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How Can Shrimp Be Fattening?

By Sara Ipatenco

A 3-ounce serving of shrimp contains just 100 calories and 1.4 grams of fat, so you might be wondering how the tiny crustaceans could ever be considered fattening. Indeed, they can, depending on how you prepare and cook the shrimp. While steaming the seafood doesn't add additional calories or fat, other preparation methods and added ingredients can hike up the fat and calorie content of this otherwise healthy food.

Fattening Cooking Methods

While a serving of steamed shrimp is low in fat and calories, fried shrimp is not. In fact, a 3-ounce serving of breaded and fried shrimp contains 206 calories, which is 105 more than the same amount of steamed shrimp. That same serving of breaded and fried shrimp also contains 10.4 grams of fat, which is 9 grams more than steamed shrimp. Regularly choosing fried foods, such as fried shrimp, can be fattening because the added ingredients and frying oil drive up the calorie and fat content significantly. When you take in too many calories on a regular basis, it leads to weight gain.

Fattening Ingredients and Sides

In addition to the calories and fat in the breading and frying oil, dipping the fried shrimp in certain sauces increases the calorie count even more. For example, a 2-tablespoon serving of tartar sauce adds 63 additional calories to the fried shrimp. Eating large amounts of the sauce with fried shrimp increases your total caloric intake, which can lead to weight gain. The side dishes you eat with your shrimp make a difference, too. For example, if you pair your fried shrimp with a serving of French fries, you'll take in an additional 491 calories and about 24 grams of fat.

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Cooking and Serving Tips

To keep shrimp from being a fattening food, steam them instead of breading and frying them. Once the shrimp is steamed, you can jazz up the flavor with other nutritious ingredients to replace the taste of the breading. Squeeze fresh lemon juice, which adds vitamin C, over the shrimp and add a sprinkle of fresh-cracked black pepper. Pass on the creamy dips, too. This will save several grams of fat and good number of calories. You might saute the shrimp with fresh vegetables, such as bell peppers and pea pods, in heart-healthy olive oil and serve it with steamed rice for a nutrient-rich meal that's also low in fat and calories.

Cholesterol and Sodium

Just because steamed shrimp isn't as fattening as breaded and fried shrimp doesn't mean you can eat unlimited quantities of it. Even steamed shrimp is high in cholesterol and sodium. A 3-ounce serving of steamed shrimp contains 805 milligrams of sodium. Most adults should limit their intake of sodium to 2,300 milligrams or less, according to the Harvard School of Public Health, which means that the serving of shrimp is 35 percent of that limit. Too much sodium can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. Three ounces of steamed shrimp also contains 179 milligrams of cholesterol, which is 60 percent of the 300 milligrams adults should limit themselves to each day. Diets high in cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease, the Harvard School of Public Health notes.

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