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15 Health Benefits Of Nutritionally-Rich Salmon You Should Know Of

Health Benefits Of Nutritionally-Rich Salmon

Salmon is highly nutritious providing you with omega 3 fatty acid, protein, vitamin D, and selenium. Regular intake will aid in building muscle mass, strengthen bones, relieve joint pain, prevent eye disorders, and keep away the flu. Studies have also found it to prevent type 1 diabetes, lower blood sugar levels, increase testosterone levels, and protect against heart diseases. The brain, thyroid, and skin health also benefits from salmon.

If you’ve vowed to eat healthier and often find yourself perusing through the seafood aisle in the grocery store wondering which fish will give you the most nutrition, we suggest opting for salmon. It’s packed with nutrients and is delicious. In fact, not only is it a favorite among foodies today, a recent survey revealed that it’s the most preferred option after shrimp and tuna, across the United States.

Fun fact: Salmon migrates to the ocean after its birth, until it evolves into an adult. It later returns to rivers and streams to reproduce. The fish has been classified as “anadromous” due to this behavior.

Salmon is available in fresh, frozen, canned, and smoked forms. Pink, chum, and sockeye are a few canned salmon variants available in abundance today. However, a study revealed that salmon fillets and steaks, available aplenty across retail outlets and restaurants, are widely preferred by the Americans. Even cold and hot smoked salmon types, especially the “lova nox” are favorites.1 Whatever the type, salmon is a proven source of protein, vitamin D, selenium, and healthy omega-3 fatty acids, while being low in saturated fat. Here’s a reckoner of all the benefits it offers.

1. Aids In Building Muscle Mass

If you’ve been working out every day, salmon’s can help you build lean muscles and strengthen them. This is because salmon is high in protein with just a 100 grams of the fish packing in 20 grams of the micronutrient.2 Besides this, a diet consisting of protein-rich salmon will prevent the loss of muscle mass, which often occurs due to aging.3 Vitamin D has a role to play here as well. Research has found that seniors taking vitamin D supplements (700–1,000 IU per day) have a reduced risk of risk of falls by as much as 19% due to an increase in muscle strength.4 Besides, research has found that salmon is easily digestible and absorbed, making it the perfect post-workout meal.5

2. Strengthens Bones And Prevents Joint Disorders

Calcium is often hailed as the nutrient that builds bones. But we’d like to bring attention to its indispensable companion, vitamin D, that salmon has plenty of. This vitamin helps the body absorb calcium from the intestines.6 Research has indicated that increasing vitamin D levels can prevent osteoporosis. A vitamin D deficiency can cause rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults – diseases which are characterized by bone pain and soft or weak bones which do not have sufficient calcium in them. And with 411 mg of vitamin D per 100 grams of its serving, salmon meets 73.5% of your daily requirement (based on a 600 mg daily allowance).7 In addition to this, recent studies have found that keeping up with protein intake is important to increase total body bone density.8

In addition to this, if there’s one thing salmon is most popular for nutrition-wise, more so than even vitamin D, it’s omega 3 fatty acids, including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). A 100 grams serving will give you 0.69 gm of EPA and 1.45 gm DHA. And this is important information for people who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis since resolvins (a chemical substance in the oil of fishes), something that salmon is rich in, is known to reduce inflammation and pain associated with the condition without harming the immune system. Omega 3 fatty acids are generally recommended for neck and back pain. Studies have found that consuming more than 2.7 g of omega 3 fatty acids every day for more than 3 months didn’t need to take standard nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for tender and swollen joints as they normally would.9 10 11 And considering the fact that salmon is rich in both these nutrients, it serves as a great addition to a bone- and joint-friendly diet.

