When it’s wild-caught and not farmed, salmon is one of the most nutritious foods on the planet. It’s credited with everything from extending a person’s lifespan to preventing heart attacks and cancer. (1) Not only does salmon possess one of the highest omega-3 contents, it is also packed with tons of other vitamins and minerals as well.
In just a four ounce piece of wild-caught salmon, there is a considerable amount of nutrition.
Salmon Nutrition Facts
- Vitamin B12 (236 percent DV)
- Vitamin D (127 percent DV)
- Selenium (78.3 percent DV)
- Vitamin B3 (56.3 percent DV)
- Omega-3 fatty acids (55 percent DV)
- Protein (53.1 percent DV)
- Phosphorus (52.1 percent DV)
- Vitamin B6 (37.6 percent DV)
- Iodine (21.3 percent DV)
- Choline (19.2 percent DV)
- Vitamin B5 (18.4 percent DV)
- Biotin (15.1 percent DV)
- Potassium (14 percent DV)
8 Proven Salmon Health Benefits
Salmon’s nutritional content makes it one of the world’s healthiest foods (when it’s wild-caught). High in nutritional value, wild-caught salmon has a number of benefits for the entire body, many of them resulting from salmon’s omega-3 fatty acids. Here are eight proven wild-caught salmon health benefits:
1. Whole Body Wellness
Containing more than a day’s worth of vitamin D in just one serving, eating wild-caught salmon helps maintain optimal health in a variety of ways. This is important as vitamin D deficiency is linked to everything from cancer to multiple sclerosis to rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease. D. Alexander Parker, PhD, Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Urology at Mayo Clinic in Florida, suggests that one-quarter of Americans suffer from low levels of vitamin D. (2) This stresses the need for all of us to supplement or eat vitamin D-rich salmon on a regular basis. Another study by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that 7.6 million children across the U.S. were vitamin D deficient. This is defined as less than 15 ng/ml of blood. (3)
2. Bone and Joint Health
Researchers recently found that regular omega-3 consumption can help keep osteoporosis at bay. (4) In fact, using records spanning 15 years from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), Ohio State University researchers observed that women with higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood experienced fewer hip fractures. Inflammation contributes to bone resorption, a process in which bone tissue is broken down. Since omega-3-rich salmon is a natural anti-inflammatory food, eating this delicious fish on a regular basis is a great way to keep your bones strong.
3. Brain and Neurological Repair
Omega-3-rich foods are shown to increase the efficiency of various brain functions, including improved memory. (5) Additionally, the vitamin A, vitamin D and selenium in salmon help protect the nervous system from age-related damage and can even possibly act as an antidepressant. Studies suggest that long-term omega-3 supplementation can help prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s symptoms. (6, 7)
4. ADHD Prevention in Children
Research shows that children who regularly eat salmon also experience the same brain benefits as their parents. Specifically, various studies suggest that feeding salmon to preschool children helps prevent ADHD symptoms and can boost academic performance. (8) So, the nutrition in salmon helps children focus better and remember more.
5. Heart Health
Being rich in omega-3 fatty acids, regularly eating salmon can help reduce systemic inflammation and the risk of developing atherosclerosis, hypertension and stroke. Regarding dosage, a study published by the School of Medicine and Pharmacology (University of Western Australia) reports:
“Health authorities currently recommend an intake of at least two oily fish meals per week for the general population which equates to approximately 500 mg per day of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid [two key omega-3 fatty acids]. In patients with coronary heart disease the guidelines recommend 1 g daily supplements and in hypertriglyceridemic patients up to 4 g per day.” (9)
6. Better Eyesight
Eating salmon could help relieve dry eye syndrome and age-related macular degeneration symptoms, the number one cause of irreversible blindness in the United States and European Union. (10, 11) Omega-3s are also thought to improve the drainage of intraocular fluid from the eyes and decrease the risk of glaucoma and high eye pressure. (12) The omega-3’s in salmon are also essential for eye development in infants.
