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The Advantages of Shrimp

By Sylvie Tremblay

With its low calorie content -- a generous 6-ounce portion provides just 202 calories -- shrimp is a smart addition to calorie- and health-conscious diets. It's also relatively low in mercury, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration. Furthermore, the American Heart Association notes that you can consume up to 6 ounces of cooked fish, shellfish and poultry daily. Shrimp offers several nutritional advantages as a result of its protein, vitamin and mineral content, but consuming shrimp also has its disadvantages.

High Quality, Lean Protein

Shrimp serves as an excellent source of lean protein. Each 6-ounce portion provides 39 grams of protein -- a significant amount toward the 46 grams recommended daily for women and 56 grams for men. It also contains all the amino acids that your cells can't synthesize on their own. Every cell in your body contains protein molecules -- and the amino acids from your diet allow your cells to generate new proteins to repair old or damaged ones. The protein in your diet also helps you make peptide hormones -- a group that includes insulin, a hormone that regulates your blood sugar.

Minerals for Enzyme Activation

Add shrimp to your diet and you'll boost your intake of zinc and selenium, two minerals your cells need for the activation of enzymes -- proteins that help your cells perform chemical reactions. Zinc activates enzymes essential for energy production, and zinc-dependent proteins control gene activity and support your immune system. A 6-ounce serving of shrimp provides 2.8 milligrams of zinc, which is 35 percent of the recommended daily intake for men and 25 percent for women. The selenium abundant in shrimp activates enzymes needed for healthy muscle metabolism, as well as enzymes that fight cancer growth. Each 6-ounce serving also provides 84.2 micrograms of selenium, or more than the 55 micrograms you need daily.

Vitamins for Red Blood Cell Health

Eat shrimp and you'll support healthy red blood cells as a result of its vitamin content. The vitamin A in shrimp controls red blood cell development; it activates genes that growing cells need to develop from stem cells into functional red blood cells. It also helps your red blood cells access the iron they need to transport oxygen. Vitamin B-12 aids in the production of heme -- the iron-containing compound responsible for red blood cell function. A 6-ounce serving of shrimp provides 2.8 micrograms of vitamin B-12 and 512 international units of vitamin A. This makes up all your daily recommended vitamin B-12 intake, as well as 17 percent of the daily vitamin A intake recommendation for men and 22 percent for women.

Drawbacks: Sodium and Cholesterol

Consuming shrimp also has some disadvantages that could affect your cardiovascular health: shrimp is high in sodium and cholesterol. A 6-ounce portion of shrimp contains 359 milligrams of cholesterol, which is more than the recommended daily intake limit. Shrimp also contain 1,610 milligrams of sodium per serving, or 70 percent of your upper intake limit. Dietary cholesterol poses a potential threat because of its ability to increase blood cholesterol levels, especially in people sensitive to it. Sodium increases blood pressure, which puts excessive strain on your blood vessels and increases your cardiovascular disease risk.

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