Yes, salmon is heart healthy. But shrimp, too, can reduce risk of heart disease, cancer

·2 min read

There is a hierarchy of seafood and shellfish.

When health is the topic salmon, tuna and sardines usually top the list. In South Florida, stone crabs are our special treat. We often recommend cold water fish since they usually have the highest concentration of heart healthy omega 3 fatty acids.

Yet we live on a peninsula surrounded by warm weather. It is time to give a shout-out to shrimp, a local shellfish.

Shrimp is one of the most frequently eaten shellfish. It is available fresh or frozen, is versatile and reasonably priced. A three-ounce portion has about 85 calories and 18 grams of protein.

Salmon is the queen of omega 3 fatty acids at more than 1500 mg. per 3 ounce serving but shrimp has a small amount, about 200 mg. per 3 ounce serving. Shrimp is high in cholesterol but that is only a concern for the quarter of the population that is sensitive to dietary cholesterol.

For most people, it is saturated fat that raises blood cholesterol. Three ounces of shrimp has only 1.5 grams of total fat and almost no saturated fat.

Two shrimp nutritional standouts are selenium and astaxanthin. Three ounces of shrimp provides 48% of recommended selenium. Selenium is an antioxidant that helps neutralize damaging free radicals. This, in turn, reduces risk for cancer and heart disease. Selenium is an essential nutrient for production of glutathione peroxidase, which is another powerful inflammation-reducing antioxidant.

Astaxanthin is a carotenoid pigment that gives fish and shrimp a pink color. Also an antioxidant, it contributes to heart health and reduced risk of cancer.

If you’ve wondered if it is necessary to devein shrimp, the answer is personal choice. The black “vein” in a shrimp isn’t a vein but the shrimp’s intestinal track. It contains bacteria that are neutralized with cooking. It could provide a grittier taste but it will not hurt you.

Shellfish including shrimp are in the list of highly allergenic foods. It is important for someone with any food allergy to avoid the offending food.

Sheah Rarback MS, RDN is a registered dietitian nutritionist in private practice in Miami.

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