Does Shrimp Have High Levels of Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
Shrimp are a popular type of seafood praised for their versatility, flavor and nutritional value. In addition to being low in calories and rich in protein, shrimp contain various vitamins and minerals. But when it comes to omega-3 fatty acids, are shrimp actually a good source?
- Omega-3 Levels in Different Types of Shrimp
- Why Omega-3s Matter
- Omega-3 Recommendations
- Top 10 Food Sources of Omega-3s
- Health Benefits of Shrimp
- Healthy Ways to Eat More Shrimp
- Getting Your Omega-3s Without Shrimp
- Key Takeaways on Shrimp and Omega-3s
- Frequently Asked Questions
- The Bottom Line
The answer is yes, shrimp do provide high amounts of beneficial omega-3 fats, specifically EPA and DHA. A 3-ounce serving contains over 500 mg of omega-3s, which is more than half the daily recommended minimum for optimal health.
Shrimp can be considered one of the best sources of anti-inflammatory omega-3s among seafood. Adding shrimp to your diet a couple times a week can help you meet your omega-3 needs.
Below is a detailed look at the omega-3 content of different types of shrimp, the health benefits of omega-3s, how much you need, and other dietary sources to get these essential fats.
Omega-3 Levels in Different Types of Shrimp
There are many popular varieties of shrimp, including:
Small, sweet white shrimp are the most common shrimp eaten in the United States. A 3-ounce (85 gram) serving contains (1):
- Calories: 84
- Protein: 18 grams
- Selenium: 41% DV
- Vitamin B12: 21% DV
- Omega-3s: 170 mg
So white shrimp provide 170 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per serving.
Pink shrimp are also called salad shrimp. A 3-ounce serving (85 grams) has around (2):
- Calories: 90
- Protein: 20 grams
- Copper: 25% DV
- Omega-3s: 110 mg
Pink shrimp contain 110 mg of omega-3 fats per serving.
Black Tiger Shrimp
Popular in Asian cuisine, black tiger shrimp are a type of farmed shrimp. A 3-ounce serving (85 grams) provides about (3):
- Calories: 99
- Protein: 21 grams
- Thiamine: 14% DV
- Omega-3s: 320 mg
Black tiger shrimp offer 320 mg of omega-3 fatty acids.
Tiny rock shrimp are often used for shrimp tacos or tempura. A 3-ounce serving (85 grams) packs roughly (4):
- Calories: 84
- Protein: 18 grams
- Vitamin B12: 21% DV
- Omega-3s: 125 mg
So rock shrimp contain 125 mg of omega-3 fats.
No matter the type, shrimp provide high amounts of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. But why exactly are omega-3s so good for you?
Why Omega-3s Matter
Omega-3 fatty acids provide a wide variety of critical benefits for your health and development. Getting enough from your diet is essential.
Here is an overview of some of the top benefits linked to omega-3s:
Omega-3s support optimal heart function in many ways:
- Lower triglycerides — high levels increase risk of heart disease (5).
- Reduce blood pressure — omega-3s act as a natural blood thinner (6).
- Prevent plaque buildup — decreases fatty deposits inside arteries (7).
- Reduce irregular heartbeats — linked to lower risk of sudden cardiac death (8).
- Improve cholesterol — raise “good” HDL and lower “bad” LDL (9).
Omega-3 fatty acids also play vital roles in brain function:
- Enhance memory and thinking — linked to better cognition in adults (10, 11).
- Fight depression — associated with lower rates of depression (12).
- Aid fetal brain development — DHA is vital for babies’ brain growth (13).
- Support healthy aging — helps prevent cognitive decline (14).
Your retinas have very high DHA concentrations. Omega-3s support vision by:
- Reducing macular degeneration — a leading cause of blindness (15).
- Treating dry eye disease — improving tear production and quality (16).
- Benefiting babies' vision — DHA intake during pregnancy reduces vision problems (17).
The omega-3s EPA and DHA have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. They can (18):
- Lower inflammation — reducing inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein.
- Relieve joint pain — decrease swelling and stiffness in rheumatoid arthritis.
- Benefit autoimmune conditions — shown to help lupus, eczema, IBD.
Considering these myriad benefits, it’s clear that getting enough omega-3 fatty acids should be a priority. But how much do you actually need to obtain these benefits?
Major health organizations recommend getting at least 250–500 mg of combined EPA and DHA omega-3s daily for optimal health (19, 20).
Higher daily intakes up to 2,000 mg are sometimes advised for those with heart disease, high triglycerides or metabolic syndrome risk factors (21).
Pregnant and breastfeeding women need at least 300–900 mg of DHA daily for proper fetal development. Children also need adequate omega-3 intake based on their age (22).
Vegans and vegetarians are at higher risk of omega-3 deficiency and likely need supplements (23).
As you can see, a 3-ounce serving of shrimp provides over 500 mg omega-3s, fulfilling the minimum daily target. Adding shrimp to your diet just 2–3 times per week can help you meet your needs.
Now let’s discuss the top dietary sources of these beneficial fats.
Top 10 Food Sources of Omega-3s
Here are the top 10 sources of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids (24):
1. Oily Fish
Salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines are high in EPA and DHA. Just 3 ounces of salmon provides over 1000 mg.
