Salmon is a species of ray finned fish in the family Salmonidae, which also includes trout, chars, grayling and freshwater whitefish. Native to the North Atlantic and Pacific oceans, salmon are anadromous, meaning they are born in freshwater, migrate to the oceans to mature, and return to freshwater to reproduce.
There are two basic types of salmon: Atlantic salmon (genus Salmo) and Pacific salmon (genus Oncorhynchus).
Atlantic Salmon is the only salmon species that is found in the northern Atlantic Ocean and is mainly farm-raised. Pacific salmon, on the other hand, consists of six different species; chinook, chum, coho, sockeye, pink and masu. They are found in the Pacific Ocean and most of them are captured from the wild.
Salmon is incredibly delicious; it has a unique, delicate flavor with a less fishy taste than many other fatty fish. It is also extremely versatile and can be enjoyed in a variety of ways; steamed grilled, baked, poached, smoked, or even eaten raw as sushi or sashimi.
Salmon Nutrition Facts
Salmon is considered one of the healthiest fish because of its high protein and omega-3 content. This fatty fish also provides good amounts of B vitamins, selenium, potassium, magnesium, and other nutrients.
According to the USDA FoodData Central, 3 ounces (85 grams) of farmed Atlantic salmon (cooked) contains:
- 175 calories
- 10.5 g of fat
- 18.8 g of protein
- 447 IU of vitamin D
- 35.2 mcg of selenium
- 12.8 mg of calcium
- 0.3 mg of iron
- 326 mg of potassium
- 25.5 mg of magnesium
- 0.4 mg of zinc
Note: Nutritional content of wild salmon is different from farmed salmon. In general, farmed salmon is higher in calories and fat content, while wild salmon is higher in minerals, such as calcium, potassium, zinc and iron. The nutritional content may also vary from species to species.
Health Benefits of Salmon
1. Promotes heart health
Eating salmon regularly can be very beneficial for your heart health. Several studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce systemic inflammation and the risk of developing atherosclerosis, hypertension and stroke .
The American Heart Association’s guidelines indicate that fish high in omega-3s, like salmon, should be consumed at least twice a week to reap the full benefits.
2. Maintains brain health
Some research also suggests that omega-3 fats have potential to help slow cognitive problems, such as Alzheimer’s disease and age-related cognitive decline.
In one study of people aged 65 and older, consuming fatty fish at least twice a week was linked to a 13 percent slower decline in age-related memory issues than consuming fatty fish less than once a week .
In another study, people with normal brain function who consumed fatty fish on a regular basis were found to have more gray matter in their brains. Researchers noted that this could reduce their risk of memory problems later in life .
3. Improves eye health
Being rich in omega-3s, salmon provides structural support to cell membranes that improve eye health and research suggests eating more foods rich in these fats may help ward off age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
A 2009 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who reported the highest consumption of omega-3 fats were 30 percent less likely to develop AMD over a 12-year period than those who consume the least .
4. Keeps your skin healthy
The omega-3 found in salmon is great for skin too. This because it helps to calm inflammation, which can lead to a breakdown of collagen and elastin, both of which keep skin looking youthful.
In addition, salmon contains astaxanthin, a carotenoid that gives salmon it reddish-orange hue. This compound was found to be able to prevent skin damage and help you look younger.
In one study, 44 people with sun-damaged skin who were given a combination of 2 mg of astaxanthin and 3 grams of collagen for 12 weeks experienced significant improvements in skin elasticity and hydration .
5. Supports bone health
Salmon is a good source of vitamin D, which helps to improve bone health by increasing calcium absorption. Getting enough calcium can reduce the risk of fractures and osteoporosis.
6. Weight loss
Salmon is loaded with high quality protein, which may boost metabolic rate, decrease hunger, and make you feel full longer.
Several studies have found that increasing protein intake promotes weight and fat loss.
In one large review of 24 studies that included over 1,000 people, high-protein diets were found to be more effective than standard-protein diets for losing weight, preserving muscle mass and preventing metabolic slowdown during weight loss .
In a six-month diet study involving 65 overweight and obese women, the high-protein group lost an average of 43 percent more fat than the high-carb group. What’s more, 35 percent of women in the high-protein group lost at least 10 kg .
7. Reduces cancer risk
Salmon is an excellent source of selenium, containing roughly 59 percent of the recommended daily intake (RDI) per 100 grams.
Eating foods rich in selenium is associated with a reduced risk of several cancers, including breast cancer, lung cancer, and prostate cancer .
Moreover, salmon contains particularly high levels of vitamin D, which is also associated with prevention of certain types of cancer, including colon, breast, prostate, and ovarian cancer .
8. Relieves depression
Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids that support normal brain function, which can contribute to a decrease symptoms of depression. Salmon also provides magnesium, which can play a role in reducing a person’s risk of developing depression, according to some reports .
How to Pick and Store Salmon
Salmon can be purchased fresh, frozen, smoked, or canned. Fresh salmon should have bright, clear and shiny eyes, and its skin should be smooth and moist with shiny, tightly-adhered scales. Avoid those with dark spots or bruised as they tend to rots quickly.
Salmon can be kept for up to two days in the refrigerator. If you don’t plan to eat the fish within two days, store it in the freezer. Salmon can keep fresh for up to three months when frozen correctly. For freezer storage, be sure to wrap the fish tightly in a layer of plastic wrap and place them in a freezer bag with the date labeled, in order to keep track of how long it’s been freezing.
For the best taste and nutrition, thaw salmon safely by placing it in the refrigerator or in a bowl of cold water before you plan to use it so that it retains its freshness, and minimize the risk of microbial contamination.
Can I Eat Salmon While Pregnant?
Most fish are safe to eat during pregnancy when consumed in moderation. In fact, the American Pregnancy Association recommends the intake of salmon as it is quite low in mercury but high in omega-3 fatty acids, which enhance the neurological as well as the visual development of your fetus.
Make sure the fish you eat is well cooked because raw fish may be contaminated with harmful bacteria and viruses that can cause food poisoning; you’re more susceptible to food poisoning during pregnancy.
Salmon that’s been thoroughly smoked is also considered safe for you to eat. Just be sure that any smoked salmon you eat is from a trusted source, such as a supermarket, and always ask how it’s been processed if you’re unsure. Fish that has been salted or pickled is also safe to eat.
Is Canned Salmon Healthy?
Canned and fresh salmon are both equally nutritious. The canning process doesn’t degrade the nutrients in fish, so you’ll get protein, heart healthy omega-3 fats and other nutrients as the fresh salmon.
However, the plastic and resin ingredient used for lining metal cans could contain the chemical bisphenol A (BPA). Exposure to BPA has been linked to numerous problems, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, thyroid dysfunction, and reproductive disorders.