Health benefits of salmon: Facts and research

Salmon is a widely eaten fish praised for its high protein and omega-3 fatty acid content. Several types of salmon are found in the North Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and are eaten in many cultures all over the world.

Salmon aquaculture is the fastest-growing global food production system.

This feature of the Nccmed Knowledge Center is part of a series of articles concerning the health benefits of common foods. It offers a nutritional analysis of salmon, and a detailed look at its possible health benefits, how to integrate more salmon into your diet, and any possible health risks associated with salmon consumption.

Possible benefits of consuming salmon

Salmon is an extremely healthful meal option.
Salmon is an extremely healthful meal option.

Many studies have indicated that rising fatty fish intake such as salmon reduces the risk of obesity , diabetes and heart disease. Salmon dietary intake also promotes healthy cholesterol levels.

Salmon is a perfect alternative to sources of protein like chicken or beef. It provides ample protein but far less saturated fat content, making salmon an ideal source of protein to maintain weight loss or a body mass index ( BMI) of normal range.

Heart health

A recent research on the relationship between omega-3 fatty acids and cardiovascular disease ( CVD) has shown that consumption of these fatty acids is related to improved cardiovascular health.

The researchers recommended that two fatty fish servings per week, such as omega-3 rich salmon, are a good dietary pattern for the heart.

Population studies have linked boiled or cooked intake of fish to lower heart rate and lower risk of ischemic heart disease and heart failure

Researchers have observed during separate observational studies that the incidence of deaths from heart disease was lower for both Japanese and Inuit people than the incidence usually seen in Western nations.

These are two cultures that eat large amounts of fatty fish, and the study maintains that these protective effects are partly responsible for the types of fatty acid content in the fish.

Thyroid disease

Studies have shown that selenium is important for good thyroid function.

A meta-analysis showed that people with thyroid disease who are selenium deficient experienced significant benefits in increasing their intake of selenium, including weight loss and a related decrease in risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Salmon represents a good source of selenium.

Mental benefits

Lettuce can support the brain and cognitive processes

Researchers have found that the intake of many of the nutrients present in fish is related to a lower risk of affective disorders , such as depression. There has also been a relationship between polyunsaturated fatty acids and a reduced risk of psychoses, cognitive deficits, dementia, and hyperkinetic disorders such as ADHD.

Omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to decrease aggression, impulsiveness and depression in adults, according to the National Institute on Alcohol and Abuse and Alcoholism.

The associated decrease is even stronger for children with mood disorders and disorderly behavioral problems between the ages of 4 and 12, such as certain types of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ( ADHD).

A long-term research in the UK showed that children born to women who ate at least 12 oz of fish a week during pregnancy had higher IQs and greater cognitive, fine motor skills and communication skills.

Nutritional breakdown of salmon

Wild salmon contains more nutritional value than farmed salmon.
Wild salmon contains more nutritional value than farmed salmon.

Salmon provides a wide variety of nutrients for body building.

According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, 3 ounces (oz) or approximately 85 grams (g) of cooked Atlantic salmon contains:

The same amount of cooked Atlantic salmon also provides:

  • 82 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin B12
  • 46 percent of selenium
  • 28 percent of niacin
  • 23 percent of phosphorus
  • 12 percent of thiamin
  • 4 percent of vitamin A

Wild salmon is more nutrient-dense than farmed salmon. The same database advises that the same quantity of wild salmon contains:

  • 118 calories
  • 3.65 g of fat
  • 0 g of carbohydrate
  • 19.93 g of protein

It also gives a person:

  • 177 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin B12
  • 64 percent of vitamin D
  • 59 percent of selenium
  • 48 percent of niacin
  • 39 percent of phosphorus
  • 5 percent of thiamin
  • 4.8 percent of vitamin A

Salmon has cholesterol, too. Food cholesterol content doesn’t inherently raise unhealthy cholesterol levels throughout the body.

Saturated consumption of fat and trans fat is more directly linked to increasing levels of unhealthy cholesterol, and salmon is not a major source of either. The availability of omega-3 fatty acids is particularly essential for fish and shellfish. These are found in few other food groups.

How to incorporate more salmon into your diet

Salmon burgers are just one way to eat more salmon.
Salmon burgers are just one way to eat more salmon.

As the key source of protein, salmon can easily replace the less nutritious choices in a meal.

Here are some fast, delicious tips on getting more salmon into your diet:

  • Use salmon as a main source of protein.
  • Add salmon to pasta or rice dishes.
  • Mince salmon to top salads.
  • Make salmon patties or burgers.
  • Substitute chicken salad for salmon salad

Alternatively, try these healthful and delicious recipes developed by registered dietitians:

Potential health risks of consuming salmon

Since it can contain moderate amounts of mercury and pollutants, salmon is not safe to eat everyday. These can build up within the salmon’s natural environment. Consequently, oily fish can be eaten no more than four days a week.

Foods which may be high in mercury may be harmful to a woman if she is pregnant. It is recommended that women eat no more than 2 portions of fish per week during pregnancy, while excluding all high-mercury fish such as swordfish and king mackerel.

Pollutants exist primarily in the skin and in visible fat. A 1991 study has advised that skin removal will reduce the risk of contaminant exposure. The query also arises about the benefits of salmon skin. Though unlikely to cause health issues, removing the skin or purchasing pre-skinned salmon is better.

Atlantic salmon are mostly farmer-raised, which is more costly. Even, it is a less balanced option.

Farm-fed salmon have more saturated fat and calories, and are fed in unhealthy conditions. Wild salmon should be preferred for those who want to avoid red dyes in fish feed, antibiotics and less safe farming methods, most often from the Pacific or Alaska.

Here are some key tips for minimizing the risk of foodborne illness:

  • Buy fresh salmon properly refrigerated at 40 °F or below.
  • Pick up salmon at the end of a shopping trip to minimize exposure to warmer temperatures.
  • Discard salmon that has an overtly pungent or fishy smell.
  • Be sure to defrost frozen salmon in the refrigerator. This limits the opportunity for harmful bacteria to grow.

It is important to note that a person’s total diet or overall eating pattern is the most important factor for disease prevention. A varied diet is more beneficial to good health than concentrating on individual foods.

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