Health Benefits of Salmon

Salmon is one of the most popular fish for many reasons. It’s easy to prepare, a treat for your tastebuds, and it provides an ocean of health benefits. Here’s what you should know about salmon’s benefits and how eating it regularly can improve your well-being.

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Salmon Nutrition

Health experts often consider salmon a superfood because it’s such a nutritional powerhouse. It’s an excellent source of several essential nutrients. One 3.5-ounce serving of cooked salmon provides:

  • Calories: 206.
  • Protein: 22 g.
  • Fat: 12 g.
  • Carbohydrates: 0 g.
  • Vitamin B12: 2.8 mcg (117% daily value, or DV).
  • Selenium: 41.4 mcg (75% DV).
  • Vitamin D: 13.1 mcg (66% DV).
  • Vitamin B6: 0.65 mg (38% DV).
  • Choline: 91 mg (16% DV).

Though most types of fish and seafood are lean and low in fat, salmon is famous for its higher fat content. It’s a top source of omega-3 fats, particularly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These fats (also known as fish oil) support heart health, reduce inflammation and promote optimal brain function.

Salmon’s omega-3 fats, protein, and other nutrients account for its many health benefits.

Health Benefits of Salmon

Salmon has something for everyone throughout the lifecycle, from pregnancy to childhood and as you age. Here are some of the top salmon benefits.

Maintains healthy bones and joints

This fish is one of the few food sources of vitamin D, a nutrient that plays a crucial role in bone health. Adequate vitamin D is essential for your body to absorb calcium and phosphorus, which support strong, healthy bones.

Besides vitamin D, the omega-3 fats in salmon can also protect your bones and joints as you age. This salmon nutrition benefit helps reduce the inflammation that causes joint pain and stiffness with arthritis. Omega-3 fats also slow cartilage breakdown.

Promotes heart health

Salmon’s omega-3 fats are very heart-healthy. They can help:

  • Lower your blood pressure.
  • Lower triglycerides.
  • Maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
  • Prevent blood clots from forming in your blood vessels.

People who eat more fish tend to have a lower risk of developing and dying from heart disease and stroke. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish, particularly fatty fish like salmon, twice weekly as part of a heart-healthy diet.

Reduces age-related muscle loss

Everyone loses muscle starting in middle age. In older adults, age-related muscle loss increases your risk of:

  • Depression.
  • Diabetes.
  • Falls and bone fractures.
  • Frailty.
  • Osteoporosis.
  • Poor quality of life.

Getting at least 20 grams of protein at each meal can help maintain muscle as you age. Eating a diet containing salmon superfood is an easy way to meet that goal.

Reduces inflammation

Inflammation is part of your body’s way of healing from an injury. But when it lasts for long periods, chronic inflammation can trigger various health conditions, including:

  • Autoimmune diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Cancer.
  • Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Diabetes and prediabetes.
  • Heart disease and stroke.
  • Mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.
  • Obesity or problems losing weight.

The omega-3 fatty acids in salmon can block inflammatory pathways, reducing the risk of these conditions and promoting better overall health.

Supports brain health

DHA and EPA are necessary for healthy brain development and function. Getting plenty of these nutrients during pregnancy and breastfeeding is vital to helping a baby’s brain and central nervous system develop. Doctors recommend pregnant people eat up to 12 ounces of low-mercury seafood, like salmon, each week.

Getting more omega-3 fats throughout your life can also support your mood, cognitive function, and memory. Studies show people who eat two servings of fish each week have a reduced risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers suspect the omega-3 fats in fish account for the benefit.

Wild vs. Farmed Salmon

Wild salmon comes from natural environments like oceans and rivers. They eat smaller fish and crustaceans like krill. Farmed salmon come from fish farms. On these farms, they live in controlled environments and eat fish meal.

Farmed salmon is more widely available than wild salmon. That’s because fresh wild salmon is only available at certain times of the year.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates and monitors all wild-caught and farmed fish to ensure their safety.

Wild and farmed salmon nutrition are similar. Both are excellent sources of protein, omega-3 fats, vitamin D, and other nutrients.

Wild salmon is leaner, with a lower fat content, but most of its fat is omega-3. Wild salmon is also lower in total calories. Both types are low in mercury.

Health experts often recommend buying wild salmon if it’s available — either fresh or frozen. But the most important thing is to eat salmon often and worry less about whether it’s wild.

Tips to Eat More Salmon

Salmon lends itself to a variety of cooking methods, including:

  • Grilling
  • Pan-frying
  • Poaching
  • Roasting

The easiest way to prepare salmon is to roast or grill it with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Squeeze some fresh lemon juice over it and serve. Or try this recipe and tips:

Pecan Crusted Salmon (makes 4 servings)

  • 4 salmon fillets
  • Salt and pepper
  • ½ cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Preheat the oven to 375ºF and spray a baking dish or oven-safe pan.
  • Pat the salmon dry with a paper towel and place the fillets in the pan. Season them with salt and pepper.
  • Combine the pecans, maple syrup, olive oil, and mustard in a small bowl. Pat ¼ of the mixture over each fillet.
  • Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 145ºF and the fish flakes easily and is no longer translucent.

If you have leftover salmon:

  • Add it to an omelet with a handful of spinach and a sprinkle of feta cheese.
  • Flake it and combine it with plain Greek yogurt and dill. Serve it with pita chips for lunch or an appetizer dip.
  • Make salmon cakes for dinner.
  • Toss it over a salad for a protein-packed lunch.

Considering all of its flavor and health benefits, salmon deserves a regular spot on everyone’s dinner table. Try it for dinner tonight!

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

About UPMC Nutrition Services

Nutrition is vital for maintaining your overall health. UPMC Nutrition Services offers comprehensive diet and nutrition counseling on a variety of topics, including eating disorders, weight management, and heart disease. Our team provides medical nutrition therapy for chronic conditions such as celiac disease, cancer, and diabetes. UPMC’s network of registered dietitians is available to help guide all patients toward a healthier life.