Dear Peggy: Why do shrimp have so much cholesterol, and is it considered "good cholesterol"? —J.C., Dayton, Virginia
Good question! Shrimp has cholesterol, but it can still be included in a heart-healthy diet. To understand why, we must first know a few things about cholesterol. Our bodies need cholesterol to form cell membranes, aid in digestion, insulate nerve cells and produce certain hormones. While our bodies can make all the cholesterol we need to survive, we can also get cholesterol from our diet.
Cholesterol is found only in food from animals, such as eggs, meat, seafood, poultry and dairy products. The cholesterol found in food is not considered good or bad. The "good" cholesterol (HDL) and the "bad" cholesterol (LDL) are found in our blood and are influenced mainly by the kinds of fats we eat. Although saturated fats and trans fats can increase your "bad" cholesterol, some unsaturated fats can actually increase your "good" cholesterol.
The American Heart Association recommends we limit our cholesterol to 300 mg per day. One serving of shrimp (3 ounces or 8 to 10 medium shrimp) contains approximately 170 mg of cholesterol, well within the recommendation. Shrimp is also very low in saturated fat and is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids (a type of healthy, unsaturated fat that can increase your "good" cholesterol). To keep it light, try grilling, barbecuing, steaming or cooking shrimp with an unsaturated fat like olive oil, or use seasonings and lemon juice as a healthy alternative.