3. Prevents Eye Disorders

Studies have found that regular intake of omega 3 fatty acids prevents the build-up of a toxic molecule called A2E, which otherwise accumulates in the retinal pigment epithelial cells and causes vision loss. Besides this, recent studies have found that having adequate amounts of vitamin D in the body is also vital to prevent vision loss. Together, vitamin D and omega 3 fatty acids make for a strong defense against age-related macular degeneration.12 13

4. Staves Off The Flu And Strengthens The Immune System

Regular salmon-filled meals can help you keep that dreaded flu away. And the secret behind this lies in its vitamin D and selenium content. A Japanese study involving 340 school children found that the group which received vitamin D supplements had 40% lower rates of type A influenza than the group that did not.14 This could be because vitamin D mitigates the inflammatory reaction of white blood cells and enhances the production of microbe-fighting proteins in immune cells.15

Selenium in salmon stands at 24 mcg per 100 gms making for 43% of your recommended daily intake. It plays an important role in the functioning of the immune system by lowering oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. Increased blood levels of selenium are linked to an enhanced immune response, especially in patients with influenza, hepatitis C, and tuberculosis. Studies have also shown that a deficiency in the mineral could lead to an increased risk of death and disease progression in people with HIV.16Kiremidjian-Schumacher, L., and G. Stotzky. “Selenium and immune responses.” Environmental Research 42, no. 2 (1987): 277-303.[/ref] 17

Besides selenium and vitamin D, omega 3 fatty acids, especially DHA increases the activity of B cells, a kind of white blood cells that secretes antibodies and is an essential part of your immune system.18 So be sure to get your dose of the fish in to stay away from illnesses.

5. May Prevent Type 1 Diabetes And Lower Blood Sugar Levels

A study found that high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the body led to higher insulin sensitivity which lowered blood pressure, fasting insulin levels, the levels of protein CRP (which increases during an inflammatory response of the body), and free fatty acids in middle-aged overweight men.19 But if you already have diabetes, consult a professional before consuming fish since it could trigger spikes in blood sugar levels.

The vitamin D in vitamin D might help prevent the onset of type 1 diabetes in children. This condition where the body’s immune cells erroneously attack insulin-producing cells is usually seen in children and young adults.20 But a long-term study that looked at 10,821 Finnish children for 30 years from the time of their birth found that those who consistently took vitamin D supplements when they were infants had about 90% lower chance of developing type 1 diabetes than those who didn’t.21

Besides this, the protein in salmon might manage your blood sugar levels post your meal. Unlike carbohydrates which cause blood sugar spikes, protein slows down the absorption of sugar. This makes salmon a perfect meal choice to prevent type 2 diabetes, balance energy levels, and keeping your appetite in check.22

6. May Increase Testosterone Levels

Low levels of testosterone can lead to lowered sex drive, improper fat distribution, lowered bone mass,  weakened muscle strength and mass, and irregular production of sperm and red blood cells.23 And upping the intake of vitamin D might be effective. A study compared the effects of vitamin D supplementation with a placebo among 165 men and found that vitamin D significantly increased testosterone levels.24

7. Protects Against Heart Diseases

With heart-protecting nutrients like omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and selenium, to say that salmon has heart-healthy properties would be an understatement. Studies have found that vitamin D plays an important role in regulating blood pressure and preventing the arteries from getting blocked. Deficiency of the vitamin is linked to cardiovascular disease, heart failure, and an increased risk of stroke.25 26 27 28 Consuming salmon would be an easy way of upping your intake.29

Besides this,  omega-3 fatty acids reduce heart-related risks such as irregular heartbeats. They are also antithrombotic, which means they reduce the formation of blood clots. Not to mention, they reduce inflammation which is useful in treating high cholesterol and hypertension.30 Studies suggest EPA+DHA supplements for patients suffering from hypertriglyceridemia, a common disorder caused by a surge in the body’s triglyceride levels. And considering the fact that salmon is rich in both, including it in your diet is a good idea if you’re trying to balance-out your cholesterol levels.

Selenium, meanwhile, is known to lower markers of inflammation in the body as well as reduce free radical damage and oxidative stress caused by smoking, drinking alcohol, and stress.31 In turn, selenium prevents atherosclerosis or the buildup of plaque in the arteries and, as a result, reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke. In fact, low selenium levels have been linked to the risk of coronary heart disease, with observational studies finding a 24% reducing in the disorder with a 50% increase in blood selenium levels.32 33

For all adults, the American Heart Association (AHA) suggests the consumption of fish at least twice per week. At least one serving daily is recommended for those with a history of coronary heart disease.34

8. Improves Mental Health And Brain Function

Nutrients in salmon make its regular intake beneficial for your memory and brain function. Studies have found that selenium, which reduces oxidative stress in the body’s cells, can prevent the onset of and slow down the progression of neurological diseases like Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer’s. Research has also shown that people with Alzheimer’s have lower blood levels of selenium and increasing its intake can reduce memory loss, one symptom of the disorder.35 36

