According to the Food and Drug Administration, salmon is one of the most frequently consumed fish species in the United States. Thanks to its heart-healthy fats and high protein content, this pale pink fish provides nutrients that help prevent a number of diseases. By learning about the benefits of salmon and its nutritional profile, you can work it safely into your everyday menu.
Salmon as a Superfood
Salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which may help reduce the risk of common diseases, including cardiovascular disease. In comparison to most red meats, salmon is lower in calories and saturated fat, making it ideal for people who are trying to lose weight or manage calorie intake. Salmon contains a high level of protein, which is essential for building tissues, enzymes, and cells in the body.
The main benefits of salmon come from its high content of omega-3 fatty acids. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the omega-3 fatty acids in salmon can:
- Improve heart health
- Reduce the chance of life-threatening arrhythmias
- Lower triglyceride levels
- Reduce the rate of atherosclerotic plaque growth in the heart
For more nutritious superfoods checkout our 50 Best Superfoods of 2015
The AHA states that the eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) acid in salmon can reduce your risk of heart disease. The acids also have health benefits for brain tissue and may help reduce blood pressure. According to the Harvard Medical School, the fats in salmon prevent inflammation and blood clots.
How Often to Consume Salmon
Because salmon is an oily fish, you should consume it in moderation. The American Heart Association recommends that you consume no more than two 3.5-ounce servings per week of salmon or other similar fatty fish. If you like, you can combine your two servings into a single meal. If you suffer from coronary heart disease, the AHA recommends that you consume at least one gram of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid per day, preferably from a fish like salmon.
How to Eat Salmon
The American Heart Association recommends that you bake or grill salmon rather than frying it. In doing so, you will avoid adding extra calories through unhealthy oils. If you are looking to lose weight, avoid high-fat sauces and add flavor through herbs and spices instead. For a flavorful summer recipe, rub salmon with fresh dill, cook thoroughly on a grill, and squeeze lemon juice over the fillets before serving. If you do not like cooked salmon, you can also opt for smoked salmon. Research shows that the health benefits of smoked salmon are similar to those of grilled or baked salmon. Keep in mind, however, that smoked salmon is generally high in sodium.
The AHA recommends that you remove the skin before cooking to reduce the risk of ingesting contaminants like PCBs or dioxins. In most cases, the benefits of salmon skin do not outweigh the risks.
According to the American Heart Association’s “Fish 101” guide, a three-ounce serving of fresh or frozen salmon contains:
- Between 1.1 and 1.9 grams of healthy omegas
- 19 grams of protein
- 10 grams of fat
- 5 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin C
Exact nutrient quantities depend on the individual fish and whether it was farm raised or wild caught. Although there has been controversy over the difference in farm-raised and wild-caught salmon nutrition, the United States Department of Agriculture states that both types offer high levels of omega-3 fats.
How to Choose and Store Salmon
When you are shopping for salmon, avoid any fillets that show signs of browning around the edges. The fish should be firm. To check, press the flesh with your finger and ensure that it bounces back. If you are buying wild-caught fish, select troll-caught salmon, which are caught individually and handled gently during the packing process.
If you are concerned about buying fish from sustainable sources, check the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch List; which classifies salmon in three categories: “best choice,” “good alternative,” and “avoid.” Store fresh salmon in the refrigerator in an airtight wrapping and eat within three to five days. You can also freeze fresh salmon in an airtight container. Frozen fish is safe to eat for up to three months.
The omega-3 fatty oils from salmon are also sold in capsule form. One of the major benefits of salmon fish oil supplements is a decreased risk of heart disease. Despite the benefits of salmon oil, the AHA cautions that fish oil supplements should only be ingested by people who have heart disease or high triglyceride levels. The recommended limit is between two and four grams of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid per day. Remember that you should only take supplements as directed by your doctor. For people without health issues, fresh fish is the best way to get the benefits of salmon.