What is one healthy protein that is common throughout Asian cuisine, besides tofu? The answer is shrimp! This crustacean has been commonly praised as a healthy protein alternative for meat eaters who want to eat healthier but are not willing to try vegetarian alternatives. Here is some nutritional information and some of the health benefits regarding shrimp:
Nutrients in Shrimp
- Selenium: Selenium is an effective antioxidant that repairs free radicals in the body. It also helps in the maintenance of thyroid functions and the immune system, and can help in cancer prevention.
- Protein: Protein is important because it can provide our body with essential amino acids. It is also crucial in building muscle tissues and transporting nutrients throughout the body.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D is key in calcium absorption, which in turn, helps with the formation, growth and strengthening of the bones and teeth. It also protects the immune system and has anti-inflammatory properties, which helps in the prevention of cancer.
- Vitamin B12 (cobalamin): Vitamin B12 plays a vital role in the functioning of the brain and the nervous system, as well as blood formation.
- Iron: Iron helps with oxygen transport in the body, and can provide energy when the body needs it most; hence, individuals with low amounts of iron, such as women during the menstrual cycle, tend to feel fatigue and exhaustion sooner.
- Phosphorus: Phosphorus is important in healthy bone and teeth formation. It also helps synthesize protein for the maintenance of cells and tissues.
- Omega 3 fatty acids: These "healthy" fats are responsible for a healthy heart, supple skin, and anti-inflammatory properties. As an essential fatty acid, the body cannot spontaneously generate this nutrient.
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin): Vitamin B3 is vital in the skin, digestive and nervous systems. Research has also highlighted anti-aging properties of niacin, such as cognitive health maintenance and skin repair and rejuvenation. As a b vitamin, it also help convert food to energy.
- Zinc: Zinc helps open wounds heal faster, and supports the immune system to fight off bacterial invaders.
- Copper: Copper aids in the production of collagen and hemoglobin, which is responsible for transporting oxygen throughout the body.
- Magnesium: Magnesium has multiple supporting functions like maintaining a healthy immune system, normal blood pressure and strong bones. It can also reduce inflammation and help prevent diabetes by regulating blood sugar levels.
Healthier Cardiovascular System
While shrimp is very low in unhealthy fats, it is an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids, which is a type of essential acid our body cannot produce. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, omega 3 fats have been linked in research to decreased risk of serious cardiovascular problems and higher levels of "good" HDL cholesterol. It can also prevent heart attacks, strokes, plaques, and regulate blood pressure and heart beat.
Shrimp has high levels of the antioxidants and selenium. Both of these nutrients have been linked to cancer prevention, as they are anti-inflammatory agents that can repair free radicals and damaged DNA in the body. A regular intake of the omega 3 fats may slow tumor growth and improve the quality of life in cancer patients. Antioxidants are also great in strengthening the immune system.
Protection of Cognition
Shrimp's high content of B vitamins, like vitamin B12 and vitamin B3, are known to support functions of the brain and nervous systems. Vitamin B3 has been specifically linked to the prevention of Alzheimer's disease, which is a degenerative cognitive illness among the elderly. The high amount of DHA in omega 3 fatty acids is vital in supporting the brain and neurological systems, since much of it is found in the fats of the human brain. Studies have also shown that it can also decrease the risk of depression and slow the progression of schizophrenia in children.
Interesting Health Facts About Shrimp
- Four ounces of shrimp provides roughly 65 percent of the daily recommended intake for selenium.
- Shrimp is a great source of lean protein because it is very low in saturated fats.
- Although shrimp used to be shunned due to its high cholesterol content, it has shown to actually increase HDL cholesterol, which is normally referred to as the "good" cholesterol.
Adding Shrimp to Your Diet
Need some ideas on how to add shrimp to your diet? Here are a few you can try:
- Try substituting shrimp in place of your normal protein during meals.
- Shrimp cocktail makes a nutritional snack or appetizer.
- Instead of a crab cake, try a shrimp cake!
- Shrimp is a delicious addition to pastas.
- Toss some shrimp with lemon juice and season with salt and pepper, then add it to your favorite salad.
- Don't enjoy the shrimp preparation process? Purchase pre-shelled, pre-cooked bags of shrimp in the frozen isle, which can be consumed right after defrosting.
- Shrimp can be a colorful addition to your next barbeque in kebab form.
- Shrimp is highly versatile. Try baking, cooking, roasting, frying or sautéing them!