Shrimp and Cholesterol: a Good Combination?
Many questions are asked about shrimp and cholesterol online. In general, many people are concerned about cholesterol levels in foods such as meat, eggs and dairy products. In the case of the shrimp, the story about cholesterol is different, because a number of studies have shown that the high percentage of ‘good fats‘ in shrimp reduces the influence of cholesterol and that the vast majority of people can simply eat shrimps as part of a balanced diet.
Years ago shrimps were seen as a taboo for heart patients or for people who had to watch their cholesterol. This is because a small portion of, for example, 350 grams contains about 200 mg of cholesterol. For people at high risk of cardiovascular disease, this is their maximum recommended daily allowance. (For a healthy person, 300 mg is the recommended daily amount.)
Shrimp, however, have a very low total fat (about 1.5 grams per portion) and contain virtually no saturated fat. Saturated fat is known to be particularly harmful to the heart and blood vessels, partly because our body can efficiently convert it to LDL (or bad) cholesterol. But the LDL level is only a part of what affects your risk of cardiovascular disease.
First of all: what is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance, which on the one hand is produced by the body and on the other hand, comes from food. We make the cholesterol that we need especially in the liver. Cholesterol can also come from animal sources such as meat, poultry and full-fat dairy products. Our livers produce more cholesterol when you eat a diet rich in saturated fats and trans fats.
Excess cholesterol can form plaque in the arteries, making it harder for your heart to pump blood around and if that plaque forms blood clots, it can cause a stroke. If that plaque blocks an artery that nourishes the heart, it even causes a heart attack.
There are two types of cholesterol: ‘bad’ and ‘good’ cholesterol. Too much of one type – or too little of another – can increase the risk of heart attack, cardiovascular disease or stroke.
‘Good’ and ‘bad’ cholesterol
Cholesterol travels through your body into two types of lipoproteins, which contain cholesterol, through the bloodstream throughout your body and are thus distributed: low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL)
LDL is also known as ‘bad cholesterol’ because it can lead to an accumulation of cholesterol in the arteries and because it can block the artery, which can lead to a heart attack or a risk of it.
HDL is seen as the ‘good cholesterol’ because it allows the cholesterol to return to the liver and thus lowers cholesterol levels in the blood.
High cholesterol is a condition in which a person has too much cholesterol in his / her blood and this can cause a greater risk of coronary heart disease, also called coronary artery disease. The higher the level of LDL cholesterol in the blood, the greater the risk of heart disease and vice versa, the higher the level of HDL cholesterol in the blood, the lower the risk of heart disease.
A good relationship between these two types of cholesterol, LDL and HDL, reduces sensitivity to heart disease and therefore it is important to keep a close eye on these levels.
Shrimp and Cholesterol
Cholesterol from the diet only has a negative effect if it is absorbed by the body. Saturated fat seems to stimulate this absorption. Eating food with a high content of saturated fat thus increases LDL cholesterol in the blood.
Foods that are very rich in cholesterol (such as meat, eggs and dairy products) are also rich in saturated fat and therefore raise LDL cholesterol.
Shrimps have a relatively high cholesterol content, but contain essentially no saturated fat (just over 1 gram per serving compared to meat, which can contain 10 to 20 grams per serving) and the cholesterol in shrimp is harder to absorb than the cholesterol in other high-fat food.
The reason for this is unfortunately unknown.
The cholesterol in shrimp and other seafood will therefore not cause damage to the arteries, provided it is not breaded and is not prepared in saturated fat.
In the past scientists could not distinguish between the different sterols and therefore they were all referred to as ‘cholesterol’. That is why the amount of cholesterol in shrimps and other shellfish has traditionally been very high.
The cholesterol in shrimp is about 130 mg per 300 grams of raw shrimp and the same portion contains about 2 grams of fat. The amount of cholesterol in a comparable amount of normal ground beef is about 110 mg, with about 20 grams of fat. In addition, shrimp also contain high levels of useful highly unsaturated fatty acids, which increase HDL cholesterol (the ‘good’ cholesterol) so that eating shrimps can eventually lead to a reduction in cholesterol levels in the blood.
Incidentally, cholesterol from food is not the only cause of too high cholesterol levels in the blood. Blood cholesterol levels are determined by a number of factors. Genetic factors can influence the absorption of cholesterol, the production of cholesterol or the absorption of cholesterol in the body’s cells. Research has shown that the amount of saturated fat in the diet has more effect on raising blood cholesterol than the amount of cholesterol itself in the diet.
