Salmon Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

salmon nutrition facts and health benefits
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Many people are concerned about mercury levels and other contaminants in the fish supply. However, salmon is a nutrient-dense fish that can be found with minimal toxins, especially if you buy it wild. With salmon's heart-healthy omega-3s, high-quality protein, and rich micronutrient content, it's worth adding to your meal plan.

Salmon Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 3 ounces (85g) of raw, wild Atlantic salmon.

  • Calories: 121
  • Fat: 5.4g
  • Sodium: 37.4mg
  • Carbohydrates: 0g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 17g

Carbs

Salmon is naturally free of carbohydrates, including fiber and sugar.

Fats

A 3-ounce serving of raw salmon has 5.4 grams of fat. Of this, about 1.5 grams are from beneficial omega-3 fatty acids including EPA and DHA. Less than 1 gram comes from saturated fat.

The fatty acid profile of salmon varies depending on whether it is farm-raised or wild-caught. Farmed salmon is higher in fat content overall, including saturated fat. Wild salmon is leaner.

Protein

There are 17 grams of protein in a 3-ounce fillet of raw, wild-caught salmon. Because farm-raised salmon has more fat, it contains slightly less protein by weight. Regardless, salmon is an excellent source of high-quality complete protein that provides all of the essential amino acids our bodies require.

Vitamins and Minerals

Salmon provides vitamin A and multiple B-vitamins. It is one of the few natural food sources of vitamin D (wild salmon is a particularly good source). Salmon is also rich in several minerals including magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium. Additionally, canned salmon contains lots of calcium (due to the edible bones).

Health Benefits

Fish has been long considered a health-promoting food. Salmon, in particular, is rich in a variety of nutrients. Here are some of the ways you may benefit from having salmon more often.

Supports Heart Health

The American Heart Association recommends eating fish twice a week for heart health. People who eat fish regularly seem to be protected from a host of cardiovascular conditions. Omega-3 fats help prevent stroke-causing blood clots and reduce inflammation, a strong player in the progression of heart disease. Salmon is also a good source of potassium, which keeps blood pressure down.

Reduces Risk of Osteoporosis

Canned wild salmon is an excellent source of both vitamin D and calcium—two essential bone-building nutrients. While farmed salmon also provides some vitamin D, the amount varies based on the type of feed used.

Studies predict that increasing the vitamin D content of farm-raised salmon would have positive effects on human bone health. Salmon's high protein content also contributes to bone health by supporting muscle strength.

Boosts Mood

Salmon is made up of all of the amino acids, including those that serve as precursors to mood-regulating neurotransmitters. The consumption of fish has been linked to lower risk of depression. The omega-3 fats in salmon are also beneficial for the brain and have been suggested in several studies to improve mood as well.

Promotes a Healthy Pregnancy

The omega-3s in salmon, specifically DHA, are strongly associated with fetal brain and nervous system development. Insufficient omega-3 intake during pregnancy and breastfeeding has been found to hinder infant brain growth. Salmon is lower in mercury than larger fish, like tuna or swordfish, making it a good choice for pregnant women to regularly consume in moderation.

May Aid Alzheimer's Disease Prevention

Some research suggests that omega-3s have ​the potential to protect against cognitive decline, such as Alzheimer’s disease. While more research is needed to confirm this benefit, it appears that the overall nutrient intake from whole food provides cumulative effects that extend beyond the effects of omega-3 supplementation alone.

Wild salmon owes its orange hue to the antioxidant, astaxanthin. Astaxanthin is a carotenoid with neuroprotective properties that appear to work in conjunction with omega-3s to slow the aging of the brain.

Allergies

Allergy to fish, including salmon, is potentially life-threatening with anaphylaxis as a common symptom. Fish allergies are different than allergies to other types of seafood, like shellfish. It's not unusual for fish allergies to appear later in life rather than during childhood. If you suspect an allergy to salmon or other finned fish, see an allergist for a full evaluation and treatment plan.

Adverse Effects

There is some controversy about eating wild versus farmed salmon. While many farms are taking measures to be more sustainable and clean, farm-raised salmon can have 5–10 times more pollutants than wild salmon. There is some concern among researchers because chronic consumption of these pollutants has been linked to an increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic disorders, stroke, and cancer in certain populations. But researchers also acknowledge that the benefits of salmon consumption may outweigh potential risks. To reduce your risk and gain the benefits of eating salmon, look for wild-caught salmon, if possible. Enjoy fish in moderation, about twice per week.

Varieties

Salmon can be purchased fresh, frozen, smoked, or canned (which is typically wild-caught). There are several varieties of salmon, including Atlantic, Chinook, coho, and sockeye salmon which are farmed or fished all over the world.

When It's Best

Salmon can be found at any time of the year in the grocery store or seafood markets. Fresh fish should be displayed under refrigeration or set on a bed of ice. Whole fish should have clear, shiny eyes, firm flesh that springs back when pressed, and should smell fresh and mild (never overly fishy or like ammonia).

When buying frozen seafood, watch out for broken packaging or packaging with frozen ice crystals that may indicate that the package was allowed to thawed and refreeze. Frozen salmon should be hard, not bendable.

Storage and Food Safety

Keep salmon on ice or in the refrigerator or freezer after purchasing. If you don't plan to use fresh salmon within 2 days, freeze it in moisture-proof wrapping. Avoid cross-contamination of raw seafood by keeping it separate from other food items, and washing hands and utensils thoroughly after handling.

To thaw frozen salmon safely, refrigerate it overnight or seal it in a plastic bag and immerse in cold water. Cook salmon to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Once cooked, place salmon back in the refrigerator for consumption within a few days. Never eat fish that has started to smell rancid.

Eating undercooked or raw seafood is dangerous, especially for pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems. If you choose to eat raw salmon in sushi or sashimi, be sure to go to a reputable restaurant and understand that there are risks of foodborne illness.

How to Prepare

Some popular salmon dishes include smoked salmon (or lox) with bagels and cream cheese. Using canned salmon, you can also make salmon cakes.

Fresh or frozen salmon holds up to a variety of cooking styles and seasonings. Salmon can be grilled, baked, poached, broiled, or pan-fried. Flavor salmon with herbs, spices, and lemon.

Recipes

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Article Sources
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