A 3-ounce serving of shrimp packs over 500 mg omega-3s. Enjoy shrimp 2–3 times per week.
3. Fish Oil
Supplements like fish oil, krill oil and algae oil provide concentrated doses of DHA and EPA.
4. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds deliver 5 grams of plant-based ALA omega-3s per ounce.
Flaxseeds provide 2,300 mg of ALA per ounce. Add ground flaxseed to foods.
Walnuts offer 2,500 mg of ALA per ounce.
Edamame, tofu and tempeh contain ALA. A half-cup of soybeans provides nearly 1000 mg.
8. Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds supply 1200 mg of plant-based ALA per ounce.
9. Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts have 135 mg ALA per half cup.
Kidney beans, chickpeas and other beans contain ALA. One cup of kidney beans provides 430 mg.
As you can see, shrimp is one of the best food sources of essential omega-3 fatty acids available.
Health Benefits of Shrimp
In addition to being high in heart-healthy omega-3s, shrimp provide several other benefits:
High in Protein
A 3-ounce serving contains 18–21 grams of protein, making shrimp an excellent high-quality protein source.
Low in Calories
With only 84–99 calories in a 3-ounce serving, shrimp are low in calories and can help with weight management.
Rich in Selenium
Shrimp are an excellent source of selenium, a mineral that acts as a powerful antioxidant in your body.
Good Source of Vitamin B12
Shrimp provide vitamin B12, which supports red blood cell formation and neurological function.
Shrimp have an antioxidant called astaxanthin that may protect against heart disease, dementia and other chronic diseases.
Shrimp make a nutritious addition to your diet in many aspects, not just their high omega-3 content.
Healthy Ways to Eat More Shrimp
Here are some simple ways to enjoy shrimp as part of a healthy diet:
- Sauté shrimp with olive oil, garlic and veggies.
- Grill shrimp kebabs or shrimp skewers.
- Bake breaded coconut shrimp.
- Add shrimp to salads, tacos, pasta or stir fries.
- Make shrimp spring rolls or lettuce wraps.
- Skewer shrimp with pineapple and red onion.
- Mix shrimp into seafood linguine or jambalaya.
- Prepare Cajun blackened shrimp.
Aim for two or three servings of shrimp per week to get an optimal amount of omega-3s.
Getting Your Omega-3s Without Shrimp
Here are some other ways to meet your omega-3 needs if you don’t eat shrimp:
- Eat fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring or trout 2–3 times per week.
- Take fish oil, krill oil or algal oil supplements daily.
- Snack on walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts and almonds for plant-based ALA.
- Add ground flaxseed or chia seeds to your diet daily.
- Cook with oils higher in omega-3s like canola and soybean oil.
- Look for omega-3-enriched eggs, milk and other products.
- Eat edamame, tofu and other soy foods.
- Enjoy omega-3-rich beans like white beans, kidney beans and chickpeas.
With some planning, you can meet your omega-3 needs through a variety of shrimp-free foods.
Key Takeaways on Shrimp and Omega-3s
Here are the key points to understand about shrimp’s omega-3 fatty acid content:
- Shrimp are one of the best sources of EPA and DHA omega-3s.
- Just 3 ounces provides over 500 mg, more than half the daily recommended minimum.
- Aim to eat shrimp 2–3 times per week to help meet your omega-3 target.
- Shrimp also provide protein, selenium, vitamin B12 and other nutrients.
- If you don’t eat shrimp, get omega-3s from fatty fish, oils, seeds, beans and supplements.
Shrimp are an omega-3 powerhouse and delicious addition to any healthy diet. Work them into your meal plan a few times a week to maximize omega-3 intake.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to common questions about shrimp’s omega-3 fatty acid content:
Are wild shrimp higher in omega-3s than farmed shrimp?
Some studies show wild shrimp may have a slightly better omega-3 content. But both wild and responsibly farmed shrimp remain excellent sources, providing over 500 mg per serving.
Do cooked and raw shrimp have the same omega-3 content?
Yes, cooking shrimp does not significantly affect their omega-3 levels. Both raw and cooked shrimp contain high amounts.
Is shrimp high in mercury?
No, shrimp are very low in mercury compared to larger fish like tuna. Eating shrimp 2–3 times per week poses no risk of dangerous mercury exposure.
Can you get too much DHA and EPA from eating shrimp?
It's rare to get excessive omega-3 intake from food sources alone. Eating shrimp a few times per week provides optimal omega-3 intake without going overboard.
Is shrimp sustainable?
Some shrimp fisheries have environmental concerns. Opt for sustainable wild or responsibly farmed shrimp whenever possible.
Can vegetarians get EPA and DHA from plants?
Unfortunately, plant sources like walnuts and flax only provide the omega-3 ALA. Vegetarians must rely on algae oil supplements for EPA and DHA.
Shrimp offer one of the most concentrated sources of beneficial omega-3 fats among seafood. Enjoy them in moderation along with other healthy foods as part of your diet.
The Bottom Line
Shrimp provide high amounts of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, with over 500 mg in a 3-ounce serving. Eating shrimp just 2–3 times per week can help you meet the 250–500 mg daily target for optimal health. Prioritize sustainable shrimp options and incorporate them along with other omega-3 foods like fish, seeds, oils and supplements.