Cholesterol in Shrimp vs Beef vs Chicken – Shrimp Is Good for Your Heart!

Cholesterol in Shrimp

When it comes to foods to pass on if your lipid levels are high, it is likely that shrimp is at the top of the list. Of all meat products, the shrimp cholesterol connection is one of the most well known, with just four ounces touting over 200 milligrams, cementing its place among notorious blood fat boosters. But, do we know everything there is to know about the shrimp cholesterol relationship? And, is it possible that there is much more than meets the eye when it comes to the cholesterol in shrimp? Recent studies are suggesting that might just be the case, and that shrimp may actually be a better friend to the heart than previously thought.

Starting with the newest information, recent studies are indicating that an antioxidant that is found in shrimp may contribute to heart health. This particular antioxidant, according to The World’s Healthiest Foods, is known as astaxathin. It is used typically as a food additive and is found in supplements when produced synthetically but occurs naturally in krill and some types of shrimp. Wikipedia explains that research points to astaxathin’s potential benefits to cardiovascular diseases due to its powerful antioxidant properties. However, the potential benefit to heart health does not necessarily negate the high levels of cholesterol in shrimp. But, there are some fascinating new truths with regards that too.

Yes, there is a lot of cholesterol in seafood in general, and shrimp is one of the biggest and worst culprits. Never mind the fact that a measly four ounce serving can supersede the recommended daily allowance for cholesterol in one day according to guidelines established by The American Heart Association. But, what about the types of cholesterol in shrimp? And, is it all bad? Perhaps not. Cholesterol is simply one type of sterol, and it is not the only one found in the tiny ocean dwellers. The World’s Healthiest Foods points out that, in fact, shrimp also contains beta-sitosterol, brassicasterol and campesterol, which have all actually been shown to lower LDL cholesterol.

There is yet another piece to the puzzle in terms of shrimp’s benefits to heart health. Like the cholesterol in fish debate, shrimp has one other thing going for it, and that is a heaping healthy dose of Omega-3 fatty acids, primarily EPA and DHA which are known to contribute to cardiovascular health. But, the odd relationship between the cholesterol in shrimp and heart health goes even deeper when it comes to Omega-3s, which have been attributed to an increase in good cholesterol (HDL). Good cholesterol can act like police officers within the bloodstream, seeking out bad cholesterol and sending it away for disposal.

But, how does shrimp stack up to other notorious high cholesterol foods like chicken and beef? Well, pretty poorly if you look at the cholesterol content alone. Beef boasts around 80 milligrams in each 3.5 ounce serving, and chicken a few points less. Shrimp blows them away at almost three times their content in terms of cholesterol. However, points out why these numbers alone are a rather poor comparison of the three popular protein sources, noting that shrimp is in fact a leader among high cholesterol foods, but that the saturated fat levels of popular meats is actually more important to maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. When compared side by side with facts about saturated fat and calorie content added in, the cholesterol in shrimp becomes less relevant, boasting a mere 0.4 grams per four ounces compared to ten times that in the same size serving of beef. It is also worth noting that in terms of calories, shrimp is a big winner too, coming in well under the other two in terms of calorie content. Why is this important? Because excess weight can contribute to higher cholesterol numbers, and thus leaner meats that are lower in calories can contribute to a smaller waistline and therefore, lower levels of bad cholesterol.

It may be hard for shrimp to shrug off its long worn label and finally be considered one of many good cholesterol foods. The sheer amount of cholesterol in shrimp is what makes it difficult to understand that it may actually be healthy for the heart. Rather than eliminate it entirely from cholesterol diet, consider incorporating it in moderate amounts instead while at the same time lowering saturated fats and increasing whole, fresh food intake. Recent studies have shown that saturated fats more profoundly contribute to cholesterol levels than that which is found in food sources anyways, and shrimp are an incredible source of many nutrients that can benefit the heart and the whole body too.