Healthy foods: Salmon

What is it? Born in freshwater, the steadfast, strong salmon swim to the ocean only to turn back several years later, struggling back upstream to their birthplace to spawn. As a food source and as a symbol, the salmon holds much significance in North American native and First Nations cultures. Salmon's shiny scales conceal silky, fatty flesh that ranges in colour from pink to orange and red. Salmon is the second-most consumed seafood in the US, behind shrimp.

What is it good for? Serve up 4 ounces of salmon, and for only 261 calories you'll get over 100% of your recommended daily vitamin D, 76% of your daily protein, and 87% of your daily omega-3 fatty acids. Vitamin D keeps bones and teeth strong by helping the body to absorb calcium, while protein supports overall health, development, and energy. But it's salmon's omega-3 fatty acid levels that make it such a super nutritious food. These unsaturated fats work hard in your body, protecting not just your brain, but your heart, your eyes, and your joints. Western diets often come up short in omega-3s, so salmon is a lean, low-calorie way to fit in this fine fat.

What does it taste like? With its full, savoury flavour and silky, creamy texture, salmon is a fish loved by many who otherwise dislike fish. Some of salmon's flavour and nutritional benefit comes from its oil. Salmon can be prepared in numerous ways – grilled, baked, poached, barbecued, rolled into sushi, sliced into sashimi, pickled and smoked – and it works well with a variety of flavours and spices. Canned salmon makes a nutritious, affordable meal choice and can be easily added to many recipes or simply piled onto bread or rolled into patties.

Should you choose wild or farm-raised salmon? Whichever way the salmon gets to your plate, you will benefit from the omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients. But when looking at the risks versus the benefits of both types of salmon, researchers have found that the wild variety slightly edges out the farmed fish.

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