Nutrition, Health Benefits, and More

Nutrition, Health Benefits, and More

Salmon is one of the most nutritious foods on the planet.

This popular fatty fish is not only loaded with nutrients but also may reduce certain risk factors for several diseases.

What’s more, it’s tasty, versatile, and widely available.

This article will explore some of the key benefits of salmon, along with a few easy ways to add it to your diet.

Salmon nutrition facts

The nutritional value of salmon can vary slightly among the varieties. For example, farmed salmon contains slightly more healthy fats and calories, whereas wild-caught salmon is a bit higher in protein (1, 2).

However, both types are great sources of many key nutrients, including selenium, phosphorus, and B vitamins (1, 2).

Here is a closer look at the nutritional value for a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of cooked wild or farmed salmon (1, 2):

Salmon is particularly high in selenium, an important nutrient that is involved in DNA synthesis, thyroid hormone metabolism, and reproductive health (3).

It’s also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, a type of heart-healthy fat that can decrease inflammation and support brain health (4).

What’s more, salmon is rich in vitamin B12, which is necessary for producing red blood cells and regulating the health of the central nervous system (5).

summary

Salmon is a great source of protein, healthy fats, and various essential vitamins and minerals.

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Salmon health benefits

1. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids

Salmon is one of the best sources of the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) portion of farmed salmon has 2.3 grams of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, while the same portion of wild salmon contains 2.2 grams (1, 2).

Unlike most other fats, omega-3 fats are considered “essential,” meaning you must get them from your diet since your body cannot create them.

Generally, most health organizations recommend that healthy adults get a minimum of 250–1,000 mg of combined EPA and DHA per day (6).

EPA and DHA have been credited with several impressive health benefits, such as decreasing inflammation, lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of cancer, and improving the function of the cells that line your arteries (7, 8, 9, 10).

One review of 22 studies found that using an EPA and DHA supplement consistently could significantly improve arterial function, especially in people who smoke, are overweight, or have high cholesterol levels or metabolic syndrome (11).

What’s more, studies have shown that getting these omega-3 fats from fish increases levels in your body even more effectively than supplementing with fish oil capsules (12, 13).

As for how much fish to eat, consuming at least two servings of salmon per week can help you meet your omega-3 fatty acid needs.

Summary

Salmon is rich in long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, and decrease risk factors for disease.

2. Great source of protein

Salmon is rich in high quality protein.

Like omega-3 fats, protein is an essential nutrient that you must get from your diet.

Protein plays a number of important roles in your body, including helping you heal after injury, protecting bone health, and maintaining muscle mass during weight loss and as you get older (14, 15, 16, 17).

Recent research has found that for optimal health, each meal should provide at least 20–30 grams of high quality protein (18).

For reference, a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of salmon contains 22–25 grams of protein (1, 2).

Summary

Your body needs protein to heal after injury, protect bone health, and prevent muscle loss, among other things. Salmon provides 22–25 grams of protein per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving.

3. High in B vitamins

Salmon is an excellent source of B vitamins.

Below is the B vitamin content in 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of wild salmon (2):

  • Vitamin B12: more than 100% of the DV
  • Niacin: 63% of the DV
  • Vitamin B6: 56% of the DV
  • Riboflavin: 38% of the DV
  • Pantothenic acid: 38% of the DV
  • Thiamine: 23% of the DV
  • Folic acid: 7% of the DV

These vitamins are involved in several important processes in your body, including turning the food you eat into energy, creating and repairing DNA, and reducing chronic inflammation, which can lead to disease (19, 20).

Additionally, studies have found that all the B vitamins work together to maintain optimal functioning of your brain and nervous system (19).

Summary

Salmon is an excellent source of several B vitamins, which your body needs for producing energy, controlling inflammation, and protecting heart and brain health.

4. Good source of potassium

Salmon is quite high in potassium.

This is especially true of wild salmon, which provides 13% of the DV per 3.5 ounces (100 grams), versus 8% for farmed salmon (1, 2).

In fact, wild salmon contains more potassium than an equivalent amount of banana, which provides just 9% of the DV (21).

Potassium helps manage your blood pressure and may also reduce the risk of stroke (22, 23).

One review found that supplementing with potassium significantly reduced blood pressure levels in people with high blood pressure, especially for those consuming large amounts of sodium (24).

Potassium also works with sodium to help regulate fluid balance and lower blood pressure by preventing excess water retention (25).

Summary

A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of salmon provides up to 13% of the DV for potassium, which helps manage blood pressure and prevent excess fluid retention.

5. Loaded with selenium

Selenium is a mineral found in soil and certain foods, including salmon (3).

It’s considered a trace mineral, meaning your body needs only a small amount. Nevertheless, getting enough selenium in your diet is important.

