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Is Shrimp Keto-Friendly? Facts About Shrimp On A Keto Diet

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There are so many foods that you would think would be keto-friendly but then you second guess yourself. There is an art to this diet, after all. So, you’re always googling “Is <blank> keto-friendly?” You may have recently found yourself wondering whether shrimp are keto-friendly. [1]

Can I Eat Shrimp On Keto Diet?

Yes, 100%, shrimp are keto-friendly. Not only are they keto-friendly, but the health benefits are also truly remarkable. Shrimp are extremely nutritious, and they are fairly low in calories. Shrimp also provides a high amount of protein and healthy fats, along with a variety of vitamins and minerals.

However, the keto rule of thumb for seafood and, more specifically, shellfish isn’t as steadfast as one may think. While shrimp and many crab species contain 0 carbohydrates, this is not true for all shellfish. For example, clams contain 5 grams of carbs, mussels have 7 grams, octopus have 4 grams, oysters also have 4 grams, and squid ring in at 3 grams of carbohydrates. [2]

Health Benefits Of Shrimp

Shrimp are tiny little things but, man, do they pack a nutrient-dense punch. I’m honestly surprised shrimp haven’t been labeled a superfood yet. Shrimp are packed full of a lot of the everyday buzz word nutrients that we know we need. However, you may not know that shrimp are also great sources of some nutrients that are very important, but we may not typically hear about. And, at only about 7 calories per shrimp, they are the perfect way to load up on vitamins and nutrients, totally guilt-free.

Protein Content

One obvious health benefit of shrimp is its protein content. Protein is a key nutrient and it’s absolutely essential for a healthy life. Protein is a building block that comprises virtually every component of the human body.

A four-ounce serving of shrimp can satisfy over half (52%) of our daily recommended intake of protein. [3] Packing so much protein into such a little package makes it easy to understand why shrimp is synonymous with protein.

Supports Production of Blood Cells and DNA

The fact that shrimp are rich in protein is common knowledge, and it should be since it can account for over half of the daily recommended intake. However, did you know that a single serving of shrimp can also account for 78% of the daily recommended intake of vitamin B12? [3]

Crazy, right? And, turns out, vitamin B12 is pretty important, it aids in maintaining the health of the body’s nerve and blood cells and supports the production of DNA. [4] How is it possible that it’s not widely known that shrimp is such a great source of vitamin B12? Especially since vitamin B12 is so important and since shrimp can provide more than three-fourths the amount needed; you would think the word would have gotten out by now.

Anti-Inflammatory and Antioxidant Support

As if shrimp’s vitamin B12 content wasn’t surprising enough, shrimp are also a great source of antioxidants and they are great anti-inflammatory food, as well. Not only are shrimp rich in antioxidants, but they also contain unique antioxidants that aren’t found in a lot of other foods. Three exceptional antioxidants to be exact: the xanthophyll carotenoid known as astaxanthin, as well as two minerals, selenium, and copper. [3]

Astaxanthin

What the heck is astaxanthin? To be completely honest, I consider myself pretty educated in the nutrition world and I had never heard of astaxanthin. Astaxanthin is what is responsible for giving shrimp their pinkish-orange color. Many foods that are reddish-orange in color get that color from other carotenoids or flavonoids; however, shrimp are particularly rich in this one specific carotenoid. [3]

Astaxanthin is beneficial for numerous reasons. It has been shown to provide antioxidant support to both the nervous and musculoskeletal systems; it’s associated with a decreased risk of colon cancer, and it may even decrease the risk of certain problems associated with diabetes. [3]

Selenium

Selenium is a mineral that is vital for the function of certain antioxidants. In the antioxidant world, few enzymes are more important for the healthy function of the human body than glutathione peroxidase (GPO). GPO aids in protecting the majority of our body systems against harmful damage from oxygen-containing molecules. This is critical for the lungs where such exposure can be especially elevated. This is relevant because GPO is an enzyme that is unable to function without selenium. [3]

