Eating fish is widely recognized as an important approach for health. In fact, fish is a very healthy source of protein and is easy to include in the diet. Although there are many types of fish out there, salmon nutritional values and their potential for health should not be ignored.
It is now commonly recommended that people eat fresh fish approximately two times a week, a behavior that promotes positive heart health (1) and even has the potential to reduce the risk of some types of cancer (2).
Salmon is an excellent source of the nutrients that people seek in fish, and it is also a tasty and easy to digest dish, even for elderly people and for children.
Salmon also has a different taste and texture to other types of fish.
This makes it a good choice for some people who do not find white fish appealing.
Additionally, salmon is one of the easiest types of fish to cook, even if you have never tried before.
Because the flesh of the fish is particularly oily, it will keep in the moisture even if you cook the fish for too long.
There is a range of different ways to cook salmon, depending on your individual preferences and cooking skills.
For example, the fish can be seared, broiled, grilled or baked.
This makes it a great food for all occasions and the nutritional values of salmon means that it is a tasty treat that also provides significant health benefits.
Salmon Nutritional Values
These are all important compounds for maintaining human health.
The combination of nutrients and proteins in salmon makes it an excellent meal and a particularly filling one.
Salmon also offers a unique amino acid and protein composition – something that often isn’t addressed when considering salmon nutritional values. For example, salmon contains small bioactive peptides that may play significant roles in health and in functional foods (5).
These compounds are thought to be one of the key reasons that salmon are able to survive and thrive in their environments (8).
While bioactive peptides are found in a range of other foods as well, including meat and other fish, they still represent a key reason why salmon is a good overall choice for promoting health.
Salmon and Protein
Modern diets often focus on minimizing fat as much as possible – an approach that often relies strongly on carbohydrates.
However, that approach has some inherent flaws.
In particular, people end up eating heavily processed food and rely on a diet that often leaves them feeling hungry and relies on a significant amount of self-control.
Under that type of diet, eating salmon doesn’t make a lot of sense, because it is pretty high in fat – even though many of the fats in question are healthy ones.
Beyond all of the nutrients in salmon, the fish is an important meal option simply because of its high protein nature.
Protein plays a particularly significant role in diet and weight loss because salmon tends to be associated with a sense of fullness (11).
This makes salmon a particularly promising meal choice.
Not only does it contain a significant amount of healthy nutrients, but it is a satisfying and tasty meal. Sounds like a winner all around.
Health and Safety Considerations
As with any food, there are a few important things to be aware of with salmon.
A key factor is that salmon contains a naturally occurring type of compound known as purines. Purines are found in a range of different plants and animals, and are generally safe for consumption.
However, some people are more susceptible to problems as the result of purines.
This tends to happen because when broken down, purines can form uric acid. While this is not a problem for most individuals, problems like gout or kidney stones can sometimes come from high intakes of foods with purines – particularly for susceptible individuals.
Because of this, people who have uric acid health issues often try to limit foods containing significant amounts of purines.
While a low-purine diet doesn’t involve cutting purines out completely, it is an approach that involves being very aware of the purine content of the foods one eats and how the body responds to those foods (15).
Because salmon contains purines, people on a low-purine diet may want to limit their salmon intake.
A second issue is mercury.
Despite the health benefits of fish, mercury is an area of particular concern. This is a chemical that can cause significant health issues when consumed in high amounts.
All fish accumulates mercury to some degree or another, but some fish contains much more mercury than other types of fish.
Salmon has the advantage of having relatively low levels of mercury. Even then, it is important not to have excessive amounts of any fish (including salmon) to help protect yourself from mercury (16).
Because of this, eating salmon a couple of times per week is a relatively safe approach – but you should avoid eating fish (of any type) for most meals of the week.
One final thing to consider is the skin of the salmon.
Salmon skin tends to have a higher concentration of omega-3 fatty acids, and many people also love the taste and the texture of salmon skin.
One catch is that any contaminants will tend to accumulate in the skin and in the fatty layer right next to the skin. If you are only eating salmon occasionally, eating the skin is probably fine, especially if you are focusing on wild-caught salmon.
