WRITTEN BY NATHALIE NIDDAM | ACADEMY OF LIONS NUTRITIONIST | TORONTO
Let’s take a look at one of the most nutritious fish that we have access to, the powerful wild salmon. The health benefits of wild salmon are well documented for cardiovascular health, antioxidants, lower Inflammation all of which make it a great recovery food.
Fish in general is an easy to digest protein, makes a great post workout meal with some healthy carbs and it’s a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants, Vitamin D.
Read on to find out why wild salmon deserves to have a recurring role in your meal rotations.
Astaxanthin: The red pigment that makes salmon (wild salmon at least) bright red - it is part of the carotenoid family and is credited for many of the antioxidant and heart healthy properties of wild salmon. Because it seems to have a beneficial effect on mitochondrial membranes which is where energy is produced in the cell, astaxanthin is also considered by many to be a large part of the reason why wild salmon are just so damn strong. Interestingly enough I came across one study and a mention on examine.com that seemed to indicate that farmed salmon that were fed a synthetic version of astaxanthin may provide this nutrient in a form that easier for us to absorb… I couldn’t get to the whole text so I can’t vouch for this however I will say that given the many negatives associated with farmed salmon I personally would just eat more of the wild stuff. Astaxanthin is present in all three species of wild salmon, Chinook, Coho and Sockeye but Sockeye has the most Astaxanthin of the three due to its diet.
Vitamin D3: Wild salmon is also a great source of natural vitamin D - in our climate we are pretty much all deficient so while we should be taking Vitamin D3 in supplement form it’s always nice to get it from whole food sources. Note: It’s always a good idea to get your serum D3 levels checked about once a year to see how much you may need to supplement. If your levels are low a general rule of thumb is 1000 international units of D3 per 25 lbs of bodyweight. You will have to pay for this blood test but it’s not horribly expensive and most doctors will order it for you if you ask. Alternately, I have a lab I work with who can run the test with just a blood spot so drop me a note if you are interested.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Vital to healthy cell membranes, to support anti inflammatory pathways and to balance our often too high consumption of omega 6’s….we can of course get these in supplement form but there’s an increasing amount of controversy over these and in the end, there’s nothing like getting nutrients in their whole form in the package that nature intended - All wild salmon are a good source but Chinook is particularly high in it due to it’s deep cold water habitat.
Wild, farmed, fresh or canned?
The debate around farmed salmon and fish in general rages on - the proponents claim that aquaculture is the only way that we will be able to get fish in the future while opponents rail about the disease that seems to run rampant in fish farms requiring the use of antibiotics, to say nothing of the feed that often leaves much to be desired. To top it off, farmed fish escaping into the wild could put wild stocks at risk of disease and contamination by GMO feed etc….It’s an ugly debate with both sides claiming that the other is over exaggerating their claims.
I do my best to buy wild salmon, put the two side by side and they don’t look anything alike, one is fatty and pale the other is a brilliant red and lean. I buy fresh when I can find it, frozen when it’s out of season and canned for easy lunches and snacks.
I cannot deny that someday we may have no choice in the matter but I am waiting for the aquaculture industry to make some real progress on how (and what) they feed their fish to maintain healthy stocks and avoid the nightmare of reproducing in fish the poor excuse for meat that was created by large scale factory farms.
There are those who claim that you are better off eating farmed salmon than no salmon - but I’d say that the jury is still out on that one - check out PubMed and the number of articles around the disease and pestilence that seem to be the norm in fish farms it’s a bit overwhelming….so, while I still have the choice I will choose wild.
3 Ways to Eat
The best way to cook salmon is at relatively low temps to avoid damaging the omega 3’s - and, if you like it, medium rare. You can wrap it in parchment paper and bake at 320 in the oven - I like it with a nice curry powder, some coconut oil and fresh lime juice. A little under 20 minutes and done!
Sushi or sashimi style is also great if you enjoy your fish raw although not too many restaurants I have been to serve wild - most serve Atlantic Salmon - but ask you might just get lucky so ask the question.
Cold smoked salmon is also a great addition to almost any meal or snack.