Saturday, May 3, 2008

Shrimp and a Sea of Misunderstanding

Sea the Light

If you've been avoiding shrimp because you heard that these crustaceans are high in cholesterol, you're wrong and right. Shrimp do contain relatively high levels of dietary cholesterol - 166 milligrams of cholesterol per three ounces of steamed shrimp. But, they are very low in saturated fat, the kind of fat that raises blood cholesterol. It turns out that the cholesterol we eat has less of an affect on our blood cholesterol than saturated fats. So the net-net, as you cast your net to find heart healthy seafood, is that shrimp's nutritional profile places it on the list of the dietary good guys. Researchers at The Rockefeller University found that when volunteers ate shrimp along with foods that were low in saturated fat, their blood lipid ratios remained balanced. The same goes for shrimp's crustacean cousins lobster and crab.

Pass the Lemons Please

The healthiest way to enjoy shrimp is simply steamed. Add a spritz of fresh lemon or lime juice or a splash of hot sauce and you'll keep the calories low-84 calories per three ounce serving of shrimp.

Of course, if you drench them in melted butter or drown them in cheese sauce you're changing the nutritional picture by increasing the calories and the artery-clogging saturated fat content of the dish. Fried shrimp are higher in fat and calories too. In fact, you can add 100 calories per ounce when you plunge your shrimp into the deep fryer. If the fat in the fryer contains trans-fats ( the Darth Vadar of the nutritional world) you're adding an even higher risk of elevated blood cholesterol levels. If you must fry, seek out trans-fat free oils.
Other nutritional notes: Shrimp are almost fat free, high in protein, an excellent source the mineral selenium and vitamin B12 and a good source of iron. Nutritional Scorecard (3 ounces steamed shrimp): 84 calories, 0.9 g total fat, 0 g carbohydrate, 166 mg cholesterol, 17.8 g protein.

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