Is Shrimp Keto-Friendly?

Imge of Is Shrimp Keto-Friendly?



Shrimp has been and still is one of the top consumed seafoods in this day and age. This article will endeavor to dive into the deep blue, to display and analyze the nutritional properties of those exotic looking sea creatures.

Upon analysis, conclusions will be drawn as to whether eating shrimp is good for keto, and how much you can have. 


What is shrimp?

Also known as prawns, these animals are part of the crustaceans and are actually the most important of the group. There are three main species types: coldwater, warm-water and freshwater. 

The coldwater types are usually smaller in size although these are preferred in European countries. Warm-water species grow quicker and are larger at maturity.

The largest species are the freshwater variety, native to tropical lakes and rivers. These can reach weights of 300 g per piece! This latter variety is prominent in the United States and Japan. 

World leading producers include the US, China, and Indonesia. They are sold with a large variety of options: frozen, canned, dried, and even alive.


Shrimp nutrition facts

Though rather small, these critters pull a powerful punch in terms of nutrient density. Below we will list the scores for the main macronutrients before moving on to micronutrients and other nutritive factors they contain.

Serving size: 3 oz (85 g) cooked shrimp 

  • Calories: 84 kcal
  • Fat: 0.2 g 
  • Net carbs (total carbs - fiber): 0.2 g
  • Total carbs: 0.2 g
  • Fiber: 0 g
  • Protein: 20.4 g

We can see that this type of seafood is pretty low calorie and has almost zero carbs, little fat, and an impressive amount of protein. Slightly more than 20% of the total weight of serving is protein.

While low in fat and will not lead to appreciable synthesis of ketone bodies, the high protein content can promote feelings of satiety and reduce hunger.

Moving on to micronutrients, one serving contains moderate amounts of calcium and magnesium, both vitally important for optimal muscle contraction as well as host of other functions these ions serve in the body. It is also a source of zinc, which plays a role in immune and reproductive function, as well as potassium and phosphorus.

Additionally, marine animals are rich in iodine, with a 85 g serving of prawns containing 21-37 mcg. Iodine is an essential mineral needed to synthesize the thyroid hormones required for the proper development and growth of the brain. These hormones play many other vital roles such as in calcium homeostasis. 

Please see table below for comparisons with the RDA (Recommended Daily Amount). 



Men / Women RDA

(age 19-70)  

 In 1 serving (85 g) of shrimp   As a % of RDA 
Zinc 11 mcg / 8 mcg 1.39

12.3% / 17.4%

Iodine 150 mcg 21-37 mcg 14% / 24.7%


Another nutritive factor is the antioxidant astaxanthin. This antioxidant is of the carotenoid family and is natural to algae in the ocean. The shrimp consume this algae, and hence their flesh is rich in this compound. It is thought to have neuro and cardio protective effects in its role as antioxidant as well as an anti-inflammatory agent.




Can you eat shrimp on a keto diet?

Yes indeed you may! Shrimp have an excellent nutritional profile with plenty of protein and close to zero carbs.

Although keto foods tend to be high in fat and this type of seafood is pretty lean, it is still perfectly acceptable. The total carb content is what is really key, and in that regard they excel.

Additionally, the high protein content as well as the other nutritive factors in prawns are all very good reasons to consume this food on keto.


How much shrimp can you eat on the keto diet?

The values above are for a serving of 3 ounces or 85 grams. Shrimp are usually classified as count per pound, i.e. larger varieties will give you less individual pieces per pound of weight and smaller varieties will give you more. 

A maximum of two servings in one day would sound reasonable. They do contain a large amount of cholesterol, 137 mg per serving.

Although the topic of shrimp and cholesterol is controversial and still being researched and debated, it is better to err on the side of caution and limit it to a maximum of two servings per day. This way, you will meet the recommendation of less than 300 mg of dietary cholesterol per day (you also want to leave room to include other foods to get a variety of nutrients).


What kind of shrimp can you have on keto?

There are an endless number of species of shrimp and prawn, with variations in color, size, weight, and leg length, among other variables. In terms of nutrition, the average values in the nutrition section above cover them all and any variety can be assumed to share similar nutritional properties.

The healthiest ways to eat shrimp are:

  • Baking
  • Boiling
  • Sautéeing with olive oil
  • Grilling

On the other hand, keep in mind that breading and frying should be ruled out for keto.




What can you eat them with?

For starters, if you lightly spice them and grill in an oven or cook in a skillet, these can be finger-licking delicious all on their own, perhaps with garlic and lemon juice. But this can make it hard for you to control how much you eat.

Try pairing with:

  • Steamed broccoli
  • Air fried asparagus
  • Keto-friendly vegetables, like zucchini, onion, and pepper, as a part of a kabob, seasoned and oven-grilled. 

Keto-friendly alternatives for fish and seafood

  • Lobster - Similar to prawns, this crustacean contains zero carbs, making it a tasty substitute. 
  • Crab - While there are a large number of crab varieties, the blue crab is one of the more popular options. These share similar nutritional properties with other crustaceans: high protein, low fat, and negligible carbohydrates. Imitation crab is another story; it’s much less nutritious.  
  • Tuna - Widely available and affordable, tuna is easy to include in your weekly plan.

What is also very important is how you cook your meal. If you are going to use dressings and marinades that are high in sugar, then the seafood will no longer be keto-friendly. You must take extra care to ensure that any cooking ingredients are also low in carbs.


FAQs about shrimp on a keto diet

Learn the answers to specific questions you may have about fitting this shellfish into a low-carb plan.

No, usually the store-bought kind of cocktail sauce is too high in carbs for keto due to the sugar content. 

However, you can make your own low-carb version. There are lots of different recipes, but most include sugar-free ketchup or tomato paste, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and horseradish.

These animals have been cultivated in a fish farm and therefore not from a natural source such as a lake, river, or sea.

Frozen shrimp is ideal as it can be bought in advance and taken out when needed. However, all too often we forget to take it out of the freezer the night before. Is there a fast track? Yes there is! 

Just dump the contents of the bag into a bowl of cold water and make sure to cover. Wait 10 to 20 mins and voila, the thawed shrimp are ready to cook.

Technically you can, and in some countries there are dishes that specifically incorporate raw shrimp. However, this is clearly not advised as it may cause food poisoning due to any harmful bacteria present.

This is most certainly a valid question. Elevated cholesterol in our bodies, specifically the low and very low density type, are associated with an increased risk for heart disease. There is some evidence that increased saturated fat intake elevates this “bad” cholesterol in our bodies. 

What about dietary cholesterol, which is the type that comes from foods, like prawns? That is where the great debate is. Some say it negatively affects your cholesterol levels, whereas others claim that the more you eat, the less your body produces on its own, so it balances out. Until a clear resolution is reached, it would be wise to err on the side of caution and limit it to once or twice a week with a maximum of two servings per meal. This way you stay under the daily recommendation of less than 300 milligrams of dietary cholesterol.

If, however, you already have elevated cholesterol, you may want to cut back a little further.
There is one group of people albeit a minute minority of the population that suffer from familial hypercholesterolemia, in which levels of cholesterol are abnormally elevated from birth. Such individuals should definitely avoid high-cholesterol foods.

There certainly can be. Shellfish in general are one of the eight leading global allergens. If a sensitive individual consumes this product, allergic reactions can range anywhere from a rash to life-threatening anaphylaxis. 

Usually you will know if you are allergic upon exposure for the first time. If you are new to shellfish, it might be worth asking your immediate family if there is any history of food allergies. You may also want to take an allergy test.

The reactive agent is often the protein tropomyosin, a protein that causes an autoimmune reaction in certain people.