Eat Shrimp for Weight Loss: Unpacking the Health Benefits and Nutritional Profile

Weight Loss & Diets | Written by Nathan Petitpas | Updated on 5 July 2024

A man with heart eyes looks at a shrimp with labels indicating its protein content, appetite-suppressing properties, omega-3 content, and nutrient richness.

If you’re aiming to lose weight and enhance your health while still enjoying tasty savory dishes, you might be curious about whether shrimp is beneficial for weight loss.

Shrimp is a very commonly enjoyed seafood among Americans, and fortunately, we don’t have to give up all of our favorite foods to shed belly fat. Because shrimp is high in protein and has many vitamins, it can be easily incorporated into healthy diets.

However, some say shrimp can lead to bad cholesterol and most don’t understand the true benefits shrimp can provide so we’ll break down each.

How Many Calories Are In Shrimp?

Since weight loss is primarily about calories in, calories out it’s important to consider the calories of any dish before deciding if it’s beneficial to weight loss. According to the USDA, a 3 oz serving of cooked shrimp contains only 84 calories, making it a great low-calorie choice to add to your weight loss repertoire.1 For reference, 3 oz is approximately 8-9 large shrimp. That’s a decent portion of meat that can be thrown in with some tasty sides.

Valuable Nutrients Found In Shrimp That Can Help You Lose Weight

Besides being very low in calories, shrimp also contains several valuable nutrients that aid in slimming down. That same 3 oz serving of shrimp packs 18 grams of protein and boasts a whopping 48% of your RDI (recommended dietary intake) of selenium, a mineral that is known to aid in the production of active thyroid hormones and promote a healthy cardiovascular system, according to the National Library of Medicine.

Shrimp also contains healthy amounts of Vitamin B12, Iron, Phosphorus, Niacin, Zinc, Magnesium, and Iodine, all of which are beneficial towards a healthy diet. By incorporating more of these essential nutrients in your diet, you’ll not only improve your chances of losing weight, you’ll also improve your overall health.

Additionally, shrimp contains 70 mg of calcium per 3 oz serving, another valuable nutrient in weight loss and a healthy diet. According to the National Library of Medicine, research has suggested that people with higher calcium intake are less likely to be overweight, obese, or develop metabolic disorders such as insulin resistance syndrome.2

However, calcium obtained from non-dairy sources is more likely to help you achieve your weight loss goals as dairy products tend to be higher in fat. Some excellent and healthy sources of calcium to consider adding to your healthy diet include beans, kale, broccoli, and milk alternatives such as soy milk.

Finally, shrimp is an excellent source of Vitamin D, another important nutrient for weight loss and a healthy diet. According to the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, 94% of Americans don’t consume enough Vitamin D in their diet.3 Vitamin D works together with calcium to strengthen your bones and is vital to a healthy immune system.

You can boost your Vitamin D levels by consuming shrimp, tuna, spinach, mushrooms, and egg yolks. However, you can also boost your Vitamin D levels by getting outside in the sunshine more often (safely of course).4

The Myth Behind Shrimp and Cholesterol

Shrimp is sometimes scrutinized in terms of its health benefits because it is naturally higher in cholesterol than other types of seafood. For example, that same 3 oz serving of shrimp contains 189 mg of cholesterol, whereas the same size portion of tuna only contains 36 mg of cholesterol. Cholesterol is a word that can have scary connotations, most commonly that higher levels of cholesterol lead to a higher risk of heart disease.

Not All Cholesterol is Bad (Some Cholesterol is Healthy)

Cholesterol is definitely something to be careful with, but not all cholesterol is bad. In fact, researchers have discovered that consuming 300 grams of shrimp per day led to a 12% increase in HDL (“good” cholesterol) levels as well as a 13% decrease in triglycerides, both of which are important for leaning down, heart health and overall health.

How Shrimp Helps With Health and Weight Loss

As we’ve explored, shrimp is indeed beneficial for weight loss. Now, let’s delve into the exact properties of shrimp that contribute to weight loss and overall health. Let’s investigate further.

Shrimp Is High In Protein

It’s already been mentioned, but we can’t say enough about protein. Protein takes more energy to digest than carbohydrates, and it helps you feel full, so you’ll eat less overall.

Not to mention, it helps build muscle and it should be a cornerstone to any diet.

Shrimp Decreases Appetite

Shrimp helps with weight loss by decreasing appetite in a couple ways and being high in protein is only one of them. Shrimp also decreases appetite by increasing CCK (cholecystokinin), a stomach hormone that has been shown to reduce hunger and help you feel full longer. Researchers have found that increased levels of CCK were accompanied by reduced body weight and fat mass.5 So, next time you’re sitting down to a nice meal at a restaurant, you might want to consider ordering a shrimp cocktail as an appetizer. That way, you’ll get full sooner and make better food choices all evening.

Shrimp Contains Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Shrimp is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, adding to its effectiveness in aiding weight loss. Research has indicated that omega-3 fatty acids can aid in weight loss and also have several health benefits besides weight loss.

