The Many Health Benefits of Salmon

By Michael Lloyd 

January 30th, 2019 

Salmon is excellent to incorporate into your diet, as it’s one of the most nutritious types of fish and offers many health benefits. The following nutritional content is found in 3 ounces of salmon, which is approximately 1 serving: 

Salmon can be defined as a fatty fish. Fatty fish are excellent for cardiovascular health due to their high omega 3 fatty acid content. There are three omega 3s that are of significant value to human health: alpha linoleic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is found in both plant oils and fish and can be converted into EPA and then DHA in our liver; however, it has been found that the conversion rate is extremely low, so consuming only ALA is not an effective way to consume EPAs and DHAs. Fatty fish like salmon contain both EPAs and DHAs, allowing much more impactful benefits from these omega 3s.1

Alpha Linoleic Acid is considered an essential fatty acid, which means it cannot be produced by our body but rather must be consumed in our diets. ALA serves to help with cardiovascular health in our arteries. It has been studied and shown that ALA helps to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis by preventing the buildup of plaque on our arteries. This buildup can eventually block blood flow to our tissues and lead to death through a heart attack or stroke.2

EPA and DHA are not considered essential due to our liver’s ability to convert ALA into these forms, but as I mentioned previously, this process is extremely inefficient, so it is recommended to obtain these fatty acids via diet or supplementation. Fish like salmon are the best sources of these two ALA derivatives. These two fatty acids have been found to lower our body’s triglyceride levels. Exposing our body to high levels of triglycerides can lead to several chronic health issues like diabetes and other cardiovascular diseases. It has also been found that consuming higher levels of EPA and DHA while pregnant can benefit your infant’s health as well.1

Recently, omega 3s have been found to help increase blood flow in the body, and this can be correlated to prevention or prolonging the onset of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease. In short, people that consume higher levels of omega 3s may be at lower risk for the development of Alzheimer’s; however, this is purely a correlation as more studies need to take place to confirm these initial findings.

Salmon offers more than just omega 3s. One serving size of salmon is between two to three ounces and provides 17 grams of protein at only 177 calories; thus, it is one of the best sources of protein per caloric intake on the planet. Getting enough protein while consuming fewer calories will allow you to build muscle more efficiently while avoiding unnecessary weight gain.

Furthermore, salmon is one of the leaders in potassium content. Potassium serves critical roles in our body, such as kidney and brain function. It acts as one of the significant ions with sodium as the cogs of neuron and kidney cell functions. Consuming sufficient levels of potassium has been found to improve cognitive function.3 High concentrations of potassium also aid to prevent cramping. So, when prepping for an athletic event, consuming salmon can help extend your performance.

Omega 3s are not the only compounds found in salmon to promote cardiovascular health. The antioxidant, astaxanthin, has been shown to prevent oxidation of LDL cholesterol. This process is essential as it could cause cholesterol to buildup on our arterial walls, while also raising the levels of our good, HDL cholesterol.4

A serving of salmon also provides a great source of B vitamins (45% B12 (cobalamin) and 25% (B6)). B vitamins serve as an important role in the formation of red blood cells, which carry a majority of our oxygen to our cells to carry out necessary functions. Other functions of these vitamins include cognitive function, athletic performance, and other cardiovascular benefits.5, 6

Salmon is an excellent source of several vital nutrients. It is important to note, even though salmon is known for being very low compared to others, that when consuming fish, mercury is always a concern. Also, salmon is a fatty fish; so, even though the fats offer many health benefits, overconsumption of fats can impact weight gain as they are high energy molecules that can lead to a buildup of fats contributing to obesity.

So, the take-home message is to eat salmon, but remember to consume it in moderation! If you’d like more advice on how to lower your risk for disease, try our free online calculator

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References

1. Office of Dietary Supplements – Omega-3 Fatty Acids.  NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-Consumer/.

2. Office of Dietary Supplements – Omega-3 Fatty Acids.  NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-HealthProfessional/.

3. Can Omega-3 Help Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease? Brain SPECT Imaging Shows Possible Link.  Can Omega-3 Help Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease? Brain SPECT Imaging Shows Possible Link | Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, https://www.j-alz.com/content/can-omega-3-help-prevent-alzheimers-disease.

4. Iwamoto, T, et al. Inhibition of Low-Density Lipoprotein Oxidation by Astaxanthin.  Journal of Atherosclerosis and Thrombosis, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2000, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11521685.

5. Office of Dietary Supplements – Vitamin B6.  NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB6-HealthProfessional/.

6. Office of Dietary Supplements – Vitamin B12.  NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-Consumer/.

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