Is Grilled Shrimp Low in Saturated Fat and Cholesterol?

By Nancy Snyder, MS, RD

Q: Is Grilled Shrimp Low in Saturated Fat and Cholesterol?

A: Shrimp is a delicious and healthy protein option, as it is both low in calories and saturated fat; based on a 4-ounce portion (measured raw), a serving of shrimp contains just 100 calories and less than one gram of saturated fat. And what’s more, this seafood is a great source of heart healthy, omega 3 fatty acids and B12.

However, much like eggs, shrimp often gets a bad rap due to its cholesterol content. In recent years, nutrition research has suggested that the amount of cholesterol that we consume from food sources has little effect on levels of cholesterol in the blood, and consequently the latest release of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans has relaxed limits on cholesterol intake. The experts still point out that people who follow eating patterns that are naturally low in saturated fat and cholesterol have lower risk of cardiovascular disease and obesity, but that there is not adequate evidence to put a specific limit on cholesterol as a single nutrient in the diet.

Keep in mind that any food that comes from an animal—meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, cheese, eggs—contains cholesterol. However, the amount of cholesterol in animal sources varies. For example, a serving of roasted, boneless, skinless chicken breast (4 ounces, measured raw) contains just 65 mg of cholesterol, while the same serving size of steamed shrimp contains roughly 180 mg of cholesterol.

According to the current Dietary Guidelines, both shellfish and eggs can be consumed along with a variety of other protein sources in a healthy diet. To include shrimp in a healthful eating pattern focused on balance, variety and moderation, consider these tips:

  • Limit yourself to just one serving (about 4 ounces is a standard portion size), which can range in number of shrimp depending on the size:
    • Jumbo (21/25 count per pound): 5-6 shrimp
    • Large (31/35 count per pound): 8-9 shrimp
    • Medium (41/50 count per pound): 10-11 shrimp
  • Pay attention to the preparation method. Avoid ordering shrimp that is deep fried or cooked in lots of butter. Opt instead for grilled shrimp seasoned with herbs and spices. Learn more about choosing the Healthiest Shrimp to Order.
  • Trans fats and saturated fats have been shown to raise “bad cholesterol” more than dietary cholesterol. Aim to limit saturated fat intake to no more than 10% of your daily calories (approximately 22 g per day if you are consuming 2000 calories per day) and eliminate trans fats from your diet.