look quite a bit different than what may be served on your plate. 

Shrimp are quite versatile in how they can be served.  Whether you like them as an appetizer paired with cocktail sauce, sautéed with fresh vegetables or skewered and grilled on kebobs, shrimps mild flavor makes it an ideal match to go along with many other dishes.

Since shrimp are such a mainstay in the American diet, how much do you know about them?  Here are interesting facts so you can learn more about this special delicacy:

·       Shrimp are protein rich

A three ounce portion of shrimp provides an impressive 20 grams of protein.  Whether baked or broiled, shrimp is only just a few grams less than that of 3-ounces of chicken breast. 

·      Shrimp are low in calories

Three ounces of cooked (boiled or steamed) shrimp contain about 100 calories.  Shrimp is composed of protein and fat and has no carbohydrates. 

·      Shrimp provide key nutrients

Besides protein, shrimp offer an impressive array of nutrients.  Four ounces of steamed shrimp provide over 100% of the Daily Value for selenium, over 75% for vitamin B12, over 50% for phosphorous and over 30% for choline, copper, and iodine.  Another important nutritional component found in shrimp is astaxanthin, the xanthophyll carotenoid that gives shrimp its reddish-pink color after cooking.  Although research showing benefits of astaxanthin in humans is limited, anti-inflammatory actions have been suggested.

·      Shrimp can be part of a heart healthy diet

At one time, people were advised to reduce their intake of shrimp because of the amount of cholesterol it contains.  But now, shrimp no longer needs to be avoided for its cholesterol content.  Three ounces of cooked shrimp has 179 milligrams of cholesterol; however the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans note that some shellfish, including shrimp, are higher in dietary cholesterol, but not in saturated fat (which is more harmful to heart health) and may be enjoyed as part of a healthy eating pattern.  If you compare shrimp to beef, a meal containing 5 ounces of steamed shrimp provides only 1.7 grams of fat, including 0.36 grams saturated fat with 150 calories, compared to 5 ounces of beef, which contains 14 grams of fat, including 4.7 grams of saturated fat and 390 calories. 

Be aware though that this is based on shrimp that is either boiled or steamed and not fried.  Fried shrimp will contain higher amounts of unhealthy fat.

·      Shrimp is a common allergen

As a member of the shellfish family, shrimp are among the top allergens people may have an allergic reaction to.  Other foods that are also top allergens include milk, eggs, fish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soy.  Exposure to shrimp by anyone allergic to shellfish can cause a possible severe and life-threatening reaction. Most allergic reactions may include a stuffy nose, sneezing, itchy skin, hives, tingling in the mouth, abdominal pain, and nausea.  Food allergies can develop at any age but if you think you are allergic to shrimp or any other food, see an allergist for testing.

·      Shrimp only contains trace amounts of mercury

Concerns have been raised on the safety of eating fish and seafood that might contain mercury.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), nearly all fish and seafood contain traces of mercury.  For most people though, the risk from mercury by eating fish and shellfish, such as shrimp, is not a health concern.  In general, it is larger fish that have lived longer which have the highest levels of methyl mercury and therefore have had more time to accumulate it.  Large fish that pose the greatest risk of mercury accumulation include swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish.  Other types such as shrimp may be eaten and enjoyed without worries over excess of mercury.