When we’re talking about any sort of vitamin or mineral, it’s obviously important that the substance is adequately absorbed into the body. And a lot of people don’t realize that bioavailability is something we need to consider when choosing how and where to get our nutrients. Interestingly, selenium that exists in shrimp can be more easily absorbed by the human body. [3]

So, what is selenium good for? Selenium is crucial in heart and lung health. Selenium deficiency can cause complications for type-2 diabetes. It can also be linked to depression and a decline in cognitive function. [3]

Copper

Yet another vital nutrient found in shrimp is copper. Copper is another antioxidant mineral with a crucial role in our well-being. Copper is connected to the function of a particular enzyme known as copper-zinc superoxide dismutase (SOD). SOD plays a critical role in regulating oxygen metabolism and preventing oxidative stress. [3]

Protein, vitamin B12, anti-inflammatory support, and antioxidants; these are only a handful of the awesome health benefits of shrimp. The list of health benefits to eating shrimp goes on but certainly, you’re already convinced. The vitamin and nutrient profile of shrimp is so complex and intricate, it’s nothing short of fascinating. Who would have ever expected so much from such a tiny sea creature?

All Shrimp are NOT Created Equal

One of the biggest controversies surrounding shrimp is where or how the shrimp were raised. The major factor to consider when purchasing shrimp is whether they were farm-raised or wild-caught. Unfortunately, when purchasing shrimp at the grocery store it can be tough to know, for sure, where they came from.

Sometimes shrimp labeled as “wild-caught” may have actually been farm-raised. Not that farm-raised shrimp are necessarily all bad, it really just depends on the conditions under which they were raised and what they were fed. Best case scenario, find a seafood market in your area with a good reputation and ask questions about the seafood you’re interested in.

Other Keto-Friendly Sea Creatures

Numerous delicious seafood options are perfect for keto dieters. Based on data released by Self Nutrition Data, salmon is a great keto option. Like shrimp, salmon is rich in B vitamins and selenium, it’s also rich in potassium and practically free of carbohydrates. [2]

Crab is another great option for a healthy keto meal. Crab is very versatile and there are countless creative crab recipes. However, keep in mind that while real crab meat is keto-friendly, imitation crab meat is loaded with carbs and should definitely be avoided while following the keto diet.

Delicious Shrimp Dishes

Citrus Shrimp and Avocado Salad

Citrus Shrimp and Avocado Salad
Citrus Shrimp and Avocado Salad

Shrimp are so versatile to cook with; they complement several flavors and cuisines. Here’s a light, summery recipe that incorporates avocado. This would be great as a side dish or on its own as the main entree.

Pesto Zucchini Noodles with Shrimp

Pesto Zucchini Noodles with Shrimp
Pesto Zucchini Noodles with Shrimp

A keto pasta substitution is a must. And with this tasty zucchini noodle and shrimp dish, you certainly won’t miss traditional pasta. There’s a delicious pesto component that you can make from scratch or you can opt to purchase the pesto pre-made, just be sure to check the carb content.

Keto Popcorn Shrimp

Keto-Popcorn-Shrimp
Keto-Popcorn-Shrimp

One last favorite keto-friendly shrimp recipe can be great as a snack or a side dish. This keto popcorn shrimp recipe is not at all reminiscent of a “diet” recipe. It’s filling and satisfying and a must add to your keto recipe repertoire.

Shrimp Should Be a Mealtime Staple

If it isn’t already, shrimp should definitely become a staple in your diet, keto or not. Shrimp is packed with so many vital and unique nutrients, I really can’t stress enough how beneficial it would be to add to your cooking rotation. There are so many fun and interesting shrimp recipes, there’s really no chance it can get boring.

If you’re lucky enough to live near the coast, it shouldn’t be hard to find a reputable seafood spot. But, if you live more inland, start doing your research and find a great local seafood market. No matter where you live, become a regular at the seafood market of your choice and really get to know the people that work there and ask questions about your seafood. This will serve you well, as there are so many healthy keto options available in the seafood world.

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