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Shrimps are crustaceans, which means they are closely related to lobsters and crabs. You can identify this family by their hard exoskeleton or outer shell. When you eat lobsters and crabs, you usually need special tools to break their shells before you can get into the good meat. However, shrimp shells are significantly thinner than crab and lobster shells, which might leave you wondering: can you eat shrimp shells?
Cooked shrimp shells are edible. They can be understandably unappetizing because of their hardness and texture, making most people remove the shell before eating the shrimp. However, you can maximize the shrimp’s health benefits if you consume the shell along with its meat. In this article, we will discuss the benefits of eating shrimp shells and offer some ways to make it easier to eat them.
Can Eating Shrimp Shells Make You Sick?
Eating cooked shrimp shells is harmless. Even though most people peel and discard them when eating their favorite seafood dish, they are edible. Most seafood lovers only do so for the convenience of getting straight to the shrimp meat. Perhaps the only sick feeling you might experience when eating shrimp shells is the unpleasant texture you can control by applying the right cooking methods.
You don’t have to worry about indigestion when eating shrimp shells, either. Although they are difficult to digest, they can easily pass through your system while you benefit from the several nutrients the shell offers. We discuss these nutritional benefits later.
Can Eating Shrimp Poop Make You Sick?
Relatedly, you might wonder if you can eat cooked shrimp with its veins intact to avoid having to devein them. Shrimp have two veins, the animal’s circulatory and digestive systems. Its digestive system can contain poop and bacteria like any intestine. However, cooking the shrimp will kill off the germs in this vein. So, you can safely eat a shrimp with its digestive vein still intact.
Although you won’t necessarily get sick when you eat veined shrimp, it may taste a bit strange because of the leftover dirt in the veins. You might want to devein a shrimp before cooking and eating it to avoid this gritty flavor, even if it’s alright to eat veined shrimp.
Nutritional Value of Shrimp Shells
Consider eating shrimp shells to reap its health benefits. Crustacean exoskeletons, including shrimp shells, are reportedly rich in chitosan. Chitosan is a fibrous and biodegradable compound that manufacturers utilize for food packaging. Current studies are also exploring the potential use of chitosan in medications.
Wiley-Blackwell published a 2007 study in the Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology journal. Researchers conducting this study utilized the chitosan in shrimp shells to make a dietary supplement. Using animal models, they discovered that chitosan could help reduce blood cholesterol levels and regulate weight gain.
In 2018, researchers conducted a study supporting the weight-loss factor of chitosan. They concluded that chitosan offers slight short- and medium-term effects on weight loss. This study’s results also suggested that it can improve a subject’s lipid profile, which experts assess for cardiovascular risks.
Meanwhile, shrimp shells are rich in calcium. This mineral is essential in forming and strengthening your teeth and bones. Consuming this mineral-rich part of the shrimp would allow you to maximize the health benefits of your favorite seafood dish.
How to Eat Shrimp Shells
Now that we have established that eating cooked shrimp shells is safe, we prepared two ways to enjoy them without tossing them away. Since most people avoid eating shrimp shells because of their texture, your goal should be to make them soft enough to eat. Consider frying the shrimp long enough to make its shells brittle enough to bite through.
Flash-frying is a deep-frying technique that uses high heat. You would submerge your shrimp in oil with a high smoke point with temperatures of at least 400°F (204.44°C). With this technique, you can fry your shrimp rapidly without overcooking. At the same time, the shells become thin and brittle enough to eat. Their texture becomes something like sardine bones.
Some food industry professionals might promote flash-frying as a healthier alternative to regular deep-frying. They claim that flash-frying only exposes food to oil for about two minutes, unlike deep-frying, which may require you to leave it in the oil for four minutes.
However, a study showed food absorbs nearly the same amount of oil in both methods. This study suggested that neither technique is healthier than the other. Still, flash-frying shrimp can soften the shells enough for you to eat without peeling them.
You can try flash-frying your shrimp and adding it to your favorite dishes like garlic butter shrimp. Here is a simple recipe for shrimp fried rice that you can use for your flash-fried shrimp. Just Be sure not to go beyond your oil’s smoke point to avoid health risks associated with overheated oil.
You don’t have to eat shrimp shells even if they are edible, but you can still put them to good use. Shell-on shrimp is perfect for making shrimp stock or broth. Shrimp stock is ideal for cooking risotto and using it as a base for seafood stew or soup.
Conclusion: Can You Eat Shrimp Shells?
You can eat cooked shrimp shells without worrying about getting sick. They are edible parts despite being quite unappetizing because of their hardness and texture. You can easily eat them if you prepare your shrimps by flash-frying them. This method involves cooking the shrimp at a high enough temperature to make the shell thin and brittle. Your resulting shrimps will feel a bit crunchy, like sardines with their bones.
Eating shrimp shells has several nutrients. This part of the shrimp is rich in chitosan and calcium, which offer unique health benefits. Scientific studies support chitosan’s effects on weight loss and cardiovascular health, while many widely understand calcium’s effects on bone health. Consider utilizing shrimp shells for these nutrients before peeling and throwing them away.
If you are interested in learning about other ways to prepare shrimp, check out our article on cooking shrimp in lime juice.