Shrimp and Diabetes

We know following a diabetes diet can be hard. Avoiding carbs, watching calories and having to think about what you can eat makes managing diabetes a chore. But if you enjoy eating shrimps you’re in luck – because they’re tasty, easy to cook, and doesn’t cause blood sugar spikes. Read about why shrimp and diabetes works, simple ways to prepare shrimp, and some tasty recipes to get you started.

Shrimp Nutritional Value

Below is the nutritional value and daily values (DV) for 100 grams (g) of cooked shrimp.1

  • Calories: 99
  • Protein: 21g
  • Total Fat: 1.1g (includes 347mg of Omega 3 fatty acids)
  • Carbohydrates: 0.2g
  • Vitamin A: 225 IU (4% DV)
  • Vitamin C: 2.2 mg (4% DV)
  • Niacin: 2.6mg (13% DV)
  • Vitamin B12: 1.5mcg (25% DV)

Shrimp is also high in minerals Selenium (57% DV), Iron (17% DV), Phosphorus (14% DV)

Knowing Your Shrimp

The most common type of shrimp used in the U.S. is white shrimp, pink shrimp and rock shrimp. White and pink shrimp have a mild to sweet flavor, while brown shrimp have more of that “shrimp” flavor.

Raw White shrimp

These shrimps can be found off the Atlantic coast and Gulf of Mexico. According to NOAA, about 75% of the shrimp harvested in the U.S. comes from the Gulf of Mexico.

Tiger shrimp is another common shrimp and is known for its large size. They’re native to Southeast Asia but they’ve been introduced in the U.S. and are considered an invasive species in Texas.

Raw Tiger shrimp

We also note that shrimp can be wild caught or raised in shrimp farms.

Can Diabetics Eat Shrimp?

The short answer is, yes! Shrimp is a low glycemic index food, making it a good option to include a diabetes diet.

Below are some health benefits of shrimp as well as things to keep in mind.

Doesn’t Spike Blood Glucose Levels

The nutritional composition of shrimp – mostly protein and even nearly zero carbohydrates – means it’s not likely to spike you blood sugar.

Carbohydrates is broken down and increases blood glucose. So it’s important to manage carbs and diabetes including limiting carb intake to help control blood glucose levels.

Protein is also important for maintaining muscles, which plays a role in regulating blood glucose levels.2 And while protein powders are fine for people with diabetes, getting protein from whole foods is generally a better option.

Healthy Fats

Even though shrimp is low in total fat, in includes a good amount of Omega 3 fatty acids. It’s generally recommended to increase omega 3 fatty acids in your diet because it’s been linked to helping with coronary heart disease3 and blood pressure.4

So adding shrimp and other fatty fish to your diet is one way to help improve your heart health.

Antioxidant

Shrimp is a natural source of astaxanthin, which is type of antioxidant and gives foods and plants a yellow or reddish color.

Antioxidants are critical for protecting against oxidative damage of cells by removing “free radicals” that are linked to cancer. And studies have shown that the astaxanthin from shrimp is effective in removing certain cancer cells.5

Watch for Allergic Reactions

While shrimp has the benefit of having a low glycemic index, shrimp and other shellfish are among the most common food allergens.

The muscle protein in shellfish, “tropomyosin,” is the main reactive allergen. Symptoms can appear as skin irritations like rashes or hives, oral allergy syndrome, GI issues, or even anaphylaxis.

So watch out for these symptoms if you’re not sure if you have a shellfish allergy. And even with decades of experience with shellfish allergies, the most effective way to prevent allergies is to avoid it.6

Cooking Shrimp for Diabetes

What are the best ways to cook shrimp when you have diabetes? Because we know that managing blood sugar is already a lot of work, we like cooking methods that keeps things simple and quick.

Steaming

A big benefit of steaming is that it retains more of the nutritional composition of your food. Steaming also keeps food moist and doesn’t require any oil so you don’t have to worry about the extra calories.

steamed shrimp served on blue plate with lemon
Steamed shrimp

To steam shrimp, fill a pot with about 2″ of water, put the steamer on top of the pot and close the lid.

