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Eat This Today: Salmon

Posted Oct 29 2009 2:10pm

By now, most people are somewhat familiar with the negative impact mass production has had on the beef industry.  Though beef was once seen almost universally as a great source of protein and nutrients, increased demand from ubiquitous fast-food chains like McDonald’s transformed the way beef was raised, and in so doing, transformed beef into an unhealthy food to avoid.  For those who read the articles about  Grass Fed beef vs. Grain Fed, you’ll recall how transitioning cows from a grass diet to a seemingly more efficient grain diet was greatly responsible for this unfortunate transformation.

You may not realize that similar mass-producing strategies are being employed with salmon.  The mass production of salmon is putting it at risk to go from an amazingly healthy food to one that should be avoided.  The difference between the types of salmon need to be noted as you may think they are similar products but in fact are getting can be completely different.

Wild caught salmon is a nutrient-rich fish that has long been known for its health benefits.  But those very health benefits and the increased popularity of Omega-3 fatty acids have put a strain on supply, leading to the increased use of “salmon farms.”  If you’ve ever looked for salmon in a grocery store, you’ve most likely come across the words “farmed” or “farm-raised.”  These terms refer to fish raised in small bodies of water called “net pens,” which the food industry relies on to meet demand.  Thousands of salmon are raised in these oversized fish tanks, with very little room to move around.  Though naturally carnivorous, inside net pens salmon are fed grains. The high volume of fish and closed quarters yield an exponential amount of waste, which causes a lot of diseases for the fish.  To counteract the illnesses, the fish are fed antibiotics, which get caught up in their bloodstream and stay with them all the way to the store shelf and eventually onto your plate.   As a result, farmed salmon should be avoided whenever possible, though wild-caught salmon should be a regular part of your diet.

Why So Good?
Wild salmon is naturally loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids, which provide amazing health benefits.  Omega-3’s have been found to increase brain function, aid in heart health and work as a major anti-inflammatory.  What’s more, just 3 ounces of salmon yield about 18g of protein, which is right on par with beef.  But due to several unnatural and unsanitary farming practices, farm-raised salmon lacks the nutritional punch of its wild-caught brethren.  For example, the grain-fed salmon raised in net pens lack astaxantin, a carotenoid that wild salmon get from the krill and shrimp they eat.  Responsible for salmon’s pink hue, astaxantin also holds some amazing antioxidant properties, even more so than beta-carotene, a well-known antioxidant.  Wild-caught salmon also contain high levels of potassium, niacin, vitamin B12 and selenium.  Not only do farm-raised salmon miss out on many of these great health benefits, they also boast some harmful side effects.  In addition to all of the toxins you get from the antibiotics and grains, farm-raised salmon are also high in Omega-6’s, an inflammation-causing fat.

Clearly the difference between wild-caught and farm-raised salmon is significant, and while wild-caught may be a bit harder to find, it’s well worth the hunt.

How To Eat?

Salmon can be cooked many different ways and depending on your preference it can have many different tastes as well.  If you are a sushi lover, find a sushi-grade salmon and eat it raw or smoked.  You can also bake, grill or sauté salmon, using any number of seasoning rubs or marinades. Salmon goes well on a bed of rice and beans or as part of a salad for a power lunch.  This Web site has a ton of different recipes that can be used to make your salmon the way you like it  If you’re not a big fan of the taste of salmon, just remember how healthy and great for you it actually is. 

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