Many Relevant Studies
A number of studies have looked at the relationship between shrimp and cholesterol. From a 1990 study conducted by scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health and Rockefeller University in New York: The effects of shrimp consumption on plasma lipoproteins have concluded that eating steamed shrimp significantly reduces cholesterol levels, in general, in the blood. increased.
The shrimp also showed that the levels of HDL (the ‘good’ cholesterol) increased more than the levels of LDL (the ‘bad’ cholesterol) and that the HDL to LDL ratio eventually improved.
A good ratio between these two types of cholesterol – low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) – keeps blood cholesterol levels under control and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. The researchers at Rockefeller University also found that the participants who had eaten the shrimp had significantly lower triglyceride levels afterward compared to people who had eaten an egg, for example.
More recently, Drs. John D. Griffin and Alice H. Lichtenstein, in their article Dietary Cholesterol and Plasma Lipoprotein Profiles: Randomized-Controlled Trials, that “Previous studies suggested that dietary cholesterol would significantly increase total cholesterol.” Given the relationship between elevated cholesterol and the risk of cardiovascular diseases is therefore recommended to limit the consumption of food, which is very rich in cholesterol. ”
Another study showed that there is no reason to avoid seafood and shrimp. The researchers asked 18 men and women to eat large portions of steamed shrimp every day. To be precise, the participants ate more than 275 grams (or 30 to 40 shrimp), which represented about 600 milligrams of cholesterol. This is twice the daily recommended amount (RDA).
This may surprise you. Three weeks later, the researchers took blood samples from the volunteers and discovered that their levels of LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol had increased by an average of 7.1%. Although this may not seem like good news, the shrimp gave an important advantage, namely that the HDL, the good cholesterol for arteries, had risen by as much as 12.1%.
In other words, by eating shrimps, the ratio of good cholesterol / bad cholesterol is greatly improved. Many cardiologists believe that this ratio is a better indicator of cardiovascular health than total cholesterol levels.
Another study conducted two decades ago by the Harvard School of Public Health and Rockefeller University in New York, showed that a low-fat diet containing steamed shrimps did not increase blood cholesterol levels, and that, following the researchers, even could lead to lower cholesterol levels in the blood.
Shrimp and Cholesterol: A Good Combination?
The risk of cardiovascular disease is based on more than just the LDL levels or a total of the cholesterol in the blood. Inflammation is another important factor in the risk of cardiovascular disease. Because of the large HDL advantage in shrimp, you can benefit from this as part of a smart heart diet. Perhaps it is just as important to know where your shrimps come from. A large part of the shrimp, which are now sold in Europe, comes from Asia, where the use of pesticides and antibiotics is permitted but which may have adverse effects on human health.
Try to buy as biological shrimps as possible, preferably from countries where the use of pesticides and antibiotics has been severely restricted.
Benefits of Eating Shrimp
Shrimps are an excellent source of protein, they are low in saturated fat and it is a good way to get iron, zinc, vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids.
These valuable fats can lower triglyceride levels and also offer many other benefits for heart health. Shrimps contain less fat and therefore less omega-3 fatty acids than some other seafood (such as fatty fish such as salmon) but the omega-3 content in shrimp (average 120mg / 100g) is well above the minimum and therefore shrimp are also mentioned as a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.
It also appears that shrimps are an excellent source of the antioxidant selenium (no less than 51 mg per 100 grams).
Recent research has shown that the selenium in shrimp is well absorbed by the human body (estimate 80-85% total selenium absorption). A deficiency of selenium is a risk factor for heart failure and other forms of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cognitive function disorders and depression.
Another example is glutathione peroxidase (GPO), an important enzyme that can not function without selenium. It protects the majority of the systems in our body – such as our lungs – against unwanted damage from oxygen-containing molecules. And shrimp can be a distinctive source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory carotenoid astaxanthin (a serving of 150 grams of shrimp can contain 1-4mg astaxanthin). Of these carotenoids, animal experiments have shown that this antioxidant supports the nervous system and the musculoskeletal system and that it reduces the risk of colon cancer and diabetes-related problems.
A portion of shrimp (steamed, 150 grams) gives a significant portion of the recommended daily amount of the nutritional standard for many valuable nutrients including protein (52%) and omega-3 fatty acids (14%), minerals such as selenium (102%), iodine (31%), phosphorus (50%), zinc (17%) and vitamins such as vitamin B12 (78%), vitamin B3 (19%), vitamin E (17%), vitamin B6 (16%) and vitamin A ( 11%).
