We know eating 2-3 servings a week of fish or seafood is recommended but what kind? Does it have to be fresh? What’s the deal with farmed?
Being a dietitian born and raised in Alaska, I will fully disclose I have a bias toward fresh fish because I think it tastes better and I like knowing where my food came from, however, in this review I will explain the pros and cons for both types of salmon.
Fish is an important part of a healthy diet and salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, protein and micronutrients. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in most fish but are especially high in salmon due to their ability to store oils in their muscles. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and promote healthy vision and brain development.
Salmon is an excellent source of several B vitamins, which are needed for energy production, controlling inflammation and protecting heart and brain health.
Below is the B vitamin content in 3.5 ounces of wild salmon:
- Vitamin B1 (thiamin):18% of the RDI
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin):29% of the RDI
- Vitamin B3 (niacin):50% of the RDI
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid):19% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6:47% of the RDI
- Vitamin B9 (folic acid):7% of the RDI
- Vitamin B12:51% of the RDI
Salmon is also high in protein, heart healthy fats, potassium, selenium and antioxidants.
So Here’s a Brief Breakdown:
Farmed vs. Fresh
Pros: Farmed fishing may be beneficial because it can take pressure off over-fished areas and allow depleted wild fish populations to return. Depending on feeds some farmed fish have more omegas and micronutrients. It also is less expensive and often more easily available at the grocery store.
Cons: Farmed fish are brought up in tanks, net pens, or other enclosures and they are often fed plants, grain and fishmeal. Antibiotics, chemicals and added growth hormone may be used to allow to enhance production. Due to high demands some of the consequences include waste products/feces, uneaten fish food, pesticides, veterinary drugs and dead fish contaminate surrounding water which can affect the entire aquatic ecosystem. Contaminants have been reported including proliferation of bacterial, viral and fungal diseases, as well as sea lice that spread from farmed to fresh fish. With continued advancement of aquaculture technology and management practices hopefully, will continue to improve eco-friendliness. With growing need, I expect to see more farmed-fish labels.
Pros: If you’re doing your own fishing, it’s reassuring to know how the fish was caught and processed. I have been very spoiled with my dad deboning and filleting most of my fresh fish so I never have to worry about things you would with store-bought fish. You just can’t beat the taste of salmon being thrown on the grill, 30 minutes after catching it. The taste and appearance is more appealing. Buying wild caught supports many Alaskans, local businesses and fishermen’s livelihoods. Wild salmon also often contains more minerals and has less risk for contamination.
Cons: Wild salmon is more expensive than farmed and may not be worth the extra cost for some people. Depending on a few things, it may be inconvenient (or impossible) for the consumer to access wild salmon. Other issues include overfished waters, higher carbon footprint, and low sustainability.
Living in Colorado where my clients don’t always have the option to buy fresh fish, I still encourage them to eat more whether it’s wild or farmed. I educate them to ask where fish is sourced and if it’s farmed sustainably. It’s important to purchase from responsible “certified sustainable” purveyors. Many overseas sources do not have the same regulations for food safety.
For reliable information I use the Seafood Watch program as a resource. You can search their website by type of fish and get recommendations for best choices and alternatives. They keep up with the constant changes. There’s also an app making it easy to shop for seafood at the grocery store!
Easy ways to increase your fish intake:
1.) Try to eat 2-3 servings of fish per week and try new types of seafood.
2.) Prepare seafood with different cooking methods including baking, grilling, broiling. My go to recipe is putting fish in a foil packet and grilling it with seasonings, lemon and onion.
3.) Don’t overlook frozen and canned. Look for canned in water with little to no added salt.
4.) Order fish when you’re eating out. It’s a great way to see how others prepare it.
5.) Fish is great on salads, in tacos, casseroles, dips, kabobs, etc. Get creative!