The Awesome Health Benefits of Salmon Explained

Salmon is an undeniably delicious, versatile fish. Delicious whether raw in sashimi or cooked on the grill, this oily fish is extremely healthy. Salmon, which is full of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, is one of the best foods to eat for a healthy diet. From sustainably farmed Atlantic salmon to wild-caught Pacific fish, there are plenty of options for health-conscious consumers looking to add more salmon to their diet.

Arctic salmon fillets Kfaroy

Salmon nutritional benefits

According to registered dietitian Anna Brown of the Nutrition Squeezed blog, salmon is a powerful combination of low saturated fat and high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, both critical to heart health. As a bonus, omega-3 acids are also anti-inflammatory and great for brain development. Salmon is a fatty fish and contains much more omega-3 fatty acids than other types of fish such as sea bass and cod. While this fish is healthy, it does not contain the same level of omega-3s as salmon.

Smoked salmon Kafaroy in a package and two plates.
Arctic smoked salmon Kfaroy

But not all salmon fillets are created equal. Salmon nutrition can vary depending on the species and whether it is wild or farmed. The main issues for both farmed and wild salmon are their diet and sustainability. Consumption of farmed salmon has accelerated in recent decades with increased demand for fish. However, the level of omega-3s in farmed salmon depends on the feed, a mixture of grains, fishmeal, and plants. Because of their natural diet, wild salmon can have higher levels of omega-3s along with higher levels of calcium and iron. Nutritionally, recent studies have shown that wild Pacific sockeyes and Chinese sockeyes are the most nutritious, although farmed Atlantic salmon is also a great choice due to its low and availability of mercury. The vast majority of Atlantic salmon will be farmed while Pacific salmon such as coho or king salmon will vary depending on the year.

Regarding high quality farmed Atlantic salmon, there are many sustainable salmon farms that produce fish with excellent nutritional levels. An example of such a farm is Kvarøy Artic, a third generation family farm in Norway. According to Kvarøy, farmed salmon contains twice as much omega-3 as wild-caught salmon. In addition, some studies also claim that certified sustainable salmon is better for the environment due to lower levels of mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) when compared to wild salmon.

Cooked salmon vs raw salmon

Salmon fillet on white plate with butter, herbs and knife on a wooden table.

According to Anna Brown, the biggest nutritional difference between raw and cooked salmon is the ingredients added. Since cooked salmon generally contains fats such as oil or butter and sometimes ingredients such as sugar or herbs, this can affect nutritional results. However, this does not mean that these additive components are negative.

“While these additional ingredients add a negligible amount of calories or fat, they can add a lot of great flavor, so don’t be afraid of overcooked salmon, just be aware of the ingredients the recipe calls for,” Brown said.

The best thing about cooking salmon is the endless variety of techniques and recipes. For Brown, she prefers a straightforward approach – baking the fish in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. And as an added bonus, the salmon bake avoids the house smelling like fish, which is a side effect of burning on the stove. For seasoning, the ingredients can be as simple as olive oil, salt, pepper and a mixture of herbs (great Provence herbs). Another way to consume salmon is to make use of as much fish as possible. By consuming only salmon fillets, the parts of the salmon such as the skin and scales are left loose. To maximize yield, use salmon bones to make fish broth and grill collars with sea salt and lemon juice for a delicious main course. At Kvarøy Arctic, they use salmon trimmings for their burger and sausage patties. Not only is this a sustainable way to enjoy salmon, but it also provides additional nutrition.

Regarding raw salmon, high quality fish obtained from suitable sources are quite nutritious to eat raw. One thing to watch out for with raw salmon is the increased risk of food-borne diseases and parasites. These issues can be a result of the salmon’s environment or something caught during shipping and handling. To avoid this, simply cook the salmon to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, but if you insist on eating the salmon raw, the best way to avoid any problems is to get quality fish.

Salmon Sustainability

Kvarøy Arctic Farm in Norway under the northern lights.
Kvarøy Arctic Farm in Norway

Like any type of seafood, salmon is subject to questions of sustainability. Due to overfishing and environmental damage, many species of fish are at risk of over-consumption. The issue of balancing the health benefits of fish with sustainability is critical according to Jennifer Buschmann, chief development officer at Kvarøy Arctic.

“The importance of ocean food production systems to our future food and nutrition security is critical to our future,” Buchamen said. This effort represents a dual message of urgency and hope. Through smarter management of wild fisheries and sustainable development of marine aquaculture (mariculture), oceans can provide more than six times what they save today while helping to restore the health of ocean ecosystems.”

For a sustainable salmon farm like Kvarøy, this means a combination of sustainable feed, innovative technologies such as the Stingray laser (to kill lice and pests on salmon), and integrated multi-feeding aquaculture. This form of aquaculture is a system in which fish are raised alongside shellfish and seaweed, increasing system health and carbon sequestration. For more sustainable seafood options, check out Watch seafood at Monterey Bay Aquarium. This guide will provide valuable details about which species to enjoy and which to avoid along with information on fisheries and farms.

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