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15 Health Benefits Of Salmon You Should Know Of

Health Benefits Of Nutritionally Rich Salmon

Salmon is a highly nutritious fish, rich in omega 3 fats, protein, vitamin D, and selenium. At least 2 servings per week can help protect your heart, strengthen the bones and reduce the risk of joint disorders, manage diabetes, regulate thyroid function, boost immunity, and prevent eye disorders.

If you want a fish that will give you the most nutrition, we suggest opting for salmon. This delicious fish comes in many varieties, such as king, sockeye, coho, pink, and chum, and is a proven source of protein, vitamin D, selenium, and healthy omega 3 fatty acids, while being low in saturated fat. Available in fresh, frozen, canned, and smoked forms, it’s the most preferred option after shrimp and tuna across the United States. Here’s what a standard serving of 3.5 oz (100 g) of smoked farmed coho contains:1 2

Salmon is one of the very few foods that contain vitamin D. A 3.5 oz serving of salmon can give you more than 90% of your daily requirement for vitamin D.

  • Calories: 178 Cal
  • Carbs: 0
  • Protein: 24.3 g
  • Fat: 8.23 g fat, of which 3.6 g is monounsaturated and 1.9 g is polyunsaturated, including omega 3 fats EPA and DHA
  • Vitamin D: 450–562 IU (112%–140% DV)
  • Thiamin: 0.1 mg (8.3 % DV)
  • Riboflavin: 0.113 mg (6% DV)
  • Niacin: 7.3 mg (45% DV)
  • Pantothenic acid: 1.27 mg (25%)
  • Vitamin B12: 3 mcg (50% DV)
  • Potassium: 460 mg (9.7%)
  • Phosphorus: 332 mg (47% DV)
  • Magnesium: 34 mg (8.5% DV)
  • Selenium: 14 mcg (20% DV)
  • Astaxanthin: 2 mg

While studies have not tested the health benefits of salmon exclusively, there’s enough reason to believe that salmon can help you in a number of ways, since it is rich in protein, omega 3 fats, vitamin D, selenium, and an antioxidant called astaxanthin. Here’s a reckoner of all the health benefits of salmon.

1. May Protect Against Heart Diseases

With nutrients like omega 3 fats, vitamin D, potassium, and selenium, to say that salmon has heart-healthy properties would be an understatement. Vitamin D plays an important role in regulating blood pressure and preventing blockage of arteries. A D deficiency is linked to cardiovascular disease, heart failure, and an increased risk of stroke.3 4 5 6 7

The American Heart Association recommends eating fatty fish at least twice per week for all adults and at least one serving daily for those at risk of or with a history of coronary heart disease.8

Omega-3 fatty acids, on the other hand, have been known to reduce heart-related risks such as irregular heartbeats, formation of blood clots, inflammation, high triglyceride levels, and high blood pressure.9 Astaxanthin, the carotenoid that gives salmon its pink hue, also prevents oxidation of the LDL cholesterol and boosts the HDLs.10 11 A dose of 3.6 mg astaxanthin is recommended for good health, and it can be found in about 165 g or nearly 6 oz salmon.12

Selenium, meanwhile, is known to lower inflammation and free radical damage caused by smoking, drinking alcohol, and stress. The mineral also prevents atherosclerosis or the buildup of plaque in the arteries and, as a result, reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke. In fact, observational studies have found a 24% reduction in coronary heart disease with a 50% increase in blood selenium levels.13 14 15

2. Can Strengthen Bones And Prevent Joint Disorders

Thanks to the vitamin D and omega 3 fats in it, salmon can keep your bones healthy and prevent joint disorders. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium from the intestines and prevents osteoporosis in adults and rickets and osteomalacia in kids.16 17 Salmon proteins can also contribute to increasing the total body bone density.18

To prevent and manage bone disorders, opt for at least 2 servings of canned salmon with bones, since you will also get the calcium from the bones along with the omega 3s and vitamin D. Canned salmon is also low in mercury.19