Besides this, increasing selenium intake also improves verbal fluency and mental function in people with mild cognitive function.37

Consuming omega 3 fatty acids, meanwhile, has been found to be crucial for brain health since a deficiency is linked to a number of mental health conditions from developmental disorders and mental retardation in childhood to depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder, stress, hostility and aggression in adulthood, and cognitive decline, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in late adulthood.38 This is because EPA helps in the development and functioning of the brain by influencing chemicals like serotonin and dopamine while DHA increases the production of the LR11 protein, which destroys the “plaques” or clusters of protein that accumulate between nerve cells and lead to late-onset Alzheimer’s. Increasing the intake of omega 3 fatty acids by eating fish has shown to improve symptoms of all of the above conditions. In fact, for every 100 g increase in your fish intake per week, the risk of Alzheimer’s goes down by 11 percent provided you do not have the gene variant (APOE ε4) that makes people susceptible to the disorder.39 40 41 42

Protein has a role to play here as well. It’s needed to make enzymes, hormones, and neurotransmitters that are critical for cognitive function and the brain needs a steady supply of amino acids to maintain concentration, focus, and energy levels. In studies, lack of omega 3 fatty acids lead to problems in coordination and focus while reintroducing them improved learning and motor skills.43

In addition to the above, eating a moderate quantity of fish, 83.3–112 g a day, to be precise can reduce the risk of depression and anxiety by 30 percent.44 45 In animal studies, all the symptoms of depression and anxiety that were artificially induced in rats could be reversed with omega 3 supplementation via fish oil, especially if done in the early stages of the diagnosis.46 47

Besides, certain amino acids from protein foods are needed to naturally balance out hormones and control your mood. Proteins help neurotransmitters function and synthesize hormones like dopamine and serotonin that calm us and keep our outlook positive. Not to mention, by preventing blood sugar spikes, it prevents irritability due to cravings and hunger. It’s no wonder then that the protein in salmon will add to its anxiety-relieving properties.48

That said, salmon is not a substitute for antidepressants or mood stabilizers. And even if you do take it alongside your regular treatment, it’s best to ask your doctor first.

9. Regulates Thyroid Health

Eating salmon regularly might help you keep your thyroid function in check and ensure that your metabolism is well regulated. And the mineral responsible for this correlation is selenium which is found in the thyroid tissue more than any other organ in the body. Selenium reduces oxidative damage in the organ and aids in the production of thyroid hormones. Deficiency leads to autoimmune thyroiditis and hypothyroidism, including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (a type of hypothyroidism in which the immune system attacks the thyroid gland). While increasing one’s intake as well as supplementation has been found to be helpful, more research is required to fully understand how one can use selenium to fight thyroid disorders but until then, maintaining a diet high in selenium with salmon will help.49 50 51

10. May Reduce The Symptoms Of Asthma

If you are at risk of or have asthma, you could benefit from consuming salmon. The condition, which is characterized by inflamed airways that begin to narrow and lead to wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and coughing, has been associated with increased levels of oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. Considering the fact that selenium has the ability to lower inflammation in the body, a few studies suggest that the mineral may be effective in reducing the symptoms of asthma. Some of these studies have found that asthmatic patients with higher levels of selenium in their blood had better lunch function than those with lower levels. In addition to this, patients who had more selenium in their bloodstream found a lowered need to use corticosteroid medications in order to control their symptoms. That said, the research around this is conflicting and larger studies are needed to fully understand the mineral’s role in the development and treatment of the disorder.52 53 54 55

11. Promotes Skin Health

If your skin woes have you running to the dermatologist, consider adding salmon to your diet. Omega 3 fatty acids in the fish can reduce symptoms of eczema by decreasing the levels of leukotriene B4, an inflammatory chemical that plays a role in eczema.56 Besides this, research has found that a high intake of these fatty acids reduces damage caused due to UV radiation and lowers signs of aging and skin inflammation. Its anti-inflammatory properties might also be useful against acne.57 58

