Salmon is a powerful health food. Research points out that eating fish, especially omega-3-rich fish like salmon, can improve health in a number of ways. But what is it about salmon that makes it such a nutritious, disease-fighting food? Here’s what the experts say.
Recipe in the photo: Teriyaki salmon
According to the USDA, a 3-ounce serving of cooked wild salmon provides:
- Calories: 155
- Protein: 22 g
- Totally fat: 7 gr
- Total Carbs: 0 gr
- Fiber: 0 gr
- Sodium: 48mg
- Vitamin B12: 2.6 mg
- Potassium: 534 mg
- Selenium: 40 mg
- Omega 3: 1.5 gr
The health benefits of salmon
Salmon is a nutrient-rich food that promotes health in a variety of ways. Here’s a look at its amazing benefits:
Offers Omega-3 fatty acids
Fat is an important nutrient for human health. It aids in the absorption of certain nutrients, protects your organs, provides energy, and so much more. Your body needs fat to survive. But the type of fat you consume matters.
Unsaturated fat, the kind abundant in salmon, has profound health benefits. It’s high in omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat, says Maya Feller, MS, RD, author of Eating from our roots. Omega-3 fats are considered essential because your body can’t make them, which means you have to get them from your diet. The benefits of polyunsaturated fats, Feller notes, are enormous, from reducing inflammation and lowering blood pressure to reducing the risk of certain cancers.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend that women consume between 1.1 grams and 1.4 grams of omega-3 fats per day; men should consume 1.6 grams per day. A three-ounce piece of cooked salmon contains between 1.5 and 2 grams of omega 3s, according to the NIH.
It is rich in protein
In addition to fat, salmon is also high in protein, says Jenny Shea Rawn, MPH, RD, author of Coastal cuisine. A 3-ounce serving of salmon provides approximately 22 grams of protein. Search in Journal of Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome in 2020 notes that high-protein diets (of which salmon can be a part) can promote weight loss, as well as prevent obesity.
Provides vitamin B12
A 3-ounce serving of salmon provides 2.6 micrograms of B-12, which is more than 100 percent of your daily requirement for the vitamin, according to the NIH. Vitamin B12 is required for nerve function, red blood cell formation and DNA production.
Provides a range of minerals
Salmon is also a fantastic source of other important nutrients, says integrative and functional dietitian Robin Foroutan, MS, RDN, including iodine, potassium and selenium. Iodine supports thyroid function, potassium plays an important role in regulating blood pressure, and selenium is an antioxidant that helps counteract free radical damage.
It is rich in antioxidants
Wild salmon is also a source of astaxanthin, a red pigment that gives salmon its gorgeous color. Astaxanthin has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and consuming foods containing the compound may also benefit skin health by providing some protection against harmful UV rays and free radicals, according to a 2018 review in Nutrients.
Adds vitamin D
It can be difficult to get vitamin D from your diet, as there are few foods that are good sources of vitamin D. Sockeye salmon is one of the best options for vitamin D. According to the NIH, one 3-ounce serving of cooked sockeye il Salmon supplies 71 percent of your daily value for vitamin D, which is crucial for bone health and may be a major player in fighting depression and supporting immunity.
How Much Salmon Should You Eat?
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend eating 8 ounces of fish per week. (Children should eat less.) If you could become or are currently pregnant, are breastfeeding, or feed children fish at family meals, choose options that are low in mercury, according to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) American. Fortunately, says Rawn, “salmon is considered a Best choice in this recommendation, as it is a low mercury fish.”
How to choose salmon
The debate between wild salmon and farmed salmon persists. Is one “better” than the other? Not necessarily.
Rawn says both wild and farmed salmon are great options and recommends doing your research. “Find out the origin of your salmon—where it comes from, is it sustainably sourced—and buy what you feel comfortable eating and what your family likes,” he says. No matter which type you choose, “salmon is one of the healthiest foods you can eat.”
Meghan Gervais, a professional salmon fisherman based in Bristol Bay, Alaska, says the glacier-fed waters where she lives and fishes create the perfect ecosystem for wild salmon. Their varied diet, she says, gives wild salmon its beautiful color and flavor. In addition to this, wild salmon tend to be leaner, thanks to the constant movement required to find food.
If wild salmon isn’t an option for you, farmed salmon is also a good choice. Agricultural practices have improved thanks to consumer demand and technology. Look closely at the labels and country of origin. The ASC certified label can be helpful in choosing farmed salmon certified for environmental and social welfare. And refer to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch website to learn more about which countries of origin are the safest and most sustainable to buy from.
3 Tips for smart shopping
The fishmonger at the fish market or grocery store is a great resource. If you’re not sure what you’re buying, don’t be afraid to ask them. Here’s how to find your perfect piece of salmon:
- Ask what’s new. Ask what’s newest in the case instead of asking what’s freshest, says Gervais. Many fishes are frozen on the fishing boat and arrive at your shop frozen. This preserves flavor and taste. By asking what’s most recent in the case, you are confirming which fish either arrived fresh recently or was most recently thawed.
- Look for the color. The meat of farmed and wild salmon should be bright orange or coral and almost ruby red (for sockeye salmon). Dull flesh is a sign that the fish hasn’t received the rich diet it needed to grow flavor or nutrition. Look for any discoloration, especially any brown or dark-colored spots, which may indicate spoilage.
- Check that the salmon meat appears moist. Dryness indicates that the fish is old and/or has not been handled properly.
How to prepare salmon for cooking
Whether you buy your salmon from the counter or from the freezer, you should know how you want to use it before it arrives in your shopping cart. For most recipes, you’ll want to get a cross-cut fillet taken from the thickest part of one side of the salmon. These fillets are typically 1 ½ to 2 inches thick and are the standard for many recipes. The tail tenderloin is a thin cut but tapers in thickness as it nears the end. This can make it difficult to cook it evenly.
If queuing is your only option, you can handle it in two ways. First, you can remove the thin, tapered section before cooking and cook separately, or you can poke the tapered end under itself with a toothpick to create a “double layer” for more even cooking.
Also keep in mind that salmon has small spines that run down the center of the fillet. If you’re shopping over the fish counter, ask the fishmonger to pick them up for you.
You can also debone the fish using kitchen tweezers. Place the salmon skin side down on a dedicated cutting board, then gently run your hand along the surface in the center of the fillet to reveal the bones. Using the tweezers, pull in the direction the bone is pointing, which will remove them.
Delicious ways to prepare salmon
There are so many great ways to enjoy salmon, as the fish cooks quickly and works with so many cuisines and cooking techniques.
Garvais recommends roasting as an accessible and delicious preparation. He likes to finish his roasted salmon with a glaze of honey, ginger, garlic and soy sauce. Another recipe to try: Garlic Butter Roasted Salmon with Potatoes and Asparagus.
Grilled salmon adds another layer of smoky flavor to salmon, and it’s quick to cook, to boot. This grilled salmon with tomatoes and basil is a win-win summer dish for a backyard get-together.
Try canned salmon
Don’t forget the canned, bagged, or canned versions of salmon, Rawn says. He loves that they are “inexpensive, nutrient-dense, convenient, stable, versatile and tasty.” These easy salmon cakes let canned salmon take center stage.
The bottom line
Salmon is a nutrient-rich fish and well worth adding to your diet. Aim for two fish meals each week to reap the nutritional benefits. Try slow cooking techniques to keep things simple and delicious! Ready to taste salmon? Try one of our healthy salmon recipes.