Salmon is often considered the paragon for excellent sources of omega 3 fats, vitamin D and essential amino acids.
Omega 3 Fats
Perhaps the most famous nutrient this oily swimmer is known for is its high content of omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fats are essential unsaturated fatty acids that cannot be spontaneously created by the body, but that are vital in normal metabolism. Studies have shown that omega 3 fatty acids can lead to health benefits, such as the following:
- Decreased cancer risks: Studies have suggested that the intake of the omega 3 fats may slow tumor growth and improve the quality of life in cancer patients. Doctors may also suggest a diet high in the omega 3 fats as part of a preventative measure against cancer.
- Protection of the cardiovascular system: Intake of fatty fish high in omega 3 fats has been linked to decreased risk of cardiovascular problems such as heart attacks, strokes and high blood pressure. It also decreases blood cholesterol level. Indeed, salmon is often recommended as a part of a heart-healthy diet.
- Improved cognition and better moods: The high amount of DHA found in the fatty acids is vital in supporting the brain and neurological systems, as much of it is found in the fats of the human brain. Studies have also shown that it can also decrease the risk of depression and slows the progression of schizophrenia in children.
- Better vision: Consumption of omega 3 fats can help prevent chronic dry eyes due to its anti-inflammatory properties. These fatty acids also play a role in the prevention of macular degeneration, which is the main cause of vision loss in old age.
Along with omega 3 fatty acids, salmon is also a reputable source of vitamin D. This is a vital nutrient that helps absorption of calcium, which in turn helps the formation, growth and strengthening of the bones. It also protects the immune system and has anti-inflammatory properties linked to the prevention of cancer.
Essential Amino Acids
Salmon also have a high amount amino acids and peptides that our body needs to function normally, but cannot spontaneously create. These bioactive molecules help support joint cartilage, create collagen, regulate insulin and help the digestive tract. Its anti-inflammatory properties can also ease joint pain in arthritis patients. Some of such amino acids include taurine, tryptophan, lysine, tyrosine and calcitonin.
Vitamins and Minerals
Other vitamins and minerals salmon provide include the following:
- Vitamin A: Typically associated with carrots, this nutrient is partially responsible for giving a pinkish-red color in salmon flesh. Vitamin A is known to maintain healthy vision, and its derivative, retinol, is famous for its skin wrinkle fighting properties.
- Selenium: known as an effective antioxidant, it can help in the prevention of cancer by repairing free radicals in the body. It also helps maintain normal thyroid functions and the immune system.
- Riboflavin: Also known as vitamin B2, this nutrient can metabolize fats, carbohydrates and proteins.
- Niacin: Also known as Vitamin B3, niacin is vital in the skin, digestive and nervous systems, and research has shown it may help prevent Alzheimer's disease, help convert food to energy and promote skin repair.
- Vitamin B6: This vitamin helps with the metabolism of protein and red blood cells, and may prevent heart diseases.
- Vitamin B12: Also known as cobalamin, this nutrient plays a vital role in the function of the brain and the nervous system. It is also important in the formation of blood.
- Vitamin E: This famous antioxidant is important in regulating metabolic processes, strengthening the immune system, and keeping our skin smooth and supple.
- Pantothenic acid: Also known as vitamin B5, this nutrient is important in synthesizing and metabolizing proteins, carbohydrates and fats.
- Magnesium: This super mineral has multiple supporting functions, including maintaining a healthy immune system, normal blood pressure and strong bones. It can also reduce inflammation and help prevent diabetes by regulating blood sugar levels.
- Phosphorus: Not only does it help synthesize protein for the maintenance of cells and tissues, but it also plays a role in the formation of bones and teeth.
Types of Salmon and What to Look For
To ensure you are purchasing the freshest cuts of salmon, be sure to look for the following:
- A deep salmon-pink color with smooth, clean cuts if in steak or fillet form
- Firm, elastic flesh that is translucent
- If purchasing whole fish, firm, glossy skin with bright red gills
- Airtight packaging with no liquid
- Mild aroma
- Clear eyes that are not cloudy
Generally, most of the Atlantic salmon available in the market today is farmed, while Pacific salmon are wild caught. While there have been numerous debates over the pros and cons of eating wild or farmed salmon due to sustainability issues and mercury toxicity levels, there is no definite answer as to which is healthier. The Journal of American Medical Association suggests that the benefits of eating salmon outweigh the risk of the contaminants. Since the rules and regulation in regard to fish farming or catching have progressively become more sustainable, cost-effective and rigorous, wild or farmed salmon in the markets today are safe for consumption.