When the water is boiling, put the raw shrimp in the steamer and steam with the lid closed for about 5 minutes.

The shrimp is done when flesh is a solid white and it feels tender but not too firm. Remove the shrimp and dunk in soak or dunk in cold water to stop the cooking. That’s it!

One tip when steaming: add in herbs or aromatics in the boiling water to infuse even more flavor! Bay leaves, thyme or garlic can add some serious flavor to your shrimp.

Sautee

Sauteed shrimp is the go-to way to cook shrimp and is how it’s cooked in a lot of recipes. It’s a pretty simple cooking method, where you cook the shrimp and seasoning all together.

To sautee, prepare shrimp by removing the shells and patting dry with a paper towel. With a large skillet or pan, use high heat and put butter or oil (preferably not from seed or vegetable oils).

shrimp and muscles sauteed in skillet
Sautee shrimp with muscles

Put the shrimp to the pan/skillet when it’s hot and cook each side for about 2 minutes. Add in any the other seasonings or ingredients while cooking. When the shrimp is cooked, take off the heat and enjoy.

Soups

While it may not sound familiar but adding shrimp is easy way to add lean protein to your favorite soups. And the mild flavor of shrimp makes it an easy substitute when the recipe calls for chicken or pork.

The best thing is it’s also easy to make soups with shrimp.

shrimp soup in white bowl
Shrimp in Thai soup

Whatever soup your making (preferably it’s low in carbs) just add the raw shrimp near the end of cooking. The heat in the soup is enough to cook the shrimp so it doesn’t add much to the cooking time.

Shrimp Recipes for Diabetics

Most people only think of shrimp cocktail but there’s tons of tasty and easy recipes that use shrimp. The shrimp recipes below are our top picks for diabetic health because they’re low in carbs, flavorful and easy to make.

Lemon Garlic Butter Shrimp

We love lemon garlic shrimp for diabetics because it’s low in carbs, flavorful and it only takes a few ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 16 Large Shrimp (thawed, peeled, tail on)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 3 tbsp fresh parsley (finely diced)
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3-4 tbsp butter (unsalted)
  • 2 tbsp water
  • Salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste
lemon butter garlic shrimp in white plate with lemon wedge

Steps

  1. In a large pan, melt half of the butter in medium-high heat. Cook the garlic for about 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add the shrimp and salt, pepper and chili flakes to taste. Cook the shrimp for about 2 minutes each side, stirring on occasion.
  3. Add in the lemon juice, water, and remaining butter. Keep cooking and stirring until the butter is melted and shrimp is done. Remove from the heat. Do a taste test and add seasonings, if needed.
  4. Garnish with the parsley and serve.

TIP: this dish is usually served with pasta. But to help keep blood sugars in check, serve instead with spaghetti squash, steamed broccoli or over salad greens.


Pesto Shrimp

Pesto is a sauce made mostly of basil, pine nuts, and parmesan cheese and tastes amazing with shrimp! Making basil pesto at home takes only a few minutes but you can also use store bought pesto to save even more time.

In either case, making pesto shrimp is another easy and flavor-packed dish for people with diabetes.

Credit: acouplecooks.com

Ingredients

  • 1 lb shrimp (peeled, thawed, tail on)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup basil pesto
  • Salt or lemon juice, to taste

Steps

  1. In a large pan, heat the oil on medium-high heat. Cook the shrimp for about 2 minutes per side.
  2. When the shrimp is almost fully cooked, add the pesto. Keeping cooking and stirring for about 30 seconds.
  3. Take off the heat. Add salt or lemon juice to taste and serve.

