Can Vegetarians Eat Shrimp?

There are many misconceptions regarding vegetarianism. It can be confusing for new folks to keep track of the different vegetarian classifications and the “to-eat and no-to-eat” list. The most common confusion about vegetarianism lies in the seafood category. Are vegetarians allowed to eat shrimp?

Shrimp and other shrimp products are not vegetarian-friendly. True vegetarians do not eat any meat products, including fish, shrimp, prawns, and other seafood. However, shrimp and other seafood are part of a pescatarian and flexitarian diet due to their rich protein, omega-3, and iodine source. 

Vegetarians do not eat meat, and yes, that includes shrimp, irrespective of the different vegetarian classifications and “gray areas.” Therefore, understanding the true nature of vegetarianism is vital to answering your question of whether vegetarians can eat shrimp.

Can Vegetarians Eat Shrimp?

Strictly speaking, vegetarians do not eat shrimp.

According to the Vegetarian Society, vegetarians do not eat any products or by-products of slaughter. This definition includes meat, game, poultry, fish, shellfish, seafood, insects, animal rennet, gelatine, fat, or animal stock.

There are three primary classifications of vegetarianism, none of which consume shrimp or other seafood and meat products. However, someone following a flexitarian or pescetarian diet may eat shrimp occasionally as long it isn’t the only food they consume.

Shrimp are identified as living animals. Some people argue that certain crustaceans like shrimp, prawns, and crabs are a “gray area” and should not be off-limits in vegetarian diets. However, a study on the Thermal Behavior of Crustaceans suggests that crustaceans can feel pain, showing sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures.

So, whether you choose to become a vegetarian due to convictions regarding sustainability, the environment, global warming, or animal welfare, all seafood, including shrimp, is off-limits.

What Is A Vegetarian Diet?

Vegetarian diets are currently a popular choice, be it short-term or lifelong. Vegetarianism is commonly defined by what a person needs to exclude rather than include in their diet.

So, at its core, vegetarians exclude all meat, poultry, and seafood products. Beyond that, further food restrictions like eggs, cheese, honey, and other animal by-products are up to the eater.

A vegetarian diet is not only limited to eating vegetables. It includes a wide variety of foods, including:

  • Grains
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Dairy products
  • Pulses
  • Honey

Types Of Vegetarian Diets

The reasons vary as to why people adopt a vegetarian diet. For example, some adopt a vegetarian diet for health, religious, financial, environmental reasons, or animal rights concerns. Along with the different reasons are several vegetarianism classifications, including:

  • Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian: Vegetarians that avoid all meat, poultry, and seafood but consume dairy and egg products.
  • Lacto Vegetarian: Vegetarians that avoid meat, poultry, seafood, and egg products but consume dairy products.
  • Ovo Vegetarian: Vegetarians that avoid meat, poultry, seafood, and dairy products but consume egg products.
  • Vegan: Vegetarians that avoid all meat, poultry, seafood, and animal by-products.
  • Pescatarian: Pescatarians refrain from eating meat or poultry but consume fish and seafood. Additionally, pescatarians may include dairy and egg products.
  • Flexitarian: Flexitarians typically follow a lacto-ovo-vegetarian lifestyle. However, they occasionally consume meat and seafood. Flexitarians are also known as “part-time” vegetarians.

Can Pescatarians Eat Shrimp

In scientific literature, the pescatarian diet is also described as “pesco-vegetarian.” The diet is lumped into the vegetarianism spectrum as it’s plant-based mainly and avoids eating meat products.

On the other hand, flexitarians also predominantly follow a plant-based diet and may eat seafood. Still, they occasionally eat other meat products too.

Why Do Pescatarians Eat Shrimp?

The reason people choose to follow a pescatarian diet, forgoing red meat and poultry while still eating fish, is personal and different. However, one of the primary benefits is more variety and to reap the benefits of a plant-based diet and heart-healthy fish and shrimp.

Many plant foods are rich in alpha-linolenic acid, a type of omega-3 fat (ALA). However, this type of omega isn’t easily converted to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in your body. These fatty acids provide additional health benefits for your heart, brain, and even mood function.

 Fish is the top way to get omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, oil fish are naturally rich in EPA and DHA.

Shrimp ranks as one of the most commonly consumed shellfish varieties. This crustacean is a juicy source of protein, low in calories, and chock full of vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, minerals, and the antioxidant astaxanthin.

 Shrimp is one of the highest sources of natural iodine, essential for thyroid and brain health. In addition, omega-3 fatty acids boost heart health and lower blood pressure.

 Despite its high cholesterol content, shrimp hasn’t been found to impact heart health negatively.

Shrimp Nutrition Value

Here’s a nutritional rundown of a 3-ounce shrimp serving:

If health motivates your food choices, following a pescatarian diet broadens your options.

Shrimp Substitutes For Vegetarians

Shrimp is an integral part of many delicious recipes. So it’s no wonder people don’t want to cut this juicy, sweet shellfish out of their diet when transitioning to vegetarianism.

Fortunately, there are several ways to continue making your favorite shrimp dishes without adding the real thing.

You can either add a premade vegetarian-or vegan-friendly shrimp option to your recipes or use alternatives like mushrooms, tofu, or sweet potato.

Mushrooms are the perfect substitute for all types of seafood, including shrimp. King Oyster mushrooms and Old Bay spice best mimic shrimp’s taste and meaty texture.

Sweet potatoes are a surprisingly vegetarian-friendly substitute for shrimp. Simply knead sweet potato puree into a dough and add some seasoning to create a fishy taste and pinkish color. Then, add seaweed to the broth for a closer shrimp flavor.

Tofu is a versatile soy product that you can use in most vegetarian recipes. It has a neutral flavor and soft texture, making it straightforward to infuse shrimp seasoning into it.

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To wrap up, you can’t eat shrimp while following a vegetarian lifestyle. To be a true vegetarian, you’ll need to refrain from all meat, fish, and seafood products.

However, you can be a pescatarian and enjoy a primarily plant-based diet with occasional shrimp, fish, or another seafood side.