On the other hand, omega-3 fats release a byproduct called resolvin which has been found to reduce inflammation and pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis. A 100 g serving of salmon will give you 0.408 g of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and 0.871 g of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), two unique omega-3 fats found only in fish and shellfish. Several studies have shown that omega 3 fats, mostly in the form of fish oil supplements, reduce pain, inflammation, and use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in patients of rheumatoid arthritis. A more recent study found that people who ate more than 2 servings of fish every week had better control on their rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.20 21 So 2 servings of salmon a week could stand you in good stead when it comes to preventing or managing rheumatoid arthritis. Make sure you include other sources of omega 3 fats in your diet as well.

3. May Prevent And Manage Diabetes

Salmon spells good news for people with type 2 diabetes. Not only does it not have any carbs, it also has healthy omega 3 fats and proteins. Unlike carbohydrates which cause blood sugar spikes, protein slows down the absorption of sugar and keeps you full longer.22 On the other hand, high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the body can increase insulin sensitivity and improve glucose metabolism. Omega-3 fats lower blood pressure, CRP (a protein that indicates inflammation in the body), and free fatty acids in middle-aged overweight men. This is important because usually, obesity, high blood pressure, and inflammation are closely tied with diabetes and are known as comorbidities.23

The vitamin D in salmon might help prevent the onset of type 1 diabetes in children, an autoimmune condition that often starts in childhood.24 A long-term study that looked at 10,821 Finnish children for 30 years from the time of their birth found that those who consistently took vitamin D supplements when they were infants had about 90% lower chance of developing type 1 diabetes than those who didn’t.25

4. May Boost The Immune System

Regular salmon-filled meals can help you keep that dreaded flu away and give your immune system a boost. And the secret behind this lies in its vitamin D, selenium, and omega-3 content. A Japanese study involving 340 school children found that the group which received vitamin D supplements had 40% lower rates of type A influenza than the group that did not.26 This could be because vitamin D mitigates the inflammatory reaction of white blood cells and enhances the production of microbe-fighting proteins.27

Selenium in salmon stands at 24 mcg per 100 g, meeting 43% of your recommended daily intake. It plays an important role in the functioning of the immune system by lowering oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. Increased blood levels of selenium are linked to an enhanced immune response, especially in patients with influenza, hepatitis C, and tuberculosis.28 29

Moreover, omega 3 fatty acids, especially DHA, increase the activity of B cells, a kind of white blood cells that secrete antibodies and are an essential part of your immune system.30

5. May Prevent Eye Disorders

Salmon could help keep your eyes healthy, thanks to its vitamin D and omega 3 fats. Regular intake of omega 3 fats prevents the build-up of a toxic molecule called A2E, which otherwise accumulates in some retinal cells and causes vision loss. Having adequate amounts of vitamin D in the body is also vital to prevent vision loss. Together, vitamin D and omega 3 fatty acids make for a strong defense against age-related macular degeneration.31 32

6. Can Regulate Thyroid Health

Eating salmon regularly might help you balance your thyroid function and metabolism, all thanks to selenium. Selenium reduces oxidative damage in the thyroid gland and aids in the production of thyroid hormones. Deficiency leads to autoimmune thyroiditis (Hashimoto’s) and hypothyroidism. While increasing the intake via supplementation has been found to be helpful, it’s best to get your selenium from the diet.33 34 35

7. Aids In Building Muscle Mass

Whether you want to build lean muscle mass or prevent age-related muscle loss, choose salmon as your source of protein. Every 100 gram of the fish packs in 20 grams protein.36 37 Salmon also has 411 mg of vitamin D per 100 grams, which equals 73.5% DV, considering the daily allowance is 600 mg. This makes the fish important especially for seniors. Taking vitamin D supplements (700–1,000 IU per day) increases muscle strength and reduces the risk of falls by 19%.38 And since salmon is easily digested and absorbed, it can be the perfect post-workout meal.39 Smoke it or cook it in a bit of olive oil.