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, omega-3 fatty acids are known to lower risk factors for heart disease and stroke, help control eczema, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis, and even help prevent cancer and other conditions. While many omega-3 fatty acids come from seafood such as fish and shrimp, they are also found in nuts, flax seeds and flax seed oil, leafy vegetables, and even some grass-fed animal fat.

Shrimp Is Linked To Reduced Risk Of Cardiovascular Issues In Women

If you’re a woman who’s looking to shed some pounds but you can’t stand the thought of giving up all of your favorite foods, you’ve probably wondered whether or not you should keep eating fish and the short answer is yes, there’s no harm. The longer answer is that eating shrimp can help you hit your weight loss goals, but it can also do so much more for your overall health and longevity of life.

According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States.6 In 2017, heart disease was responsible for the deaths of 299,578 American women, or about 1 out of 5 female deaths. A 2015 study revealed that women who ate shellfish on a regular basis, including shrimp, were found to have much lower levels of triglycerides and lower blood pressure than women who did not eat shellfish.7 By lowering these risk factors for heart disease, you’ll not only find it easier to lose weight, you’ll be doing yourself a favor in the long-term.

Healthy Ways To Incorporate Shrimp Into Your Meal Plans

We’ve established by now that shrimp is absolutely a healthy addition to your diet and can help you lose weight, but, like everything in life, it will only work if you do it the right way, and that starts with how you cook the shrimp. If you’re eating shrimp for its health and weight loss benefits, avoid breading and frying it. Yes, popcorn shrimp deep fried in vegetable oil is absolutely delicious, but the breading and frying process will negate the weight loss benefits you’re seeking from our savory crustacean friends.

There are several ways you can prepare shrimp that are amazingly delicious and healthy. Grilling is one of the best ways to make healthy and delicious proteins, plus it keeps your kitchen clean. We already talked about making sure you don’t fry your shrimp, especially in vegetable oil, so you already know what not to do. You don’t want the shrimp to stick to the grill, so the trick is to coat it in a very small amount of olive oil when you season it in order to prevent sticking. If you don’t have a grill or it’s just too cold outside to grill, pan searing, boiling, or baking your shrimp are excellent indoor cooking alternatives.

Shrimp in all its forms is delicious and will fill you up, but you need to fill out the rest of your plate with food that’s also healthy and will keep you full for a long time. The best side dishes you can pair with your shrimp are vegetable-based dishes, such as a side salad full of rich leafy greens and fresh cut veggies, or, if you’re looking for a warm side dish, a steamed medley of low-carb veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, and asparagus. If you’re craving something more substantial but still healthy, consider the superfood known as sweet potatoes. You can bake them or turn them into oven baked sweet potato fries.

Moderation Is Key

Similar to various aspects of life, the secret to weight loss and a nutritious diet lies in moderation. Eating shrimp can help you lose weight and achieve your health goals. Just be mindful of how you prepare your shrimp, what you eat with it, and how much you eat in a sitting. A healthy and balanced diet rich in foods like shrimp can be the key to achieving your weight loss goals without sacrificing the joy that delicious savory food adds to life.

Now that you know shrimp can be good for weight loss,” it’s time to get in the kitchen and cook your way all the way to your weight loss goals!

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References

1U.S. Department of Agriculture. April 2018. Crustaceans, shrimp, cooked. Web Page. 5 Nov. 2021. FoodData Central <https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/175180/nutrients>

2Schrager, S. May-June 2005. Dietary Calcium Intake and Obesity. National Library of Medicine. Web Page. 5 Nov 2021. <https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15879568/>

3U.S. Department of Agriculture. July 2020. Scientific Report of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. Web Page. <https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2020-07/ScientificReport_of_the_2020DietaryGuidelinesAdvisoryCommittee_first-print.pdf>

4Rayman, M. 15 July 2000. The Importance of Selenium to Human Health. National Library of Medicine. Web Page. 4 Nov 2021. <https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10963212/>

5Liaset, B., Oyen, J., Jacques, H., Kristiansen, K., Madsen, L. June 2019. Seafood Intake and the Development of Obesity, Insulin Resistance, and Type 2 Diabetes. Cambridge University Press. Web Page. 5 Nov 2021. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6536831/>

6Centers for Disease Control. n.d. Women and Heart Disease. Centers for Disease Control. Web Page. 4 Nov 2021. <https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/women.htm>

7Hyesook, K., Seokyung, P., Hyesu, Y., Young, J., Kap Bum, H., Namsoo, C. 13 April 2015. Association between fish and shellfish, and omega-3 PUFAs intake and CVD risk factors in middle-aged female patients with type 2 diabetes. The Korean Nutrition Society and the Korean Society of Community Nutrition. Web Page. 4 Nov 2021. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4575962/pdf/nrp-9-496.pdf>

About the Author

Nathan Petitpas

Nathan has been a fitness enthusiast for the past 12 years and jumps between several types of training such as bodybuilding, powerlifting, cycling, gymnastics, and backcountry hiking. Due to the varying caloric needs of numerous sports, he has cycled between all types of diets and currently eats a whole food diet. In addition, Nathan lives with several injuries such as hip impingement, spondylolisthesis, and scoliosis, so he underwent self-rehabilitation and no longer lives with debilitating pain.