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How Does This Ayurvedic Food Improve Wellness?
CLINICAL AYURVEDIC REVIEW
Rich, dense and satisfying in nature, the celebratory shrimp is a fun favorite at parties. The little crustaceans are popcorn sized for easy consumption, making an elegant hors d'oeuvres for any festive occasion.
Some of the ways we commonly enjoy shrimp is alongside a spicy horseradish cocktail sauce, in a savory white wine butter sauce or with more tropical flavors like cilantro and lime. These tiny morsels spark feelings of satisfaction and, for many, nostalgia because they so often appear at special occasions. Is it any surprise that we have such a love for shrimp?
John Immel, founder of Joyful Belly, recalls, "As a boy I used to go to "Beefsteak Charlie's" on Wednesday nights at the mall, which was kids-eat-free night. They had an all you could eat salad bar with shrimp. I used to eat 3-4 platefulls of shrimp with my dad. It is a fond memory I'll never forget. The average American consumes over 4lbs of these tiny ocean-dwellers every year, making it America's most popular fish.
Footnote: The information for this article was in part gathered from a 2019 study and survey of 22 students of Ayurveda who experimented with shrimp. During the study, students ate shrimp for 3 days and journaled the pharmacological effects. This study was sponsored by the Joyful Belly School of Ayurveda, and specifically the Mastering Ayurvedic Digestion & Nutrition certification course.
Sweet but Easy to DigestShrimp is sweet tasting/ One student said, "scallop and shrimp are like dessert, a little goes a long way."
They are also heavy in nature, making it a grounding, satisfying food that nourishes the body (a quality called ojas-building in Ayurveda). Another student reported, ""I like the rich flavor of the hot and gooey substance inside the head and I always suck on it feeling a fountain of nourishment."" These qualities make shrimp ideal for a person trying to rebuild their strength.
Many students reported that the shrimp was dense and some even said "fibrous". One student described shrimp as "chewy and squeaky", like biting into a "warm piece of rubber". Another said it had the consistency of organ meat, but without the fat.
Despite the richness of shrimp, it is easily digested by the body so you'll likely still feel light and energetic after eating it. Maybe that's why some people can eat plate after plate of shrimp in one sitting!
Warm, EnergizingShrimp is known to help circulation of blood, which naturally warms the body. The heat of shrimp is slow, like warming a hearth. Their warmth radiates through the body. Some of our students saw these qualities in action, with one student extolling the pleasant effects of a "gentle increase in blood flow, with my blood moving more freely." Another said, "my chest felt comfortably warm." A third exclaimed, "I felt warmed up with a slight pulse going in my ears." Shrimp's saltiness can also increase heat in the body.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, prawns and shrimp are known for their ability to tonify qi and yang, as well as regulating blood circulation, eliminating cold and resolving phlegm. Shrimp's heat can be too warming for those of pitta dosha. Find your dosha here.
Brain FoodShrimp is brain food. It nourishes the nervous system (majja vaha srotas) with its rich, oily, sweet qualities. It is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids and the antioxidant astaxanthin, which nourish healthy brain function. The Omega 3 fatty acids and other nutrients in shrimp feed an overstimulated, depleted Vata or Pitta brain, while its relaxing qualities improve Vata's focus.
EnergizingShrimp builds energy and warmth while nourishing instead of depleting you. This is in contrast to foods like coffee, which only activate energy but deplete your body in the end because they do not provide the underlying fuel.
After experimenting with shrimp, some students are considering swapping it for their morning coffee! They reported, "I felt energized which naturally improved my mood and focus tremendously. It had way better effects than coffee! Shrimp has enough fire to activate, but is earthy and grounding. I felt calm and alert - my eyes feel clearer and my mood is stable and focused. I feel really good, at my optimal performance."
Another said, "Shrimp could be my jam in the morning. It kept me really satisfied and kept my blood sugar stable long into the day. I had excellent energy throughout the day." Maybe energizing satisfaction is why shrimp and grits are a new Southern breakfast favorite? What do you think, would you trade your cup of Joe for a plate of shrimp?
For one student, the energizing effects were too much, "I had vivid dreams while eating shrimp, so perhaps it is a little stimulating (rajasic in nature) for me."
Paradoxically, shrimp are both energizing and relaxing. One student reported, "A sense of calm and pleasure came over me and my upper body muscles relaxed," reported one student. Another said, "I feel happy & content, relaxed and slightly sleepy."
For another student the soporific effects were too much, "I feel drowsy as my brain sucks in the Omega 3 fatty acids, B12 & E and cholesterol. I could not eat this every day - I would never get anything accomplished!" Another said, "My mind felt dull like I was in a fog and I felt heavy. I feel extremely heavy and tired." Still another reported, "After eating shrimps, my head felt dull like I had woken up from a nap."
