If your cholesterol levels are high, you may be advised to avoid any kind of Shellfish. This is because of the misconception that shellfish contain high cholesterol.
You may be aware that a high cholesterol level in the blood is associated with an increased your chance of developing heart disease, a stroke, and other serious conditions.
Shellfish are a great source of high-quality protein and are low in total fat, saturated fat and calories, while being only moderately high in cholesterol. More specifically, most varieties of shellfish contain only 50-150 calories, 2-4 grams of total fat, less than a gram of saturated fat and less than 100 mg of cholesterol per serving (the daily recommended cholesterol intake is no more than 300mg). The one major exception is shrimp, whose cholesterol levels are two to five times higher than other shellfish.
For all sea food lovers, it is important to note that the major culprit in food for raising blood cholesterol is NOT dietary cholesterol, but rather saturated fat! Saturated fats (found in animal products such as butter, cheese, whole milk, ice cream, cream, and fatty meats) contribute far more to increased blood cholesterol levels than does the cholesterol found in food, whether shellfish or otherwise. Therefore, for those just trying to follow a healthy diet and prevent heart disease, including all shellfish is allowed. However, those with very high blood cholesterol levels and/or a high risk of heart disease should eat a very low saturated fat and cholesterol diet (recommendation is no more than 200 mg cholesterol a day) and should perhaps avoid shrimp in favor of some of the other kinds of shellfish.
A study done at the University of South Caroline showed that adults who ate shellfish such as shrimp, lobster, and crab on a frequent basis had no higher risk of heart disease than people who ate little or none of these foods. Another small study showed that none of the shellfish tested caused elevated cholesterol levels in a group of eighteen men. Some of the shellfish even had positive benefits in terms of heart disease risk by raising levels of HDL (the good cholesterol). The researchers concluded that eating shellfish is safe for people who are trying to lower their cholesterol level with the exception of shrimp since it has higher levels of natural cholesterol than other shellfish. Another large study that looked at over 13,000 middle-aged and older adults found no association between heart attacks and eating shellfish. Good
Recent studies have shown that most species of shellfish are a good source of omega-3. In particular, crab, oysters and mussels contain as much omega-3 as some oil-rich fish. Omega-3s help reduce the risk of blood clots and the chance of heart attack or stroke, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and are important in the development of the brain, retina, and in men, sperm. Shellfish are also a good source of iron, zinc, copper and vitamin B-12.
In its recommendations, the American Heart Association advises that an adult should not eat more than 60-70 grams of total fat per day. Small quantity of shellfish can easily fit into that limit. However, you should not consistently eat more than the recommended serving size. If your diet already includes high amount of saturated fat, then keep away from shellfish as you may exceed the recommended dietary intake of fat.
Eating shellfish can be part of an overall heart healthy diet, but if you do wish to have shellfish, make sure that it is steamed, grilled, roasted or at the most sautéed and never deep fried. Thi sis because frying fish can provide triple the calorie content and send the saturated fat and sodium levels to stratospheric (and unhealthy) levels.