Get the Health Benefits of Salmon but Choose Your Salmon Wisely



health benefits of salmon


Salmon is a good choice for the dinner table – or the breakfast table for that matter. How about adding salmon to your next omelet? The reason salmon shines in the nutritional department is that it’s one of the foods highest in omega-3 fatty acids, “good for you fats” that decrease inflammation. 


To get the most health benefits from salmon, you want salmon that contains the highest levels of omega-3s – and all salmon isn’t created equal.


Most salmon you find at the grocery store is raised on crowded farms where they salmon have little room to swim around and receive antibiotics due to their high rate of disease.


Then there are salmon that are harvested from the wild where they grow and flourish in their natural habitat. These are the salmon that have the highest levels of healthy omega-3s and the least unhealthy contaminants.

Farm-Raised Salmon versus Wild Salmon


There’s another reason to choose wild salmon over farm-raised. Farm-raised salmon contains higher levels of contaminants like PCBs, dioxins and flame retardants in their system that are linked with an increased risk of cancer. Needless to say, these aren’t “ingredients” you want on the dinner table.


Combine that with lower levels of omega-3s, and wild salmon is by far the most sensible and nutritious choice. Unfortunately, when you pick up a piece of fresh salmon from a supermarket, it’s more likely to have been raised on a farm than caught in the wild.

Choosing Wild Salmon: It’s Not That Easy


Don’t assume because a piece of salmon at the supermarket looks a healthy shade of pink, it came from the wild.


It’s true that wild salmon are naturally pink due to the carotenoids they feed on in the wild, but many salmon farmers give farm-raised salmon a “fake” pink color by giving them food pellets containing a synthetic pigment. This pigment gives them a healthier look that makes you want to take them home and turn them into glazed salmon or salmon cakes.


Eighty percent of the salmon sold in the U.S. is farmed, so finding fresh, wild-caught salmon is challenging, and it’s usually expensive when you find it. Don’t be fooled by salmon labeled “Atlantic salmon.”


You might assume Atlantic salmon is wild salmon from the Atlantic Ocean, but it’s actually farmed. These salmon are raised in small pens and contain high levels of unhealthy contaminants.


If you want the health benefits of salmon and can’t afford wild salmon, there’s another option. Most canned salmon is wild, Alaskan salmon (check the label to be sure), but there is one downside.


Some of the fat is removed during processing, so it’s not as rich in omega-3 fatty acids as fresh, wild-caught salmon, but it’s still a good source of protein.


Plus, if you eat the bones, a good source of calcium. Wild-caught salmon or canned Alaskan salmon is one of the healthiest sources of protein you can put on the dinner table, but be sure you’re not eating farmed salmon without realizing it.


With the higher levels of contaminants in farm-raised salmon, most experts recommend eating it only once a month. Opt for canned salmon instead.




Environmental Defense Fund. “Atlantic Salmon”
Institute for Health and the Environment. “First Global Sampling Study Reveals Health Risks Associated with Consuming Farm Raised Salmon”

Kristie Leong M.D.

Dr. Kristie Leong and Dr. Apollo Leong are physicians helping you to lead a healthy lifestyle by sharing nutrition and fitness tips and keeping you abreast of the latest health news.

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