Chef Tim Says...

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Dr. Tim Says...

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Dr. Tim Says....

Shrimp Are Not Bad for You!

At least once a week I'll be talking with a patient about their high cholesterol and it seems like every third person will say, "But Doc, I don't eat any shrimp!" Almost every time they're shocked when I say tell them that shrimp is OK. The best part is that this gets their attention and I love talking about the things you can eat. (I get a similar reaction when I talk about eating red meat or eggs.)

At the core of eating healthy is to eat less saturated fat and trans-fats, more fruit and vegetables, more legumes like beans, good fats like olive oil and nuts and more fish. And shrimp does qualify as fish.

Shrimp does have a more cholesterol than many other ingredients. While the amount of cholesterol that you eat is important, by eating lean meats, fish, veggies, legumes, fruits and nuts that are low in cholesterol, it's OK to have shrimp or (gasp!) eggs. The more important factor, as you have heard me talk about, is saturated fat and trans-fats.

Let's compare:

  Calories Cholesterol (milligrams) Total Fat (grams) Saturated Fat (grams) Omega 3 fats (milligrams)
4 ounces shrimp 119 170 2 0.4 200
4 ounces chicken breast 123 65 1.3 0.4 25
4 ounces lean ground beef 197 73 11.2 4.5 104

Notice that the shrimp and chicken breast have about the same number of calories and fat but the shrimp has far more Omega 3 fats. This is a trade off that's more than worth it for only an extra 105 mg of cholesterol. The shrimp is far better than the ground beef, which has almost 5 grams of saturated fat (and again the shrimp has only about 100 mg more cholesterol).

The take-home message here is that eating healthy is about balance and the table above supports the research showing that eating lean red meat is OK about once a week. Eating foods that are lower in calories and saturated fat are equally important, and how much cholesterol you eat is less important. The bonus with the shrimp is the extra Omega 3 fats.

One key is how you cook your shrimp. Deep fried foods really aren't all that healthy, and cooking the shrimp swimming in butter just adds saturated fat. The best way to eat shrimp and enjoy it is the good old fashioned Shrimp Cocktail. Try Barbecue Shrimp with Romano Grits (now that's eating). Or even better, Linguine with Shrimp in Tomato Cream Vodka Sauce. I love this week's recipe though -- Whole Wheat Linguine with Shrimp and Leeks.

There's enough to focus on in eating healthy. The amount of cholesterol in any particular food is one that we now know is not as important.

Eat well, eat healthy, enjoy life!

Dr. Gourmet
October 23, 2006

Last updated: 10/23/06