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15 Health Benefits Of Salmon You Should Know Of

Health Benefits Of Nutritionally-Rich Salmon

Salmon is highly nutritious providing you with omega 3 fatty acid, protein, vitamin D, and selenium. Regular intake will aid in building muscle mass, strengthen bones, relieve joint pain, prevent eye disorders, and keep away the flu. Studies have also found it to prevent type 1 diabetes, lower blood sugar levels, increase testosterone levels, and protect against heart diseases. The brain, thyroid, and skin health also benefits from salmon.

Fun fact: Salmon migrates to the ocean after its birth, until it evolves into an adult. It later returns to rivers and streams to reproduce. The fish has been classified as “anadromous” due to this behavior.

If you want a fish that will give you the most nutrition, we suggest opting for salmon. This delicious fish comes in three main varieties, pink, chum, and sockeye, 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. Salmon fillets and steaks, available aplenty across retail outlets and restaurants, and cold and hot smoked salmon types, especially the “lova nox,” are favorites.1 Here’s a reckoner of all the health benefits it offers.

1. 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.2 3 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%.4 And since salmon is easily digested and absorbed, it can be the perfect post-workout meal.5 Smoke it or cook it in a bit of olive oil.

2. Strengthens Bones And Prevents Joint Disorders

Thanks to the vitamin D in it, salmon can also keep your bones healthy and prevent joint disorders. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium from the intestines and help prevent osteoporosis in adults and rickets and osteomalacia in kids.6 7 Salmon proteins can also contribute to increasing the total body bone density.8

In addition to this, if there’s one thing salmon is most popular for nutrition-wise, it’s the omega 3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). A 100 g serving will give you 0.69 g of EPA and 1.45 g of DHA. Omega-3 fats release a byproduct called resolvin which has been found to reduce inflammation and pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, in a study, consuming more than 2.7 g of omega 3 fatty acids every day for more than 3 months helped patients reduce their intake of standard nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for tender and swollen joints.9 10 11 A 3 oz (85 g) serving of salmon can contribute to your intake of omega-3 fats.

3. Prevents 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.12 13

4. Staves Off The Flu And Strengthens 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.14 This could be because vitamin D mitigates the inflammatory reaction of white blood cells and enhances the production of microbe-fighting proteins.15

Selenium in salmon stands at 24 mcg per 100 g making for 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. Studies have also shown that a deficiency in the mineral could lead to an increased risk of death and disease progression in people with HIV.16Kiremidjian-Schumacher, L., and G. Stotzky. “Selenium and immune responses.” Environmental Research 42, no. 2 (1987): 277-303.[/ref] 17

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.18

5. 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. Unlike carbohydrates which cause blood sugar spikes, protein slows down the absorption of sugar. And proteins also keep you full longer.19 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 have been seen to lower blood pressure and the levels of protein CRP (which 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.20

The vitamin D in salmon might help prevent the onset of type 1 diabetes in children, an autoimmune condition that often starts in childhood.21 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.22

6. Protects Against Heart Diseases

With heart-protecting nutrients like omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin D, 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.23 24 25 26 Consuming salmon would be an easy way of upping your intake.27

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.28

Omega-3 fatty acids reduce heart-related risks such as irregular heartbeats, formation of blood clots, inflammation, and high blood pressure.29 Studies suggest EPA+DHA supplements for patients with high levels of triglycerides. Rich in both these fatty acids, salmon could help balance your lipid levels.

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.30 31 32

7. 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. People with Alzheimer’s have lower blood levels of selenium, and increasing its intake can reduce memory loss, one symptom of the disorder.33 34 Increasing selenium intake also improves verbal fluency and mental function in people with mild cognitive disfunction.35

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 depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder, stress, hostility and aggression in adulthood. This worsens into cognitive decline, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease in late adulthood.36 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” or clusters of protein that accumulate between nerve cells and lead to late-onset 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%, provided you do not have the gene variant (APOE ε4) that makes people susceptible to the disorder.37 38 39 40

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.4142

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 percent.43 44 In animal studies, all the symptoms of depression and anxiety that were artificially induced in rats could be reversed with omega 3 supplementation via fish oil, especially if done in the early stages of the diagnosis.45 46

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.

8. Regulates 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 one’s intake via supplementation has been found to be helpful, it’s best to get your selenium from the diet.47 48 49

9. 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 begin to narrow 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.50 51 52 53

10. Promotes Skin Health

If your skin woes have you running to the dermatologist, consider adding salmon to your diet. 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.54 Besides this, 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.55 56

11. 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.57 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.58

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.59

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.60

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.61 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.62

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%.63 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.64 The omega-3 fatty acids can also reduce the ill effects of the animal fats that trigger breast and colorectal cancer.65 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.66

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.67 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.68 69

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.70

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.71

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.72

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Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.