Salty & Moistening Properties of Ocean Seafood
According to Chinese medicine, foods from the ocean support healthy Kidney function. This means that the salty qualities help dry Vata types hold onto moisture. Vata's dry & cold qualities are naturally pacified by the salty, wet, and heavy qualities of ocean based seafood.
"Every year in the fall I buy a few canned oysters to reduce my Vata," testifies Joyful Belly founder John Immel, "The richness of all mollusks and crustaceans, culminating in Oysters, are ideal for Vata. They induce the kind of sleepiness and saltiness that is perfect for the scattered fall mind."
One student said, "When I see shrimp my mouth starts to salivate. Maybe it's the salt factor that makes them highly addictive for me."
High Cholesterol but Low in Calories
Shrimp are low in calories but high in protein. They also contain good levels of iron, magnesium, zinc and vitamin B12. From a nutritional standpoint, they are relatively balancing for all three doshas. However, the relaxing and warming effects make it ideal for Vata dosha
Of shrimp's oiliness, one student said, "My body felt moisturized and well lubricated like a well oiled machine". Another described shrimp as having a "greasy feel, a slight oily presence that coated my tongue."
Shrimp has been shunned by some because it is high in cholesterol. New research debunks the myth blackballing high cholesterol foods. Only 25% of the population is sensitive to dietary cholesterol. For the other 75%, a high cholesterol diet has little effect on blood cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is produced in the liver. High cholesterol foods can actually reduce the need for the liver to produce cholesterol.
One study found that shrimp boosts HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) by 12% and reduced triglycerides by 13% - both good for heart health. It is very high in selenium, good for heart health. Shrimp is also very high in iodine which is good for thyroid health, and therefore metabolic health as well.
Antioxidants, Red Shrimp & Pink Flamingos
Shrimp are pink due to the antioxidant "Astaxanthin" found in algae. This antioxidant has been linked to reduced inflammation, healthier skin, easing joint pain, overall heart health and endurance levels.
Did you know that flamingos are pink because they eat shrimp? The Astaxanthin in shrimp acts as a red dye, giving the feathers of the flamingo their festive color!
Overall shrimp had a great effect on students' bowels. One student says, "I had been having dry stools all week, that took a long time to come out but after eating the shrimp I had the nicest bowel movement!"
One student said her urine was more oily, frothy and cloudy. Another said her urine had a stronger smell.
While shrimp are a nutrient-dense, easy to digest food, there are some factors to take into account before loading your plate! Shrimp are bottom feeders so may be higher in toxins and heavy metals. They should be avoided by people with gout.
Shrimp is on the list of the top 8 most common allergens, along with fish, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, milk and soy. After eating shrimp, one student noted, "The first night after eating shrimps, I got sick and I had very soft greenish stools the day after. The second day though, my stools were hard to pass and even made my anus bleed."
Some Pitta individuals may find shrimp too heating. They should limit or avoid these little crustaceans. Due to shrimp's heaviness, some Kapha's experience brain fog and dullness after eating them.
Shrimp pack a mighty nutritional punch for such tiny morsels! Ayurvedically, shrimp are warm, nourishing and energizing. They build the blood and feed the brain.
Oysters, mussels, clams, and prawns are just some of the crustaceans and mollusks that are heavy hitting Vata pacifying foods. Shrimp is nourishing and warm, making it an ideal food for Vata. Additionally, its saltiness moistens Vata dryness. This makes them a particularly good choice in Fall, the vata time of the year.
Shrimp's low calorie content should appeal to Kapha. However some of shrimp's relaxing qualities may be too dull for a Kapha mind. When preparing shrimp for a Kapha-dominant individual, we might look to pair them with fresh, sharp ingredients like citrus and cilantro.
Buying & Preparation
Shrimp spoils quickly. Cook raw shrimp the same day you buy it.
Raw shrimp should be firm, not mushy. They should have a translucent shell without black spots or black edges. Their color should be grayish green, tannish pink or light pink. Avoid purchasing shrimp with an ammonia or strong fishy smell. The shrimp should have the mild smell of ocean only. Cooked shrimp should be firm in texture, red or pink tint.
Check the supplier. Do not purchase shrimp from a farm raised overseas with antibiotics.
These greens can help offset the fatty quality of shrimps: Spinach, Arugula, & Asparagus. Garlic, red chili pepper, lemongrass & ginger are spices that can help make shrimp more digestible. For a tasty salad, try a Shrimp, Cucumber, & Cilantro salad sprinkled with lime. Or, put them on a skewer and bbq them. Shrimp sauteed in garlic & ghee accentuates the oily of the shrimp.