Studies have shown that selenium helps protect bone health, decreases thyroid antibodies in people with autoimmune thyroid disease, and may potentially reduce the risk of certain types of cancer (26, 27, 28).

A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of salmon provides 75–85% of the DV for selenium (1, 2).

Consuming salmon and other types of seafood has been shown to improve blood levels of selenium in people whose diets are low in this mineral (29, 30).

One older study found that blood levels of selenium increased significantly more in people who consumed two servings of salmon per week than in those who consumed fish oil capsules containing less selenium (30).

Summary

A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of salmon provides 75–85% of the DV of selenium, a mineral that may support bone health, improve thyroid function, and protect against certain types of cancer.

6. Contains astaxanthin

Astaxanthin is a compound linked to several powerful health effects. As a member of the carotenoid family of antioxidants, astaxanthin gives salmon its signature red hue (31).

Astaxanthin appears to lower the risk of heart disease by reducing the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol and increasing levels of HDL (good) cholesterol (32).

Some research also suggests that astaxanthin may reduce inflammation, decrease oxidative stress, and protect against the buildup of fatty plaque in the arteries, which could potentially reduce the risk of heart disease (33).

In addition, astaxanthin is believed to work with the omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon to protect the brain and nervous system against inflammation (34).

What’s more, astaxanthin may even help prevent skin damage and help you look younger.

In fact, one review reported that astaxanthin could act as an antioxidant, reduce the appearance of wrinkles, improve skin elasticity, and protect skin cells against damage (35).

According to a 2014 review, salmon contains 0.4–3.8 mg of astaxanthin per 3.5 ounces (100 grams), with sockeye salmon providing the highest amount (36).

Summary

Astaxanthin is an antioxidant found in salmon that may benefit heart, brain, nervous system, and skin health.

7. May reduce the risk of heart disease

Eating salmon on a regular basis may help protect against heart disease (37).

This is due, in large part, to salmon’s ability to boost levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood. Many people have too many omega-6 fatty acids in their blood in relation to omega-3s (38).

Research suggests that when the balance of these two fatty acids is off, the risk of heart disease increases (39).

In one older study, consuming 2 servings of farmed salmon per week increased omega-3 blood levels by 8–9% and decreased omega-6 levels after 4 weeks (40).

Additionally, some research suggests that regular consumption of fish may be linked to lower triglyceride levels and improvements in several other risk factors for heart disease (41, 42).

Summary

Consuming salmon can help protect against heart disease by increasing levels of omega-3 fats, decreasing levels of omega-6 fats, and lowering triglycerides.

8. May benefit weight management

Consuming salmon frequently can help you lose weight and keep it off.

Like other high protein foods, it helps regulate the hormones that control appetite and help you feel full (43).

In addition, your metabolic rate temporarily increases more after eating protein-rich foods, such as salmon, compared with other foods (43).

Plus, research suggests that the omega-3 fats in salmon and other fatty fish may promote weight loss and decrease belly fat in people with obesity when combined with an active lifestyle, though more research is needed (44, 45).

One study in children with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease found that supplementing with DHA, the main omega-3 found in salmon, led to significantly greater reductions in liver fat and belly fat compared with a placebo (45).

In addition, salmon is fairly low in calories. A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of farmed salmon has only 206 calories, and wild salmon has even fewer at 182 calories (1, 2).

Summary

Consuming salmon may help you manage your weight by reducing your appetite, temporarily boosting your metabolism, and decreasing belly fat.

9. Can help prevent inflammation

Salmon can provide powerful protection from chronic inflammation.

Many experts believe that inflammation is the root cause of most chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer (46).

Several studies have found that eating more salmon and other types of seafood could help reduce several markers of inflammation (47, 48).

In fact, one study in 4,105 people found that frequent consumption of fish was associated with lower levels of white blood cells, which are often used as a measure of chronic inflammation (47).

According to another review published in 2014, fish oil supplementation was found to significantly reduce levels of several specific markers of inflammation, including CRP, IL-6, and TNF-alpha (49).

Summary

Salmon and other fatty fish can help lower inflammation, which may reduce risk factors for several diseases and improve symptoms in people with inflammatory conditions.

10. May protect brain health

A growing number of studies suggest that including salmon in your diet might improve brain function.

Both fatty fish and fish oil have been found to protect fetal brain health during pregnancy, slow cognitive decline, and preserve brain function (50, 51, 52).

One review found that consuming at least 2 servings of fish per week was associated with a 10% lower risk of dementia and a 30% lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease (51).

Another 2020 review concluded that fish consumption could improve memory performance, promote brain function, and protect brain structure in healthy adults (52).

Summary

Frequent salmon consumption may help protect fetal brain health in pregnancy, preserve brain function, and decrease the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.

11. Can improve mental health

In addition to protecting brain health, some promising studies suggest that salmon could support mental health, thanks to its content of omega-3 fatty acids.