8. Aids Weight Loss

If you’ve been trying to shed those extra pounds, salmon might be a good choice. Animal studies have found that omega 3 fatty acids from fish increase fat cell death as well as the level of adiponectin (a protein that helps in glucose metabolism and fatty acid breakdown) in the body, which may help reduce the waist-hip ratio in overweight or obese adults.40 Besides, protein in salmon will take a long time to digest and will satiate you. This will keep you from overeating or snacking on high-calorie foods, both of which can make your weight loss goals a distant dream.41

9. Improves Mental Health And Brain Function

Nutrients in salmon make its regular intake beneficial for your memory and brain function. Selenium, which reduces oxidative stress in the body, can prevent the onset of neurological diseases like Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer’s and also slow down their progression.42 43 Increasing selenium intake also improves verbal fluency and mental function in people with mild cognitive disfunction.44

For every 100 g increase in your fish intake per week, the risk of Alzheimer’s goes down by 11%.

A deficiency of omega 3 fatty acids, on the other hand, is linked to a number of mental health conditions, from developmental disorders and mental retardation in childhood to stress, hostility, aggression, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and borderline personality disorder in adulthood. This worsens into cognitive decline, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease later.45 EPA helps in the development and functioning of the brain by influencing chemicals like serotonin and dopamine, while DHA increases the production of the LR11 protein, which destroys the “plaques” that lead to Alzheimer’s. Increasing the intake of omega 3 fatty acids by eating fish has shown to improve symptoms of all of the above conditions. In fact, for every 100 g increase in your fish intake per week, the risk of Alzheimer’s goes down by 11%.46 47 48 49 Astaxanthin can work with the omega-3 fats to protect the nerves and the brain.50

Protein has a role to play here as well. It’s needed to make enzymes, hormones (like serotonin and dopamine), and neurotransmitters that are critical for cognitive function and mood. The brain also needs a steady supply of amino acids to maintain concentration, focus, and energy levels. In studies, lack of proteins led to problems in coordination and focus while reintroducing them improved learning and motor skills.5152

Eating a moderate quantity of fish, 83.3–112 g a day to be precise, can reduce the risk of depression and anxiety by 30%.53 54 55 56

That said, salmon is not a substitute for antidepressants or mood stabilizers. And even if you do take it alongside your regular treatment, it’s best to ask your doctor first.

10. May Reduce The Symptoms Of Asthma

If you are at risk of or have asthma, you could benefit from consuming salmon. The condition, which is characterized by inflamed airways that narrow down and lead to wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and coughing, has been associated with increased levels of oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. Considering the fact that selenium has the ability to lower inflammation in the body, a few studies suggest that the mineral may be effective in reducing the symptoms of asthma. Some of these studies have found that asthmatic patients with higher levels of selenium in their blood had better lung function than those with lower levels, and patients who had more selenium in their bloodstream found a lowered need to use corticosteroid medications in order to control their symptoms. That said, the research around this is conflicting and larger studies are needed to fully understand the mineral’s role in the development and treatment of the disorder.57 58 59 60

11. Promotes Skin Health

If your skin woes have you running to the dermatologist, consider adding salmon to your diet. Research has found that a high intake of these fatty acids reduces damage caused due to UV radiation and lowers signs of aging and skin inflammation. Omega-3’s anti-inflammatory properties might also be useful against acne.61 62 Besides this, omega-3 fatty acids in the fish can reduce symptoms of eczema by decreasing the levels of leukotriene B4, an inflammatory chemical that plays a role in eczema. Astaxanthin too has been seen to reduce skin damage and prevent signs of aging. When people with photoaged (sun-damaged) skin were given 2 mg astaxanthin and 3 g of a collagen compound for 12 weeks, their skin became better hydrated and elastic.63

 