Shrimp tastes best when cooked in the shell, because they pick up a lot of flavor from the shell. The "vein" in a shrimp is not truly a vein, but rather its digestive tract. Unless you want to eat shrimp poop, we recommend deveining the shrimp before consumption.
Is Shrimp Good for My Ayurvedic Diet?Find out by taking this free, easy quiz. You'll learn your body type, and whether 'Shrimp' is a good fit. Complete the basic quiz in 1 minute, or go deeper with additional quizzes at your own leisure to learn more about your body.
AYURVEDA'S GUIDE TO VITALITY & WHOLESOME NOURISHMENTYour Ayurvedic diet is tailored to your individual body and your specific imbalances. With an Ayurvedic diet you feel joy and satisfaction because what you are eating truly nourishes and balances you. Disease results from diets and lifestyles that are incompatible with your nature. By eating a personalized diet matched to your body, you experience optimal health. See How it Works.
SERVING SIZE: 1/4 lbs
Biocharacteristics of Shrimp
Foods with a Similar Nature to Shrimp
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Almonds has these Actions in CommonSatisfies-stomach, Nerve-relaxant-grounding, Builds-stamina, Nutritive, Muscle-relaxant
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Pecans has these Actions in CommonBuilds-stamina, Nutritive, Antioxidant, Satisfies-stomach
Potato has these Actions in CommonAntioxidant, Satisfies-stomach, Nerve-relaxant-grounding, Nutritive
Quinoa has these Actions in CommonBuilds-stamina, Satisfies-stomach, Kidney-tonic, Nutritive
Herb Supplements with a Similar Nature to Shrimp
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Balarishta- Vitality Tonic
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Damiana has these Actions in CommonNerve-relaxant-grounding, Warms-abdomen, Builds-stamina, Kidney-tonic
Punarnava has these Actions in CommonAntioxidant, Builds-stamina, Kidney-tonic, Nerve-relaxant-grounding
Abhayrishta- Colon Tonic
Abhayrishta- Colon Tonic has these Actions in CommonMuscle-relaxant, Nerve-relaxant-grounding, Warms-abdomen
Self Massage has these Actions in CommonNutritive, Muscle-relaxant, Nerve-relaxant-grounding
Shirodhara Treatment has these Actions in CommonMuscle-relaxant, Nerve-relaxant-grounding, Nutritive
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Oats, Fresh Milky Seed
Oats, Fresh Milky Seed has these Actions in CommonNutritive, Muscle-relaxant, Nerve-relaxant-grounding
Gokshura has these Actions in CommonMuscle-relaxant, Nerve-relaxant-grounding, Nutritive
Joyful Belly is a recognized school of biocharacteristics medicine.
TRADITIONALLY INDICATED FOR THESE SYMPTOMSShrimp may be beneficial for these symptoms. The suitability of any food for a condition is highly dependent on the individual. Please see your doctor before using this food to treat a medical condition.
View Other Ingredients for Autumn-WinterShrimp is recommended for Autumn-Winter. Check out these other Autumn-Winter foods here.
HOW DOES EATING AYURVEDICALLY MAKE YOU FEEL?Eating Ayurvedically makes you feel nourished and energized. Food digests with ease when right for your body type (dosha). Healthy digestion is seen as the cornerstone of well-being in Ayurveda. Healthy digestion generally prevents illness. If you do get sick, a strong digestive fire reduces the severity of illness and increases your resilience. It also improves your mood. Once you begin eating Ayurvedically, you will feel refreshed, vital and strong.
Clinical Tools & Resources
About the AuthorJohn Immel, the founder of Joyful Belly, teaches people how to have a healthy diet and lifestyle with Ayurveda biocharacteristics. His approach to Ayurveda is clinical, yet exudes an ease which many find enjoyable and insightful. John also directs Joyful Belly's School of Ayurveda, offering professional clinical training in Ayurveda for over 15 years.
John's interest in Ayurveda and specialization in digestive tract pathology was inspired by a complex digestive disorder acquired from years of international travel, as well as public service work in South Asia. John's commitment to the detailed study of digestive disorders reflects his zeal to get down to the roots of the problem. His hope and belief in the capacity of each & every client to improve their quality of life is nothing short of a personal passion. John's creativity in the kitchen and delight in cooking for others comes from his family oriented upbringing. In addition to his certification in Ayurveda, John holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Harvard University.
John enjoys sharing Ayurveda within the context of his Catholic roots, and finds Ayurveda gives him an opportunity to participate in the healing mission of the Church. Jesus expressed God's love by feeding and healing the sick. That kindness is the fundamental ministry of Ayurveda as well. Outside of work, John enjoys spending time with his wife and 6 kids, and pursuing his love of theology, philosophy, and language.
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