According to a review of 10 studies, consuming at least 1 serving of fish per week or 500 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per day was associated with a lower risk of depression, especially in women (53).

However, more high quality randomized control trials are needed.

Another small study in 23 young adults found that taking an omega-3 fatty acid supplement led to significant improvements in symptoms of depression after 21 days (54).

Some research also suggests that omega-3 fatty acids could reduce symptoms of anxiety and improve mood, though more studies are needed (55, 56, 57).

Summary

Some studies have found that eating fish or increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids could reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety and improve mood.

12. May help maintain healthy vision

Salmon contains several nutrients necessary for promoting eye health and maintaining vision.

For example, astaxanthin has been studied in humans and animals for its ability to prevent certain disorders that can affect eye health, including age-related macular degeneration, eye fatigue, uveitis, and cataracts (58).

Salmon also contains a good amount of vitamin A in each serving, with around 8% of the DV in a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of farmed salmon (1).

Vitamin A is essential for vision and is a precursor for certain pigment molecules in the photoreceptors of the eye (59, 60).

What’s more, other research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids could be beneficial for the treatment of dry eye disease (61, 62).

Summary

Salmon contains nutrients like astaxanthin, vitamin A, and omega-3 fatty acids, all of which could help promote eye health.

13. Could support bone health

Salmon is a great source of vitamin D, with around 66% of the DV in a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of farmed salmon (1).

Vitamin D is an important micronutrient that plays a central role in bone health by increasing the absorption of calcium (63).

Research shows that low levels of vitamin D may be linked to an increased risk of bone loss and reduced bone mineral density in older adults (64).

Salmon also contains phosphorus, another nutrient important for maintaining bone strength (65).

Interestingly, some studies have found that eating more fish could be tied to a lower risk of osteoporosis for certain populations, but more research is needed (66, 67).

Summary

Salmon is rich in vitamin D and phosphorus, which can support bone health. Some studies show that eating fish could be linked to a lower risk of osteoporosis, but more research is needed.

14. Delicious and versatile

Salmon is undeniably delicious. It has a unique, delicate flavor with a less “fishy” taste than many other varieties of fatty fish, such as sardines and mackerel.

It is also extremely versatile. It can be steamed, sauteed, smoked, grilled, baked, or poached. It can also be served raw in sushi and sashimi.

Additionally, canned salmon is a quick and inexpensive option that provides the same impressive health benefits as fresh fish. In fact, almost all canned salmon is wild rather than farmed, and its nutrition profile is excellent.

Look for it in BPA-free cans to avoid the potential health risks that have been linked to this chemical.

How to incorporate more salmon into your diet

Here are some healthy ideas for incorporating salmon into your diet:

  • Use canned salmon in place of tuna when making tuna salad with healthy mayo.
  • Whip up a Cobb salad with canned salmon, hard-boiled eggs, avocados, lettuce, and tomatoes.
  • Enjoy smoked salmon and cream cheese on sprouted-grain bread with cucumber or tomato slices.
  • Try making grilled salmon with avocado sauce.
  • Bake an herb-crusted salmon with a side of veggies for an easy weeknight dinner.

Summary

Salmon has a delicious flavor and can be prepared in many different ways. Canned salmon is a convenient and inexpensive option.

Potential health risks of eating salmon

Though salmon is a nutrient-dense food and can be a great addition to a balanced diet, there are a few downsides and risks to consider.

For starters, both wild and farmed varieties of salmon often contain contaminants such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxin, which can alter hormone levels and negatively affect other aspects of health if consumed in high amounts (68, 69, 70).

However, there are strict government regulations for the number of contaminants permitted in feed, which are intended to reduce the number of contaminants in seafood (71).

Antibiotics are also often added to feed for farmed fish. Antibiotic use is associated with environmental concerns and could increase the risk of antibiotic resistance and other long-term health effects (72, 73).

Avoiding fish from areas with less strict regulations on antibiotic use — such as Chile — could be beneficial if you’re concerned about antibiotic resistance (74).

Additionally, keep in mind that salmon contains some mercury, though it is much lower in mercury than some other fish, such as swordfish and shark (75).

If you’re pregnant, it’s generally recommended that you consume 2–3 servings of fatty fish, including salmon, per week and avoid uncooked or raw seafood (76, 77).

Summary

Salmon contains some contaminants and heavy metals, such as mercury, which can be harmful if consumed in high amounts. Farmed fish from some areas, like Chile, may be treated with high amounts of antibiotics, which may contribute to antibiotic resistance.

The bottom line

Salmon is a nutritional powerhouse that provides several impressive health benefits.

Consuming at least two servings per week can help you meet your nutrient needs and reduce the risk of several diseases.

In addition, salmon is tasty, satisfying, and versatile. Including this fatty fish as a regular part of your diet may very well improve your quality of life and your health.