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Shrimp are underwater creatures packed with protein, antioxidants, minerals, and other essential nutrients. They’re one of the most popular types of seafood across the world — and according to WebMD, the average person consumes approximately 4 pounds of shrimp every year. But are shrimp considered a fish, shellfish, or something else?
Shrimp are not considered fish. Biologically, they’re classified as crustaceans. For culinary purposes, they’re categorized as shellfish. Read on to learn more about their traits, varieties, nutritional benefits, and why they’re sometimes mistaken for fish.
How Are Fish and Shrimp Different?
Aside from the fact that they both live in bodies of water, fish and shrimp have very little in common. Fish are vertebrates with an internal skeleton. Shrimp are invertebrates with an exoskeleton or carapace. Here are some of the other key differences between the two:
- Fish use their fins to travel in the water. Shrimp have ten sets of limbs which they use to move around.
- Fish have more features in common with other vertebrates like dogs or cats — they have teeth and a complex nervous system. Shrimp are arthropods, which means they’re more closely related to grasshoppers and spiders than to fish.
- Most types of fish have scales to protect their skin. Shrimp have exoskeletons in the form of a hardened shell to protect their body.
Why Is Shrimp Considered a Shellfish?
Shellfish is a colloquial term used to refer to aquatic invertebrates with exoskeletons such as clams, lobsters, crabs, and scallops. Most shellfish are found in saltwater, although there are quite a few species of freshwater shellfish.
Shellfish like shrimp are generally considered to be good sources of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and other nutrients. They have a high carbohydrate content and are low in fat and calories.
What Are the Varieties of Shrimp?
Shrimp are best known for their soft and succulent meat. However, not all shrimp species are edible. Most of the shrimp available today are farmed and raised on a regulated diet. Here are some of the common edible shrimp varieties:
- White shrimp are a short-lived species primarily found on the eastern coast of the USA and the Gulf of Mexico. They’re actually classified as prawns. White shrimp taste sweeter and nuttier than most other shrimp varieties.
- Pink shrimp are available year-round. They’re the species you’ll most likely see in grocery stores. They have a mild and sweet taste and are usually seen in dishes featuring delicate sauces.
- Rock shrimp are usually considered as lobster substitutes for their hard shells. They can be found in the warm and deep waters of the western Atlantic Ocean.
- Brown shrimp contain more iodine, so they tend to have a more pronounced mineral flavor. The species is typically found in the North Sea and the northeast side of the Atlantic Ocean.
- Royal red shrimp are deep-water species typically found near continental slopes and shelves. They’re known for their bright red color when they’re raw. They may also be used as lobster substitutes, as their meat tends to be sweeter and more tender.
- Tiger shrimp are commonly found in Australia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia, although most that are sold today are farmed. They’re characterized by the stripes on their body.
What Are the Health Benefits of Shrimp?
Shrimp are low-carb and low-calorie food sources. They’re the perfect option if you’re trying to lose weight. Here are the other nutritional and health benefits of shrimp:
1) Promote Eye Health
Astaxanthin, the main pigment in a shrimp’s internal organs and exoskeleton, may help you maintain good eye health. It can protect the retina from oxidative damage due to prolonged sun exposure.
2) Strengthen Bones
Shellfish, like shrimp, contain Vitamin D and phosphorus, which enhance bone strength. These nutrients can also reduce the risk of osteoporosis and fractures as you age.
3) Lift Mood and Improve Brain Health
Shrimp have high levels of tryptophan, an essential amino acid that triggers the production of mood-regulating hormones like serotonin. They also contain vitamin B12 and omega-3, which are useful in keeping the brain healthy and reducing the risk of degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
4) Lower Risks of Heart Disease
Shrimp have a high cholesterol content which can be worrying for those who are trying to be more careful with their food consumption. However, research shows that this doesn’t actually have an effect on one’s heart health.
In fact, shrimp’s omega-3 fatty acids can help increase good cholesterol levels and reduce the risks that you’ll develop heart disease. Astaxanthin will also help strengthen the arteries and prevent free radicals from damaging the cells. Also, eating shrimp shells can have additional benefits.
Are Shrimp Considered a Fish, ShellFish, Or Something Else?
Shrimp are shellfish, not fish. They’re invertebrates and crustaceans with sets of appendages that they use for swimming and eating. They’re found in both saltwater and freshwater habitats, although most of the shrimp available for consumption are farmed. Shrimp are also the most popular type of seafood.
Shrimp are mostly composed of water and protein. They offer a number of health and nutritional benefits, such as aiding weight loss, reducing the risk of heart disease, improving brain and eye health, and strengthening the bones.