Fishing for another way to get more muscle-building, hunger-busting protein into your meal plan? Then, opt for salmon as food and fuel when you tire of poultry, beef, eggs and those gloppy protein powders. What’s good for the muscles, turns out is also very good for your heart and brain.
The American Heart Association recommends we eat two 3.5-ounce servings of oily fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and bluefish per week, saying that doing so can help prevent heart failure, stroke and cardiovascular disease. Dozens of research studies show that omega-3 fatty acids from fish benefit the heart in many ways, including decreasing the risk of abnormal heart rhythms that can lead to sudden death, decreasing triglyceride levels and slowing the growth of fatty deposits that clog arteries.
Salmon as Food: What You Need to Know
The good news? Salmon as food is easy to find, and you can eat it in a variety of different ways. From the Atlantic to the Pacific, there are many types of fresh and saltwater salmon—chinook, chum, coho, pink, sockeye and, masu. All are wonderful sources of omega-3s, that is, as long as they are wild-caught salmon. Salmon raised on huge aquaculture farms, however, may not be so good for you. For one, they typically contain much less omega-3 fatty acids than wild-caught fish do. In fact, the grain-based feed these fish are fed often raise the omega-6 levels of their flesh, and you get more than enough omega-6s in your normal diet. You probably don’t need any more. Omega-6s are essential, but an overabundance produces pro-inflammatory chemicals. Here’s another unappetizing fact about farm-raised salmon as food: They are often fed dye-infused feed in order to turn their naturally beige flesh a more appealing pink. We’re not big fans of dyes and chemicals in our food, and neither should you be.
Farmed vs. Wild: What Salmon Is Healthier?
You’ve heard the debate, now understand why. Let’s review the categories that the USDA monitors to give consumers the healthiest advice:
- Wild Salmon: Diet consists of smaller fish which contain EPA and DHA, the beneficial long chain omega 3 fatty acids
- Farm Raised: Omega 3 content can vary based on the diet fed to the salmon. Farm-raised have also been shown to contain more saturated fat (the type of fat that leads to plaque build up in the arteries)
PollutantsPersistent Organic Pollutants have been found in greater quantities in farm-raised salmon as food. However the increasingly growing concern over the pollution in our oceans is still up for debate in regards to its effects on our food supply.
CarcinogensResearch continues into the carcinogenic potential of both farm-raised and wild caught salmon as the habitat of the fish varies. Check studies on either side of the fence and they will both have compelling arguments for increased risk.
ContaminantsThe FDA sets parameters for tolerance levels of specific contaminants. They also set levels that are considered “safe for frequent consumption”. While farm-raised salmon has been shown in some studies to fall below the tolerance levels, they may come in above recommended levels of “frequent consumption” safety in certain populations such as children, pregnant women, and women of childbearing age. Wild-caught salmon has been indicated as safer overall when monitored for such levels.
Salmon as Food: General Nutrition
Pull up any search with the words ”Healthy Fats” and you’ll likely see a picture of salmon as the feature photo. Salmon is one of the most synonymous foods with the healthy fat of Omega 3.
Omega 3 is a type of essential fatty acid that the body cannot make on its own but needs in order to survive. But why Salmon? Salmon as food is a source of omega 3 that has the beneficial combination of EPA and DHA (eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid). These essential fatty acids work at a cellular level within the body to:
- Work as a natural blood thinner, reducing the risk of blood clots by preventing blood platelets from sticking together.
- Maintain smooth linings of the arteries.
- Slow the rate of Triglyceride formation in the Liver
These benefits and more are involved in the overall reduced risk of Cardiovascular disease.
The omega 3 fatty acids available in Salmon help to lubricate joints, reduced inflammation caused by oxidative stress, and keep blood flowing smoothly. These benefits work together to improve oxygen-carrying blood flow to the muscles which in turn helps reduce recovery time after training.
