Natural Sodium in Shrimp

Shrimp make a low-fat, high-protein meal, but you’ll need to keep a close eye on the amount of sodium you’ll get from a typical serving. You can’t avoid it because all shrimp naturally contain some sodium, but chances are they contain even more than their natural amount. Most shrimp are treated with sodium after they’re harvested and then more may be added when they’re processed and cooked.

Sodium Basics

Everyone needs to consume some sodium on a daily basis to keep their muscles and nerves working properly. Sodium also determines the volume of fluids in your body, which affects the amount of blood circulating through your system and your blood pressure. The problem with too much sodium is that it makes your body retain water, which causes blood volume to increase and then your blood pressure goes up. High blood pressure increases your risk for heart disease and stroke. Most Americans consume more than double their recommended daily intake of 1,500 milligrams, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Natural Sodium

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Like all seafood, shrimp naturally contains some sodium, although different sources report diverse amounts. Freshly harvested shrimp may contain as much as 255 milligrams of sodium in a 3-ounce portion, according to the University of Florida. A 3-ounce serving of raw shrimp has 101 milligrams of sodium, while the same portion of cooked shrimp has 94 milligrams of sodium, according to the USDA. Another sample of shrimp from random retailers contained 126 milligrams. Variations in shrimp's natural sodium content may occur because it's packed in ice after being caught and some of it leaches out into the icy slush, according to the University of Florida.

Treated Shrimp

Whether it’s fresh or frozen, the shrimp you buy in the store may contain more than the natural amount of sodium because shrimp are commonly treated with sodium solutions, such as sodium sulfites and phosphates. These treatments serve two purposes. Dipping the shrimp in a sodium solution stops natural enzymes that cause black spots to develop. Sodium treatments applied to shrimp also help prevent the loss of moisture during freezing and thawing. While these treatments are recognized as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, they add a lot of sodium. A sample of treated, raw shrimp from different stores contained 481 milligrams of sodium in a 3-ounce portion.

Added Sodium

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In addition to natural salt and salt treatments, the cooking method and most dipping sauces add more sodium. One type of cooked shrimp reported by the USDA has 805 milligrams of sodium in a 3-ounce serving. Two tablespoons of cocktail sauce add another 295 milligrams. The two together supply almost 75 percent of an entire day’s sodium. Check the nutrition facts label for the sodium in the shrimp you buy. If they’ve been treated, you'll find different types of sodium sulfites or phosphates in the ingredients. When you buy fresh shrimp, ask the person behind the counter about salt content. Whenever possible, choose fresh, untreated shrimp and stick with low-sodium flavorings like lemon juice.