Are Shrimp, Prawns and Shellfish High in Cholesterol?
Prawn and shrimp are technically different species. In common usage, the terms are often used interchangeably, although they can also be used to categorize size – shrimp smaller, prawns bigger.
Shrimp makes up a full 25% of the entire seafood consumption in the United States. Prawns and shrimp are also considered delicious seafood items in other countries. Worldwide, shrimp is the most frequently traded seafood, and along with prawns and other types of seafood, delivers a healthy form of protein that is also low in calories.
From a culinary and dietary perspective, and for the purposes of this article, any differences are small enough to be irrelevant. From here on, shrimp also means prawns.
Shellfish is High in Dietary Cholesterol
Shellfish is linked in many people’s minds to high cholesterol, so a lot of people avoid it if their cholesterol level is elevated. Is this action justified?
Simply stated, shrimp are high in cholesterol. 100 grams of shrimp yields about 190 mg of cholesterol, more than half the recommended daily allowance. However, blaming shrimp for high cholesterol counts is a very simplistic response, based on a misunderstanding of how we get high cholesterol levels.
Dietary Cholesterol is Not the Same as Blood Cholesterol
Dietary cholesterol is not the same as the cholesterol that is measured in your blood. Most of the cholesterol in your blood in manufactured by the body, and dietary cholesterol is not the biggest factor.
This incorrect cause and effect conclusion is similar to the fat fallacy – for decades we have been led to believe that dietary fat and body fat were the same, so to lose weight we had to cut fat from our diet. How’s that working out?
Real science is now showing us that dietary fat is a safe form of energy supply, and simple carbs are most easily converted to body fat.
Similarly, if you have problems with high measured cholesterol, a couple of serves of shrimp per week are not the cause of your problem. If any seafood is implicated in raising cholesterol levels, it is far more likely that the true cause lies with the appended sauces and condiments, or the cooking method, rather than the animal itself.
Other Nutritional Benefits
Also, shrimp and other shellfish have other health benefits. While they contain many nutrients and are a good source of protein, they are often unrecognized for their omega 3 fatty acid content. All have a high component, and some species have similar amounts as highly acclaimed oily fish such as tuna and salmon.
Diets high in dietary cholesterol will contribute to high measured cholesterol, but are not the only factor. Gram for gram, shrimp will provide much more nutritional value than the highly-processed ‘foods’ that provide the bulk of many diets, and will contribute much less undesirable LDL cholesterol while doing so.
Part of a Healthy Diet
The key to overall health and well-being is eating a wide variety of healthy foods, and as few processed, fast and fried foods as possible. This means you can enjoy shrimp and other types of seafood, which have notoriously been vilified as cholesterol-boosters, as long as you eat them in moderation and in conjunction with other healthy foods.
Shrimp can be a delicious and nutritious part of your regular diet, especially if you choose broiled or boiled instead of fried. Eat shrimp, as well as other seafood, and you will be unlikely to affect your cholesterol level negatively.