12. Aids Weight Loss

If you’ve been trying to shed those extra pounds, salmon might be a good choice. Animal studies have found that omega 3 fatty acids from fish increase fat cell death as well as the level of adiponectin (a protein that helps in glucose metabolism and fatty acid breakdown) in the body, which may help reduce the waist-hip ratio in overweight or obese adults.59 Besides, protein in salmon will take a long time to digest and will satiate you. This will keep you from overeating or snacking on high-calorie foods, both of which can make your weight loss goals a distant dream.60

13. Lowers Menstrual Pain

If you suffer from menstrual pain, regular intake of salmon might give you some relief. Studies have found that since omega-3 fats in fish lower inflammation, they are effective in reducing menstrual pain. In fact, they could be more effective than Ibuprofen, a standard NSAID.61 But if you are on blood-thinning medication, consult a doctor before you pop in fish oil pills.62

14. Supports The Health Of Pregnant Women And Their Babies

If you’re pregnant, the omega 3 fats in salmon ensure a healthy nervous system and vision for your baby. In addition to this, it will ease labor pains and prevent premature birth, in turn preventing the risk of pre-eclampsia caused by a placental malfunction (a condition where the mother’s bloodstream is unable to supply adequate oxygen and nutrients to the baby). It will also reduce your risk of depression after the baby’s birth.63

15. May Lower The Risk Of Cancer

The nutrients in salmon might help you keep cancer at bay. Omega 3 fatty acids in fish have been found to lower the production of enzymes and decreasing the rate of the formation of new blood vessels that foster the growth of cancer cells. They also increase the rate at which these cells die. One study has found that consuming 0.1 g of omega 3 fatty acids every day reduced the risk of breast cancer by 5 percent (daily).64 Other studies have suggested that they can make tumor cells more sensitive to chemotherapy and reduce the side effects of 5-Fluorouracil (5-FU), a common drug used to treat colorectal cancer.65 The omega-3 fatty acids can also reduce the ill effects of the animal fats that trigger breast and colorectal cancer.66 Besides this, cutting down on omega-6 fats and taking in more omega-3 fats has been shown to delay the progression and development of prostate cancer.67

There is some research to suggest that increasing your intake of vitamin D can protect against cancers like colon cancer, prostate cancer, and breast cancer.68 That said, the mechanism behind this hasn’t been understood well enough yet and further research is required to fully validate this benefit.

Similarly, selenium’s ability to fight oxidative stress, reduce damage to the DNA, and boost the immune system has linked it to the ability to destroy cancer cells. Several studies have found that high levels of selenium acquired through food only prevented breast, lung, colon, and prostate cancer.69 70 That said, further research is required to fully clarify the mechanism behind this benefit as well. That said, the American Institute for Cancer Research recommends eating 3-ounce servings of different types of fatty fish twice a week and also reducing the intake of omega-6 fats.

Farmed Or Wild Salmon?

Though salmon is very nutritious, several people are concerned about the safety of its consumption, especially since most salmon is farm-raised. These questions revolve around the presence of contaminants as well as the differences between the farmed and wild forms.

The conclusion of a study conducted to check for organochlorine contaminants in about two metric tons of farmed and wild salmon revealed that the farmed ones were relatively more toxic. It was found that European-raised salmon had a higher ratio of toxins as compared to the American ones. Since two-thirds of the fish consumed in America are farmed salmon imported from Chile and Canada, toxicity shouldn’t be a major concern. A Canadian study found that most salmon and trout sold in Quebec markets come from Chilean farms and are safe for consumption.71

Some fishes contain toxic substances like mercury, a teratogen known for causing congenital disabilities in infants. However, wild and farmed salmon are among the few today that are said to contain very low levels of mercury and considered very safe for consumption.72

Healthy Ways To Cook Salmon

Salmon can be baked, grilled, pan-fried, barbecued, and even poached. Sprinkle herbs, spices, and add veggies to take the salmon to the next level. Ideally, it should be cooked just enough till it flakes and doesn’t dry out. This takes about 10 minutes for each side with a fillet.

Cooking in itself does not adversely affect the nutritional benefits of salmon in any way. It still offers the same nutrition in terms of protein, omega-3 fats, and vitamin D. Those watching their weight may have to avoid eating salmon as it’s highly fat-concentrated. The health benefits of eating salmon far outweigh any of the risks associated with its consumption, so it’s perfectly safe to include the fish in a diet.73

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