Protein helps rev up your calorie- and fat-burning ability, and shrimp is a standout source: Eat 10 to 12 medium- size shrimp, and you'll get 24 g protein (and just 99 calories and less than 1 g fat). This seafood is also high in zinc, a mineral that helps your body produce the appetite-controlling hormone leptin, and iodine, which helps your thyroid function at its best, keeping your metabolism stoked.
Shrimp serves up tryptophan, which is thought to trigger the release of the spirit-lifting hormone serotonin, and vitamin B12, an antioxidant that keeps your mind sharp and alert. These little swimmers also give you a healthy dose of selenium, a mineral that's been linked to better brain function, a strong immune system, and cancer prevention.
Over the years, shrimp has gotten heat for being high in cholesterol (about 130 mg for 3 oz.). But experts believe the positives outweigh the negatives: Shrimp contains almost no saturated fat and is high in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and sterols -- both of which are thought to bring cholesterol and triglyceride levels down as well as reduce inflammation.
Because it tends to be low in mercury, shrimp is a great seafood choice. However, some farmed varieties might contain antibiotics and chemicals. Your ideal pick is cold-water shrimp that's wild-caught or farmed in a sustainable way; check the Seafood Watch at montereybayaquarium.org for specific recommendations.
Shrimp is flash-frozen right after it's harvested, so it's often fresher (and less expensive) than what's sitting in the display case.
SOURCES: Kevin R. Campbell, M.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; David B. Agus, M.D., Professor of Medicine And Engineering, University of Southern California, and author of A Short Guide To A Long Life.