Almost half of the global population looks to shrimp as a convenient, tasty protein source. These miniature marine animals come in a multitude of sizes and varieties, residing in salt, fresh, and brackish waters as well as thousands of farms. They are a highly prized entrée item that transcends culture and affluence. Environmental and health concerns make many people hesitant to consume shrimp. Recent research is challenging some of these issues, and extensive studies extol this seafood as a treasure of health benefits. These tiny shellfish stand out as nutritional giants with a lot of essential nutrients in each low-calorie bite.

About Shrimp

The term “shrimp” refers to small crustaceans that live in waters all over the world. Most are an inch or smaller in length; however, the most commercially popular species -- decapods -- are significantly larger. Decapods belong to the same order as lobsters, crabs, and crayfish. These shellfish are anatomically different from prawns, although they are quite similar when it comes to cooking. There are hundreds of varieties of shrimp, but all possess similar biological traits and provide the same nutritional benefits. The tails of the shrimp are the primary part eaten in the US; many other cultures consume or cook the heads as well.

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Nutritional Profile

Each scrumptious morsel of shrimp packs a nutritional punch. The crustaceans carry prolific amounts of protein, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. A four-ounce serving provides

  • Calories: 135
  • Protein: 25.83 g (52 percent DV)
  • Selenium: 56.13 mcg (102 percent DV)
  • Vitamin B12: 1.88 mcg (78 percent DV)
  • Sodium: 1,073.88 mg (72 percent DV)
  • Phosphorus: 347 mg (50 percent DV)
  • Choline: 153.54 mg (36 percent DV)
  • Copper: 0.29 mg (32 percent DV)
  • Iodine: 46 mcg (31 percent DV)
  • Vitamin B3: 3.04 mg (19 percent DV)
  • Zinc: 1.85 mg (17 percent (DV)
  • Vitamin E: 2.49 mg (17 percent DV)
  • Vitamin B6: 0.27 mg (16 percent DV)
  • Omega-3 fats: 0.34 g (14 percent DV)
  • Calcium: 103.19 (10 percent DV)
  • Magnesium: 41.96 mg (10 percent DV)

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Heart Health

Nutrients in shrimp contribute to cardiovascular health. Although this seafood has a reputation for high cholesterol content, research indicates that shrimp consumption increases good cholesterol levels and reduces blood pressure. A 2015 study published in Nutrition Research and Practice concluded that eating shellfish and fish could reduce risk factors for cardiovascular disease in middle-aged women with type 2 diabetes.

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Bone Health

One serving provides a hearty helping of nutrients that strengthen and rebuild bones. Deficiencies in these vitamins and proteins can lead to deterioration of bone mass and strength, the main sign of osteoporosis. Shrimp is an abundant source of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and other minerals that help maintain bone integrity.

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Because shrimp eat algae, the sea creatures are a rich source of the antioxidant astaxanthin. This powerful carotenoid that gives shrimp their reddish color has anti-inflammatory properties. Thus, astaxanthin may lower the risk of heart attacks and chronic illnesses resulting from oxidative stress. A study reviewed in Marine Drugs explored the neuroprotective potentials of this antioxidant to treat acute injuries as well as neurological diseases and disorders.

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Shrimp is abundant in the trace mineral selenium; a four-ounce serving provides more than the daily requirement. We require only minute amounts of selenium, but its potent antioxidant influence is crucial. The body incorporates this nutrient to produce selenoproteins that help mitigate the effects of free radicals, maintain thyroid function, and promote immune system health.

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Weight Management

Shrimp is a rich source of zinc, which enhances the production of leptin, a hormone that promotes appetite regulation, fat storage, and energy use throughout the body. Increased leptin levels can help people feel satiated and avoid overeating and food cravings. Shrimp also contains a large amount of iodine, which accelerates thyroid activity, helping curb weight gain.

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Women’s Health

Shrimp contains healthy fats in a low-calorie package. These fats have shown immense healing potential for everyone, and especially unique advantages for women. A study published in Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy reported that omega-3 fatty acids might help prevent premenstrual syndrome, postmenopausal hot flashes, ischemic cardiovascular disease, and some cancers of the breast and colon.

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Is Farmed Shrimp Safe to Eat?

For decades, media sources have expressed concerns over shrimp consumption due to unhealthy farming practices. To address this, researchers analyzed 18 years of toxicological data on shrimp for a study published in Aquaculture in February 2019. They determined that stringent controls and legislation have contributed dramatically to safer products for consumers. According to the study’s risk assessment, farmed shrimp appears to be as safe as wild seafood options. In response to widespread unease over issues such as ocean water contamination and overfishing, the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch and the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration Fish Watch offer information about sustainable seafood choices. Both sites feature dozens of fish and shellfish with profiles that include habitat impacts, nutrient content, and availability in the marketplace. These unbiased sources can help consumers be more aware as they contemplate seafood selections.

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Shrimp and Allergy

Shellfish are among the top food allergens in the US. Proteins in shrimp trigger allergic reactions in some people. Symptoms include digestive upset, skin reactions, tingling in the mouth, and dangerous anaphylactic reactions. Individuals who are allergic to shrimp must take precautions to avoid direct and indirect contact with this food.

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