Welcome back to the fourth installment in our Ultimate Guide to the Perfect (Healthy) Summer Spread series! If you’re just now joining us, Nutritionist Katie Shields, MS, RD of Honestly Nourished has been sharing healthy grilling recipes all month long. You can find the recipes for fruit skewers and charred red pepper hummus here, grilled artichokes and fruit infused ice cubes here, as well as the prettiest heirloom tomato salad and grilled zucchini ribbons here. This week’s recipe for grilled shrimp skewers is super quick and effortless so you can spend more time enjoying the party, picnic, or barbecue (and less time sweating over a hot grill!).
I’m really excited to share this recipe because I love seafood—it is such an amazing source of lean protein—and shrimp are my favorite to grill. Shrimp often get a bad rap due to their cholesterol content, but there’s really not much truth to the claims. We used to believe that dietary cholesterol was closely related to our blood cholesterol levels and that increased blood cholesterol also increased our risk for heart disease. However, we now know that’s not true for most of the population.
With more and higher quality research, we now know that dietary cholesterol accounts for very little of our total blood cholesterol. Our liver synthesizes more than 75 percent of the cholesterol in our body. The body tightly regulates the amount of circulating cholesterol because cholesterol is such an important component of our cell membranes, hormones, and even vitamins.
When individuals with normal lipid levels consume moderate amounts of shrimp compared with other cholesterol containing foods like eggs, a shrimp diet produces significantly lower ratios of LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) and lower ratios LDL to HDL (the “good” cholesterol). While the majority of the population will not see their LDL levels increase with moderate intake of foods higher in cholesterol, there are always exceptions so it’s a good practice to have lab work done a few times a year to check for any signs of irregularity.
THE EASIEST GRILLED LEMON BASIL SHRIMP EVER
As I mentioned, shrimp are an excellent source of protein, as well as selenium (a trace mineral important to antioxidant function in the body as well as protection against heavy metal toxins), copper (another trace mineral that helps prevent oxidative stress), and astaxanthin (a carotenoid responsible for shrimp’s characteristic pink color). Choose wild caught shrimp when you can, as they are inherently better for you and the environment compared to farm raised seafood (a fact with which I’m sure you are already familiar!). You can serve these skewers straight up with a generous squeeze of fresh grilled lemon. It doesn’t get easier than that!
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp lemon zest
- 2-3 tbs fresh basil, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1-1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 2-3 lemons, cut into 8-12 wedges, remove seeds
- Sea salt and black pepper
- Red pepper flakes (optional)
- If using wooden skewers, make sure to soak them in water for at least 20 to 30 minutes to prevent a grill fire.
- In a glass bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, lemon zest, basil, and garlic. If you like a little spiciness, also add in a teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Add the shrimp and stir to coat evenly, cover with plastic wrap, and marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hour. Do not refrigerate for longer than 3 hours, as the shrimp will start to cook from the acid and become ceviche—an entirely different entrée!
- Preheat grill to medium high.
- Take shrimp out of refrigerator and skewer head to tail, alternating each shrimp with a lemon wedge.
- Season shrimp with salt and pepper on both sides and place skewers directly onto the grill. The shrimp will cook very quickly—roughly 2 minutes per side—so do not leave unattended once on the grill. You will know they are done when they turn bright pink in color and the tails curl up.