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In most cases, salmon is included in most lists of superfoods due to its unusually high omega-3 fatty acid content. Because it is such a good source of DHA and EPA omega-3, many of its other benefits are often overlooked. Salmon also contains nutrients and ingredients that aid in the body’s inflammation response, joint health and cancer prevention.
There are two controversies surrounding salmon. One centers around whether wild or farm-raised salmon is better and the other concerns whether the ALA omega-3 found in plant sources such as walnuts and flax seed oil is as beneficial as the DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids found in fish.
Because the debate surrounding these two issues can become quite involved, we will not deal with them extensively here. It is up to consumers to decide what they believe to be best for them and their own situations.
There are differing views on the nutritional value as well as the omega-3 content of wild vs. farm-raised salmon. The POP (persistent organic pesticide) level in farm-raised salmon is also a concern for some people, and determinations about whether these levels are dangerous to consumers can vary depending on the source.
According to the World’s Healthiest Foods rating, the only two foods that contain more omega-3 than salmon are walnuts and flax seeds. Here is where the debate regarding ALA vs. DHA/EPA comes into play. Some experts believe that the body can easily convert ALA into DHA and EPA, so consuming plant sources of omega-3 (ALA) is just as effective as fish sources (DHA/EPA). Others disagree and encourage consumers to not count on ALA omega-3 to fulfill 100% of the daily requirement of omega-3 fatty acids.
One serving (4 ounces) of salmon contains slightly over 2 grams of omega-3 fats—about 62% of the 4 grams recommended daily for adults. In addition, it contains more than twice the daily value of vitamin D and all the vitamin B12 needed daily. It is a wonderful source of protein (62%) and selenium (61%) and almost 40% of the daily value of vitamin B3.
Omega-3 fats are associated with cardiovascular benefits that include decreased risk of stroke, high blood pressure, heart attack and irregular heartbeat. These benefits can begin when a person starts consuming just one serving of salmon per week, although it is suggested that to experience all the benefits, two to three servings per week be consumed.
In addition to these heart benefits, which are relatively well-known, omega-3 fats contribute to health in other important areas that are often overlooked. Because DHA is considered to be the most important fat when it comes to the human brain, there are benefits in the area of cognition and brain activity as well as a decreased of depression and age-related decline in cognitive function.
The EPA omega-3 in salmon has been shown to be especially supportive in joint health and the body’s anti-inflammatory response. The ability to manage inflammation within the body is linked to better overall health.
Benefits in the area of eye health include a positive impact on macular degeneration. In this condition, the area in the back center of the retina begins deteriorating and causes vision loss. With two servings of salmon per week, the risk for macular degeneration is significantly decreased. People who consume five to six servings per week showed risk-reduction that was even greater.
Although most consumers are not as widely familiar with the mineral selenium, it is an antioxidant that aids in the prevention of some cancers. It also plays a protective role in the areas of joint inflammation and cardiovascular protection. These advantages go hand-in hand with other high-benefit areas of salmon supporting salmon’s distinction as a superfood.
Salmon is very easy to fix, and from fresh or frozen form can be broiled, baked or grilled. It can be served as a steak or added to pasta or green salad. Canned salmon is also a great and convenient way to enjoy salmon without any loss of nutrition. There is no question that adding two to four servings of salmon per week will provide a range of benefits that are not readily available in other foods.