Yet Another Warning
In a small number of people (about 1 in 100), the high cholesterol levels in the blood can be caused by a genetic disorder called familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) or familial combined hyperlipidemia (FCH). This autosomal dominant disorder is characterized by elevated cholesterol, in particular very high levels of LDL, ‘bad cholesterol’ in their blood and cardiovascular diseases at a young age. People with this condition have an interest in paying more attention to the consumption of foods that are high in cholesterol.
How Often Can You Eat Shrimp?
The nutrition center recommends consuming foods twice a week, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Although shrimp is not the best choice (in that quantity, so twice a week) if you have high cholesterol levels. If your cholesterol levels are normal, you should eat shrimp every week without worrying too much about your LDL level.
Did you know that the Japanese are the biggest consumers of shrimp in the world? In addition, the Japanese also have the highest life expectancy. A bit short through the bend, but it is plausible that there is a connection. At the very least, it is fair enough to say that cholesterol in shrimps and other seafood does not cause damage to the arteries, provided that the fish is not breaded or fried.
Some Healthy Ways to Prepare Shrimp
I have said it before in this article: Shrimps can best be eaten, but then you should not fry them in saturated fat for example. Also breading is not good.
The best way to prepare shrimp, and food in general, is by steaming.
But there are other ways:
Since shrimps cook very quickly, you can bake them perfectly. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and fry the shrimp for about 4 minutes together with finely chopped ginger and different vegetables. Peas go very well with shrimps.
Roasted shrimp in the oven is a simple way to prepare large quantities of shrimp at the same time. Preheat the oven to a temperature of about 170˚. Brush the shrimp with some olive oil and sprinkle with fresh herbs and spices. Roast them in a single layer on a baking tray. You can eat them or possibly with a paste.
Like other seafood, shrimp become juicy when cooked in seafood stock. Prepare a spicy broth with some Cajun spices. Cook the prawns in the stock for a few minutes and lower the heat and leave to simmer for a while. Remove the shrimp with a slotted spoon from the pan, store the broth and serve with a dipping sauce.
Large, meaty shrimps are ideal for grilling on a grill. Brush them with oil and a selection of herbs and spices. Then thread them to, for example, satay sticks to easily turn them on the grill. Serve the grilled shrimps as a main course or as a side dish with salads or as a filling for tacos.
The shrimp yarn in a package creates a steam cooking effect that gives a great taste. The term for this classic cooking technique is “en papillote”. Wrap individual portions of shrimp in foil or parchment paper with an aromatic liquid such as white wine or boullion. Make sure the packages are properly closed and cook them in a pan over medium heat or 170˚ in the oven. This remains the best way to prepare shrimp. Most nutrients are retained by the steam process.
Ground shrimps have a fixed structure, making it possible to mix them with other ingredients such as hamburgers. Grind a number of shrimps in a food processor along with your favorite vegetables such as onions, peppers and fresh herbs. Mix with a number of whole shrimps to improve the texture. Use this mixture to make hamburgers, which you bake on a grill or, with olive oil, in a hot frying pan.
Preparation Time for Shrimp
Regardless of the cooking method you use, you can assume that the shrimps are good when they are pink on the outside and opaque inside. On a direct heat source, on a stove or on a grill, a medium-sized shrimp needs about 2 minutes per side of cooking time. With indirect heat, such as in an oven, it takes about 10 minutes to prepare the shrimp. When they are overcooked, they become hard and rubbery, so you have to take them out of the oven as soon as they are pink on the outside and opaque on the inside.
Despite the poor reputation of shrimp, most people can eat shrimp, of course as part of a well-balanced diet.
A portion of a dozen large prawns contains 130 mg of cholesterol. This should not be a health risk because shrimp are low in fat and rich in highly unsaturated fatty acids, which can lead to the formation of high-density lipids, known as ‘good cholesterol’.
Consuming prawns can actually lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Scientists have concluded that a healthy diet may contain just cooked or roasted shrimp. As with most foods, it is better not to deep-fry and to limit the amount of oil, butter, mayonnaise and tartar sauce.
Incidentally, it is not the intention that you are going to follow a ‘shrimp diet’. I’ve said it before, but again: Shrimp you can eat, but as part of a versatile and healthy diet.
Although shrimp will ultimately positively influence your cholesterol, it is certainly not the only food that can achieve this. If you want to work seriously on your cholesterol, you should make the most complete list of foods that are good for your cholesterol.
These foods can then be fitted into your daily diet.