Healthy fats also support optimal brain function, leading to better mental acuity and focus. Your sharp decision making on race day could be the difference between hitting that spear, or doing 30 burpees. Whatever the obstacle in your life, improved brain function can’t hurt.
Best Healthy Salmon Recipes
- 2 Salmon fillets, 4-6 ounces each
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- ½ Tbsp garlic, minced
- Mix balsamic vinegar, oregano, and minced garlic in bowl.
- Brush marinade over salmon and let sit 5-10 minutes.
- Lay salmon fillets skin side down on grill.
- Grill 15-20 minutes.
Baked Salmon with Yogurt Curry Sauce
- 2 (4-6oz) Salmon Fillets
- ½ Tbsp Olive Oil Curried Yogurt Sauce
- 1 cup plain greek yogurt
- 1 tsp water (to thin the yogurt)
- 2 tsp curry powder
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
- ½ tsp minced garlic
- ¼ tsp Pink Himalayan Sea salt
- ½ tsp fresh cilantro (chopped)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
- Place fillets in aluminum foil, cover with olive oil, and seal.
- Place sealed salmon in the glass dish, and bake 35 to 45 minutes, until easily flaked with a fork.
Top fillets with yogurt sauce and serve alongside your favorite greens (goes great with asparagus).
Salmon Salad Sandwich
Ingredients (makes one serving)
- 2-3oz cooked salmon, flaked
- 1 hard boiled egg, rough chopped
- 2 Tbsp plain greek yogurt
- 1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
- ¼ small onion, chopped
- ¼ avocado, chunked
Mix all ingredients to combine. Eat as is or eat on your favorite whole grain bread or wrap (or even better, serve on a collard green wrap.
Salmon & Beet Salad
- 3oz cooked salmon
- 2 cups arugula or your favorite greens
- ½ cup roasted beets
- 1oz goat cheese
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- ½ Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp honey
- Dash cinnamon
Top arugula with cheese, beets, and salmon. Whisk all dressing ingredients together and drizzle on top of salad. Enjoy!
- 5 cups Low Sodium Broth
- 1 lb fresh salmon, thinly sliced
- 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 1 Tbsp minced garlic
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 bunch fresh spinach, julienned
- 1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- (optional) 1 cup of Cannellini beans
- Sauté onion in olive oil until caramelized. Add garlic and stir until fragrant
- Add broth and bring to a boil
- Add sliced salmon and let it simmer for 5 minutes
- Add cayenne pepper (add beans now if using), simmer an additional 5 minutes
- Stir in spinach. Turn off the heat. Serve.
Salmon & Chive Frittata
- 6 eggs
- 2 egg whites
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- 3 Tbsp chopped fresh chives, divided
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- ½ lb fresh salmon, cut into 1-inch pieces
- ½ Tbsp Paprika
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- In a medium bowl, whisk eggs and egg whites until blended, then whisk in pepper and 2 Tbsp. of the chives.
- Place an 8- or 9-inch ovenproof skillet over medium heat. (If you don't have a skillet this size, cook in any skillet.) Add oil and heat 1 minute. Add fresh salmon and cook, stirring, just until opaque on the surface, about 1 minute. (If your skillet is not ovenproof, spray an 8- or 9-inch round pan with vegetable cooking spray, and then transfer salmon and spread evenly.)
- Remove from heat and add the egg mixture, making sure to distribute the chives evenly. Bake until eggs are puffed and golden along the edges, about 10 to 12 minutes. The eggs should not appear wet.
- Top frittata with paprika. Sprinkle with remaining 1 Tbsp. chives. Serve immediately
Related: One Dish Salmon
- 1 15oz can red salmon (juices and all)
- ¾ to 1 cup breadcrumbs (whole wheat, panko, your choice)
- 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
- 3 tsp lemon juice
- ¼ cup finely chopped parsley
- Sriracha sauce to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix all ingredients to combine and form in loaf pan. Bake for 40-50 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.
Goes great with a side of broccoli.