12. Lowers Menstrual Pain

If you suffer from menstrual pain, regular intake of salmon might give you some relief. Studies have found that since omega-3 fats in fish lower inflammation, they are effective in reducing menstrual pain. In fact, they could be more effective than ibuprofen, a standard painkiller.64

13. Supports The Health Of Pregnant Women And Their Babies

If you’re pregnant, the omega 3 fats in salmon ensure a healthy nervous system and vision for your baby. In addition to this, it will ease labor pains and prevent premature birth, in turn preventing the risk of pre-eclampsia caused by a placental malfunction – a condition where the mother’s blood is unable to supply adequate oxygen and nutrients to the baby. It will also reduce your risk of depression after the baby’s birth.65

14. May Increase Testosterone Levels

Low levels of testosterone can lead to lowered sex drive, improper fat distribution, lowered bone mass, weakened muscle strength and mass, and irregular production of sperm and red blood cells.66 And upping the intake of vitamin D might be effective. A study compared the effects of vitamin D supplementation with a placebo among 165 men and found that vitamin D significantly increased testosterone levels.67

15. May Lower The Risk Of Cancer

All the important nutrients found in salmon might help you keep cancer at bay. Omega 3 fatty acids have been found to lower the production of enzymes and decrease the rate of the formation of new blood vessels that foster the growth of cancer cells. They also increase the rate at which cancer cells die. One study has found that consuming 0.1 g of omega 3 fatty acids every day reduced the risk of breast cancer by 5%.68 Other studies have suggested that they can make tumor cells more sensitive to chemotherapy and reduce the side effects of 5-Fluorouracil (5-FU), a common drug used to treat colorectal cancer.69 The omega-3 fatty acids can also reduce the ill effects of the animal fats that trigger breast and colorectal cancer.70 Besides this, cutting down on omega-6 fats and taking in more omega-3 fats has been shown to delay the progression and development of prostate cancer.71

The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends eating 3-ounce servings of different types of fatty fish twice a week and also reducing the intake of omega-6 fats.

There is some research to suggest that increasing your intake of vitamin D can protect against cancers like colon cancer, prostate cancer, and breast cancer.72 That said, the mechanism behind this hasn’t been understood well enough yet and further research is required to fully validate this benefit.

Similarly, selenium’s ability to fight oxidative stress, reduce damage to the DNA, and boost the immune system has linked it to the ability to destroy cancer cells. Several studies have found that high levels of selenium acquired through food only prevented breast, lung, colon, and prostate cancer.73 74

Farmed Or Wild Salmon?

Though salmon is very nutritious, people are concerned about the safety of consuming farm-raised salmons. These questions revolve around the presence of contaminants as well as the differences between the farmed and wild forms.

A study conducted to check for organochlorine contaminants in about 2 metric tons of farmed and wild salmon revealed that the farmed ones were relatively more toxic. It was found that European-raised salmon had a higher ratio of toxins as compared to the American ones. However, since two-thirds of the fish consumed in America are farmed salmon imported from Chile and Canada, toxicity shouldn’t be a major concern. A Canadian study found that most salmon and trout sold in Quebec markets come from Chilean farms and are safe for consumption.75

Some fish contain toxic substances like mercury, a teratogen known for causing congenital disabilities in infants. However, both wild and farmed salmon are among the few fish today that are said to contain very low levels of mercury and considered safe for consumption.76

Healthy Ways To Cook Salmon

Salmon can be baked, grilled, pan-fried, barbecued, and even poached. Sprinkle herbs, spices, and add veggies to take the salmon to the next level. Ideally, it should be cooked just enough till it flakes and doesn’t dry out. This takes about 10 minutes for each side with a fillet.

Cooking in itself does not adversely affect the nutritional benefits of salmon in any way. It still offers the same nutrition in terms of protein, omega-3 fats, and vitamin D. The health benefits of eating salmon far outweigh any of the risks associated with its consumption, so it’s perfectly safe to include the fish in a diet.77

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