7. Healthy Skin
Because of its exceptional levels of omega-3 fats, consuming wild-caught salmon may help provide glowing and more supple skin. Also, the carotenoid antioxidants of astaxanthin found in salmon can greatly reduce the effects of free radical damage, which causes aging. Dr. Perricone, MD, a world renowned dermatologist, recommends his patients consume wild-caught salmon three times a week for more radiant skin. (13)
8. Cancer Defense
Any discussion about the health benefits of omega-3-rich salmon would not be complete without mentioning the evidenced-based effects this superfood can have on cancer. Of the 2,000+ peer-reviewed scientific papers discussing omega-3 fatty acids and cancer, one point is clear: Omega-3 fatty acids can have a profound effect on not only preventing cancer, but helping to fight tumors.
For example, there is evidence to support this correlation between omega-3 fats and:
- Non-specific human cancer cells (12)
- Breast cancer cells (13)
- Colorectal cancer cells (14)
- Prostate cancer (15)
- Malignant brain tumors (16)
- Liver cancer (17)
- Skin cancer (18)
- UVB-induced skin cancer (19)
It’s noteworthy to mention that some of these studies suggest that cancer patients typically experience measurable benefits when omega-3-rich fish are consumed even just once per week.
Dangers of Farmed Salmon
But wait, didn’t I read somewhere that salmon is highly toxic and contaminated with mercury and dioxins? It absolutely depends on where you get it. Salmon is marketed as one of nature’s most potent superfoods, yet most salmon on the market today is farm-raised, and millions of Americans eating farmed salmon are being contaminated with deadly toxins every year. And let me be clear: Farmed salmon is on my list of fish you should never eat.
As I researched safe salmon sources, I found inconsistent data. Some sources claim that only 50 percent of the fish in our markets are farm-raised, while others state that it could be much more. But one thing we do know: more than 80 percent of all the fish we eat is imported. (20) The problem with imported sources is that foreign manufacturing standards are not monitored and have been linked to having dangerous levels of:
- Dioxin-like compounds (DLCs) (21)
- Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
Also, because of the poor nutritional feed they are given, compared to their wild-caught counterparts, farm-raised salmon:
- Contain just a fraction of heart-healthy omega-3s (22)
- Contain a significant level of toxins, pesticides and antibiotics
- Are fed a dangerous reddish-pink dye in their food to make their flesh an unnatural red color
A 2011 study published in PLoS One found mice eating farmed salmon actually showed weight gain and an increased risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes symptoms. (23) This is a result of persistent organic pollutants, or POPs, that tend to be high in farmed salmon. The study looked specifically at organochlorine pesticides, dioxins and PCBs.
Despite the numerous health benefits of wild-caught salmon, farmed salmon is not only not as nutritious, it’s actually dangerous for your health.
Salmon Sourcing: The Term “Wild-Caught”
According to a report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “There’s a bit of a grey area here … some ‘wild-caught’ seafood actually starts its life in a hatchery.” (26)
This should raise some serious eyebrows because it could be that, like most shellfish, a significant amount of wild-caught salmon is raised in hatcheries and is then released to the wild to be caught. Essentially, this negates the term “wild-caught.” We see the same protocol with farm-raised yellowtail, which are caught as juveniles in the wild and then raised to maturity in captivity.
In a nutshell, just because the package says “wild-caught,” doesn’t mean that it’s good for you.
This is why I recommend true Alaskan wild-caught salmon. It’s really cost effective. According to the George Mateljan Foundation, Alaskan salmon is the least contaminated species. Other salmon varieties that are known to contain minimal to no toxins include:
- Southeast Alaskan chum
- Kodiak Coho
Bottom line: As long as your salmon is from a true wild-caught source, it is one of the best sources of omega-3s there is. Plus, it is an amazing powerhouse of many other vitamins and minerals.
How to Shop for Salmon
It’s important when shopping for salmon that you also pick a healthy, fresh fish. You should ask your fishmonger when they got the fish in or even find out when they get their fish in advance before you go shopping. Some things to look for are:
- Clear eyes
- Consistent coloring, no dark spots
- Firm flesh that springs back to the touch
- Flesh intact with bone
- Free of cuts on belly area or other parts of the body
- Free of discoloration
- Fresh smelling (not fishy)
- No slime in gills
- Red gills bright in color
When you do select a healthy salmon to eat, be sure to store it properly. Salmon should be stored in the coldest part of the refrigerator such as the meat drawer or the lowest shelf in the back of the fridge.
Salmon is one of the most nutritious foods — it’s also one of the most delicious, in my opinion. Try out my healthy salmon patties recipe tonight and let me know what you think.
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