Salmon Benefits and Risks


The benefits of eating fish, like salmon, that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, keep growing. Research points to reductions in risk of coronary- and stroke-related deaths, lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, and even helping prevent macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in people older than 49. Another benefit of salmon: it’s low in mercury.

But after a study published in Science reported that some varieties of farmed salmon contained high levels of cancer-causing chemicals called PCBs, some people have shied away from farmed varieties. (More than 80% of the fresh salmon eaten in the U.S. is farmed.) The PCBs come from the fish meal and fish oil the salmon are fed.

The good news: The global salmon farming industry is investigating ways to reduce PCB levels by using alternative food sources like soybean oil.

In the meantime, there’s much you can do. When grocery shopping or dining out, ask for wild-caught salmon. If all that’s available is farmed salmon, remove the skin and the layer of fat just beneath the skin before or after cooking because these are the two places where the chemicals tend to concentrate. When dining out, ask the chef to do the same if the salmon served is farmed.

Most importantly, do buy salmon and other fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like herring, mussels, sardines (water-packed, without salt), trout, mackerel (North Atlantic and Pacific varieties) and whitefish. Overall, they’re much better choices than beef, pork, lamb, and even chicken, all of which contain artery-clogging saturated fat. And very modest amounts of omega-3-rich fish like salmon – just two to three servings a week – deliver loads of health benefits, especially for your heart.

All in all, there are many many more benefits to salmon than risks.

Written by Eugenia Killoran. Posted with permission of Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa.

Sara Waxman
Sara Waxman is an award-winning restaurant critic, best-selling cookbook author, food and travel journalist and has eaten her way through much of the free world for four decades, while writing about it in books, newspapers and magazines. She is the Publisher/Editor in Chief of DINE and Destinations magazine.