However, if you eat primarily farmed salmon or eat salmon frequently, it may be best not to eat the salmon skin every time.
The Importance of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The reason that fish is so desirable is that it contains omega-3 oil.
Omega-3 is a specific type of fat that is particularly beneficial to health. It is most commonly found in fish (and fish oil supplements), although it can also be found in some other sources, such as flaxseed and walnuts.
This type of oil is polyunsaturated, which means that it is healthy for the human body, and has also been associated with significant improvements in life expectancy.
Regular consumption of fish, including salmon, acts to protect the heart in multiple ways.
Likewise, omega-3 can act to decrease the likelihood of a heart attack (18), an important function given that more than 250,000 Americans die as the result of cardiac arrest every year.
One study found that consuming a small amount of fish on a regular basis decreased the risk of death from coronary heart disease for elderly people (19).
In that study, the authors noted that previous research had found the same results in the middle-aged population.
Although the consumption of fish is commonly associated with benefits to heart health, there are other health benefits that salmon offers.
One of these benefits is the potential for a decrease in the risk of some cancers, such as prostate cancer.
A study that examined this relationship found that there was an association between fish consumption, in a group of more than 6,000 men, and the rate of prostate cancer.
The authors found that higher levels of fish consumption were associated with a two-fold or three-fold decrease in the likelihood of developing prostate cancer (20).
Multiple studies have also found an association between fish consumption and depression, with high levels of fish consumption being associated with lower levels of depression in the population (21,22,23,24).
Further study in this area is needed before it can be determined whether fish consumption is causing lower depression, or whether there is a simple correlation in place.
However, for people with depression or at risk for depression, regular consumption of fish has the potential to help reduce depression symptoms.
The health benefits associated with fish consumption make this worth trying for people with depression even if the link between fish consumption and depression is not fully confirmed.
Omega-3 fatty acids have also been associated with other health benefits.
This action means that fish (including salmon) has the potential to help reduce the incidence of diseases that are related to inflammation, such as arthritis, cancer, heart disease and potentially some psychiatric diseases (27,28).
Indeed, that anti-inflammatory action may be part of the reason for the health benefits from omega-3 fatty acids that were discussed above.
All fish offers significant health benefits, but salmon is one of the most significant, because it contains more omega-3 oils than most other types of fish.
One study found that even eating salmon just once a week is enough to significantly decrease the risk death from a heart attack (29).
The different types of salmon vary in their nutrition content, but are all considered to offer substantial health benefits, and can be purchased both in stores and online.
When it comes to choosing salmon, it is important to pick salmon that is wild, rather than farmed.
The difference between these two types of salmon is significant, although many people assume that these are the same.
Some studies have indicated that farmed salmon can contain much higher levels of PCB and dioxins than wild salmon, although these levels are not high enough to cause any major health risk (30).
Nevertheless, it is always a good idea to consume food that is as low in toxins as possible.
Additionally, farmed salmon tends to be highly unsustainable, causing considerable strain on the ecosystem as well as creating challenges for wild salmon (31).
While there are many options for purchasing wild salmon, online stores are often the best option, as their fish tends to be fresher and they place strong emphasis on providing sustainable and high-quality fish.
In particular, we recommend a site called Vital Choice. This is an amazing option for fresh wild caught seafood, along with a range of other healthy foods, including grass fed beef and even dark chocolate.
At the end of the day, the health benefits of salmon are similar to that of other fish.
What makes salmon more appealing for many people is the taste and texture, as well as how easy it is to cook. For example, the site Rasa Malaysia has a recipe for garlic herb roasted salmon and you could also try foil-baked cilantro-lime honey garlic salmon from Julia’s Album.
Additionally, salmon is one variety of fish where it is not a challenge to find wild variants.
This is important for people who want to avoid the risks that are associated with farmed salmon.
Trust me, if you haven’t tried wild salmon at least once, you should give it a go.
The taste is amazing, and different than any other fish and even than farmed salmon.
What about you? Have you ever tried wild salmon? If you have, let me know what you thought in the comments.