TIP: you can also make this as grilled shrimp pesto. Instead of the pan, put raw shrimp on skewers and coat generously with pesto. Grill each side for 2-4 minutes and serve roasted vegetables.

grilled shrimp on skewers with pesto white plate
Grilled shrimp skewers with pesto

Shrimp Bake Foil Packs

This recipe is a quicker and simpler version of a shrimp boil. You basically take all the ingredients – shrimp, sausage, corn and potatoes – wrap in a foil and bake! What you get is a satisfying meal with less time and effort.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lb large shrimp (peeled, tail on)
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 smoked andouille sausages (thinly sliced)
  • 2 ears corn (each cut into 4 pieces)
  • 1 lb. red potatoes (or yams or squash for low carbs) chopped into 1-in pieces
  • 2 tbsp olive or avocado oil
  • 1 tbsp Old Bay seasoning
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
  • 1 lemon (sliced into thin wedges)
  • 4 tbsp butter
shrimp, corn, sausage and potatoes wrapped in foil

Steps

  1. Preheat oven to 425° and then cut 4 pieces of 12″ long sheets of foil.
  2. Add in portions of shrimp, garlic, sausage, corn, and potatoes evenly in the foil sheets. Drizzle with oil, add Old Bay seasoning and salt/pepper to taste. Toss gently to combine. Add parsley, lemon and a tablespoon of butter to each foil mixture.
  3. Fold foil packets over shrimp boil mixture to completely cover the food. Roll the edges to seal them closed.
  4. Place foil packets in the over and bake for 20 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven, open and then serve.

Shrimp Salad

Shrimp salad is a classic summer dish but can definitely fit in your diabetes diet all year long. It’s the perfect blend of tangy and savory, and served over your favorite salad greens so it won’t spike your blood sugar level.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb shrimp (peeled, tail off)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 red onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 stalk celery (finely chopped)
  • 2 tbsp freshly chopped dill
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Romain or butterhead lettuce
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 lemon (juice and zest)
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
shrimp salad on bed of lettuce

Steps

  1. Steam shrimp for about 5 minutes, until meat is opaque white. Take off heat.
  2. Put shrimp in a bowl and toss with oil, salt and pepper. Let cool.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together mayo, lemon juice and zest, mustard, salt and pepper. Add in the cooked shrimp (cooled), red onion, celery, and dill and toss until combined.
  4. Serve over salad greens.

TIP: instead of steaming, grill or sautee the shrimp to get that added seared flavor.


Shrimp Ceviche with Avocado

With its bright and tangy flavor, we like shrimp ceviche as snack or light lunch. Make it in a big batches to share or have a ready-to-go snack for the week.

shrimp ceviche in cocktail glass with avocado

The recipe below is for traditional ceviche with raw shrimp. If you don’t like the idea of raw shrimp, simply steam the shrimp for 3-4 minutes and cool immediately before mixing with other ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb shrimp (peeled, no tail)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (~2 lemons)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (2 to 3 limes)
  • 2 medium tomatoes (seeded and chopped)
  • 1/2 small red onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 medium jalapeño (seeded and finely chopped)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 medium avocado (cubed)

Steps

  1. Wash shrimp in cold water and pat dry with a paper towel.
  2. Chop shrimp into 1/2″ pieces (or leave whole, if preferred) and place in a bowl. Add in all the other ingredients, except the avocado, and mix. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  3. Before serving, add the diced avocados into ceviche and mixed gently.
  4. Serve on top of a tostada chip (or eat by itself to avoid the carbs).

TIP: add in whitefish like rockfish, bass or tilapia to make a true seafood lovers dish. You can every try using fattier fish like tuna or salmon.

To prepare, simply cube the fish into 1″ squares and mix together with the shrimp and other ingredients using the same steps above. But add more citrus juice and other non-seafood ingredients if you’re adding more than 1lb of seafood.

shrimp and fish ceviche in bowl

Summary

Shrimp and diabetes is definitely a pairing that can work for you, unless you have allergic to shellfish. They’re mostly protein, has omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants, and don’t have the glycemic load that leads to blood sugar spikes.

Whether you steam, sautee, or add shrimp in soup, they’re all good options for people with diabetes. And we showed you five recipes above that are flavorful, low in carbs, and easy to make.

We know following diabetic diets is not easy but with the right foods, managing diabetes doesn’t have to be a struggle.

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