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Is Shrimp Healthy or Harmful to Your Health?

Posted by Smarter Nutrition on

Maybe you have heard that fish and other foods from the sea are better for you than beef, poultry, and other proteins with healthy fats. But some health experts are now saying consumers may be missing part of the story. In fact there are some questions as to whether shrimp and some shellfish may even be bad for your health. What gives?

There is no doubt that research has found certain types of fish to be a wonderful addition to a healthy diet, but a growing body of science also points to some fish and other seafood as a source of mercury and toxins you definitely do not want to ingest, which is why the type of seafood you include in your diet matters. Chances are, you have heard about the importance of adding omega-3 fatty acids to your diet, as omega-3 fatty acids can help support brain health and combat inflammation. But our bodies cannot make omega-3s on their own, so we must obtain them from foods we eat, and fish are an excellent source of these essential fatty acids.They can be found in fish like wild-caught salmon and sardines.

However, not all sea creatures are created equal: some fish contain much more toxins and heavy metals, and should be avoided. So where do shrimp end up in this equation? Let’s take a look at whether these popular seafood staples are healthy and safe enough to enjoy regularly.

What’s the Deal with Shellfish and Shrimp?

“Unlike some of the healthier options like wild-caught salmon... shrimp fall into a different category. These are fish that we don’t want to make a regular part of our diets, and the reason has to do with how they feed and the toxins they are exposed to.” says nutritionist Dr. Nancy Lin.

It turns out that when it comes to shrimp, we need to be extremely careful with how much we include in our diet. Shrimp is often treated with a food additive called 4-hexylresorcinol. This specific additive is considered a xenoestrogen, which means it can mimic estrogen in the body and cause hormone imbalances, and may even lead to an increased risk of breast cancer.

Another issue with shrimp has to do with the fact that the large majority of the shrimp we eat is farm-raised. Farm-raised fish and shrimp are often living in water that has been treated with countless different chemicals, which is the last thing you want to expose your body to. Additionally, the water farm-raised shrimp live in is often insufficient, making it an extremely overcrowded environment which increases their exposure to toxins and infections. It’s actually best to avoid farm-raised seafood in order to avoid exposure to toxins, additives, and heavy metals.

It’s also important to be cognizant of the possibility of allergic reactions. Shellfish rank high on the food allergy list, so make sure if you do consume these, that you are aware of any allergies you might have.

Why You Want to Avoid Bottom Feeders

Another important topic of conversation surrounding fish, and which ones we decide to eat or not eat, has to do with how they eat. Shrimp are of particular concern when it comes to what they consume and therefore what we end up exposing our bodies to when we consume them. Bottom feeders consume what is on the bottom of a body of water. This could be the ocean, river, pond, or whatever farm-raised body of water they are living in. Bottom feeders could be consuming all kinds of unwanted toxins and even parts of dead fish. This can certainly increase the risk of parasite infections in this group of sea creatures. This increases the use of antibiotics as well as pesticide use in these fish or shrimp in order to fight the potential parasitic infection. When you consume fish that has been treated with these toxins and antibiotics, these toxins enter into your body. Bottom feeders may also expose us to additional pollutants and mercury. Starting to sound less appetizing?

Better Fish Options

If you enjoy seafood and want to keep it a regular part of your diet, there are healthier ways to do so. When you choose which type of seafood you eat, you will want to stay away from bottom feeders like shrimp, as well as fish that have been farm-raised. Instead, choose low-mercury fish and fish high in omega-3 fatty acids to help support health. Here are some healthier options you may want to consider adding to your diet include:

  • Wild-caught Alaskan salmon
  • Sardines
  • Herring
  • Atlantic Mackerel

When choosing which seafood to enjoy, be sure to select fish that has been wild or sustainably raised and purchase the fish from a food store that is able to give you information on where the fish comes from and what farming practices were used. Knowing this information and steering clear of bottom-feeding sea creatures is an excellent way to safely include fish in your diet.


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