Salmon belongs to a family of fatty fish known for its high nutrient content. The fish has been touted as one of the most nutritious foods available and can help to reduce consumers’ risk factors for multiple diseases. Read on to find out about a few of the most important health benefits of this tasty, versatile, and easily available fish.
It’s a Great Source of High-Quality Protein
Protein is one of the most essential nutrients. It protects bone health, helps consumers maintain muscle mass, and even helps the body heal after injuries, especially in aging populations. According to the Global Salmon Initiative, salmon farming is one of the most efficient and economically friendly methods for protein production. Just one 3.5-ounce serving of this fish contains 20 to 25 grams of protein, which is enough to meet nutrient requirements for an entire meal.
It’s Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential nutrients, meaning the body can’t create them on its own. Professional nutritionists recommend that healthy adults consume at least 250 to 500 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per day to reduce inflammation, keep blood pressure low, reduce cancer risk, and improve arterial health. Eating two servings of salmon per week is enough to help adults meet their bodies’ omega-3 requirements.
It’s an Excellent Source of B Vitamins
B vitamins include thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, folic acid, and vitamins B 6 and 12. All of these vitamins aid in essential bodily processes, and they all work together to maintain optimal brain and nervous system function. B vitamin deficiencies are extremely common, even in developed nations, and they can lead to problems with inflammation, fatigue, and heart disease. Incorporating more salmon into the family’s weekly diet is a great way to avoid B vitamin deficiencies.
It’s high in Potassium
Salmon contains more potassium than even bananas. This essential nutrient is partially responsible for maintaining a healthy blood pressure, which reduces consumers’ risks of heart attacks and strokes. Potassium also helps to reduce excess water retention.
It Has Plenty of Selenium
Selenium is what’s known as a trace nutrient, meaning that the human body needs only a small amount of it each day. That doesn’t mean it isn’t important, though. Selenium helps to protect bone health, decrease thyroid antibodies, and reduce cancer risks. Just one serving of salmon can provide up to 67% of consumers’ recommended daily intake of selenium. Just keep in mind that this essential trace nutrient is not found in sufficiently large quantities in fish oil. Getting enough selenium requires actually eating two or more servings of salmon or other healthy fish per week.
Salmon Contains Astaxanthin, a Powerful Antioxidant
Astaxanthin is an antioxidant in the carotenoid family. It’s what gives salmon its beautiful pink color. It can also help to reduce the oxidation of LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol, helping to stave off heart disease. Astaxanthin also works with the omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon to protect against inflammation in the brain and nervous system and helps to prevent skin damage, helping frequent salmon consumers stay healthier and look younger.
It Can Support Healthy Weight Loss
High-protein foods, including salmon, help to regulate the hormones that control both appetite and satiety. They also help to speed up consumers’ metabolisms so they can digest their food more efficiently. The fact that salmon is a good source of protein isn’t the only thing that sets it apart as a good food for weight management, though. Its omega-3 fatty acids may also promote weight loss and, in particular, decrease belly fat. Salmon is also low in calories compared to other protein-rich foods.
It Can Fight Inflammation
Chronic inflammation is a known contributing factor to many chronic diseases, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and diverse neurological conditions. Eating salmon can help to reduce inflammation. Multiple studies have shown that eating between 3 and 12 ounces of salmon per week can decrease the inflammatory markers TNF-a and IL-6, reducing consumers’ risks of developing inflammation-related chronic diseases.
It Could Act as a Neuroprotectant
Eating more salmon may also help to improve brain function, especially in the elderly. All fatty fish have been found to protect fetal brain health during pregnancy, lower the risk of dementia, and reduce incidences of depression and anxiety. Healthy adults with normal brain function have more gray matter in their brains when they regularly consume fatty fish, and older adults who eat salmon at least twice a week report a 13% slower decline in memory. By incorporating more salmon into their diets, adults of all ages can help to improve brain function and reduce the risk of memory problems in later life.
It Can Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease
Recent research suggests that consumers’ risks of developing heart disease are tied to the balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in their bodies. Most consumers have too many omega-6 fatty acids. Balancing them with more omega-3s is a great way to maintain homeostasis and reduce the risk of developing heart disease. Consuming two servings of salmon per week can increase omega-3 levels by 9% while simultaneously decreasing levels of omega-6s in the blood. Fish oil supplements do not raise omega-3 levels or lower triglycerides as much as eating healthy farmed or wild-caught salmon.
The Bottom Line
Fatty fish like salmon provide a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and other essential nutrients required to perform vital bodily functions and stave off diseases. Thankfully, salmon is also a delicious, versatile fish that can be farmed safely and sustainably. Those who don’t want to buy fresh salmon from the store can purchase canned salmon and take advantage of the same excellent nutrition profile and delicious tastes. They just need to look for BPA-free cans.
In an ideal world, everyone would be able to eat at least two servings of salmon per week. As fish farming practices continue to improve, this may soon become an achievable goal. In the meantime, those who can afford it should absolutely start incorporating salmon into their weekly meal plans whenever possible.