Salmon is one of the most nutritious foods on the planet.
Not only is this popular fatty fish loaded with nutrients, but it may also even reduce certain risk factors for several different diseases.
What’s more, it’s tasty, versatile, and widely available.
Here are 11 amazing health benefits of salmon.
1. Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids
Salmon is one of the best sources of the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) portion of farmed salmon has 2.3 grams of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, while the same portion of wild salmon contains 2.2 grams.
Unlike most other fats, omega-3 fats are considered “essential,” meaning you must get them from your diet since your body cannot create them.
Generally, most health organizations recommend that healthy adults get a minimum of 250–1,000 mg of combined EPA and DHA per day
EPA and DHA have been credited with several impressive health benefits, such as decreasing inflammation, lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of cancer, and improving the function of the cells that line your arteries.
One review of 22 studies found that using an EPA and DHA supplement consistently could significantly improve arterial function, especially in people who smoke, are overweight, or have high cholesterol levels or metabolic syndrome.
What’s more, studies have shown that getting these omega-3 fats from fish increases levels in your body just as effectively as supplementing with fish oil capsules.
As for how much fish to eat, consuming at least two servings of salmon per week can help meet your omega-3 fatty acid needs.
Summary: Salmon is rich in long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, and decrease risk factors for disease.
2. Salmon is a great source of protein
Salmon is rich in high-quality protein.
Like omega-3 fats, protein is another essential nutrient that you must get from your diet.
Protein plays several important roles in the body, including helping your body heal after injury, protecting bone health, and maintaining muscle mass during weight loss and as you get older.
Recent research has found that for optimal health, each meal should provide at least 20–30 grams of high-quality protein.
For reference, a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of salmon contains 22–25 grams of protein.
Summary: Your body requires protein to heal, protect bone health, and prevent muscle loss, among other things. Salmon provides 22–25 grams of protein per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving.
3. Salmon is high in B vitamins
Salmon is an excellent source of B vitamins.
Below is the B vitamin content in 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of wild salmon:
- Vitamin B12: over 100% of your daily need
- Niacin: 63% of your daily need
- Vitamin B6: 56% of your daily need
- Riboflavin: 38% of your daily need
- Pantothenic acid: 38% of your daily need
- Thiamin: 23% of your daily need
- Folic acid: 7% of your daily need
These vitamins are involved in several important processes in your body, including turning the food you eat into energy, creating and repairing DNA, and reducing chronic inflammation, which can lead to disease.
Studies have shown that all of the B vitamins work together to maintain optimal functioning of your brain and nervous system. Unfortunately, even people in developed countries may become deficient in one or more of these vitamins.
Summary: Salmon is an excellent source of several B vitamins, which are needed for energy production, controlling inflammation, and protecting heart and brain health.
4. Salmon is a good source of potassium
This is especially true of wild salmon, which provides 13% of the recommended daily value per 3.5 ounces (100 grams), versus 8% for farmed salmon.
Suggested read: Diabetes diet: Foods for diabetics
Wild salmon contains more potassium than an equivalent amount of a medium-sized banana, which provides just 9% of the recommended daily value.
Potassium helps manage your blood pressure. It also reduces your risk for stroke.
One review found that supplementing with potassium significantly reduced blood pressure levels in people with high blood pressure, especially for those consuming large amounts of sodium.
Potassium also works with sodium to help regulate fluid balance and lowers blood pressure by preventing excess water retention.
Summary: A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of salmon provides up to 13% of the recommended daily intake for potassium, which helps manage blood pressure and prevent excess fluid retention.
5. Salmon is loaded with selenium
Selenium is a mineral found in soil and certain foods.
It’s considered a trace mineral, meaning your body only needs tiny amounts of it. Nevertheless, getting enough selenium in your diet is important.
Studies have shown that selenium helps protect bone health, decreases thyroid antibodies in people with autoimmune thyroid disease, and may reduce the risk of cancer.
A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of salmon provides 75–85% of the recommended daily intake for selenium.
Consuming salmon and other high-selenium seafood has been shown to improve blood levels of selenium in people whose diets are low in this mineral.
One older study found that blood levels of selenium increased significantly more in people who consumed two servings of salmon per week than those who consumed fish oil capsules containing less selenium.
Summary: A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of salmon provides 75–85% of the recommended daily intake of selenium, a mineral that may support bone health, improve thyroid function, and protect against cancer.
6. Salmon contains astaxanthin
Astaxanthin is a compound linked to several powerful health effects. As a member of the carotenoid family of antioxidants, astaxanthin gives salmon its signature red hue.
Suggested read: 9 incredible health benefits of cod liver oil
Astaxanthin appears to lower the risk of heart disease by reducing oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol and increasing levels of HDL (good) cholesterol.
Some research also suggests that astaxanthin may reduce inflammation, decrease oxidative stress, and protect against the build-up of fatty plaque in the arteries, which could potentially reduce the risk of heart disease.
In addition, astaxanthin is believed to work with the omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon to protect the brain and nervous system against inflammation.
What’s more, astaxanthin may even help prevent skin damage and help you look younger.
In one study, 44 people with sun-damaged skin who were given a combination of 2 mg of astaxanthin and 3 grams of collagen for 12 weeks experienced significant improvements in skin elasticity and hydration.
Salmon contains between 0.4–3.8 mg of astaxanthin per 3.5 ounces (100 grams), with sockeye salmon providing the highest amount.
Summary: Astaxanthin is an antioxidant found in salmon that may benefit heart, brain, nervous system, and skin health.
7. Salmon may reduce the risk of heart disease
Eating salmon regularly may help protect against heart disease.
This is due, in large part, to salmon’s ability to boost levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood. Many people have too many omega-6 fatty acids in their blood in relation to omega-3s.
Research suggests that when the balance of these two fatty acids is off, the risk of heart disease increases.
In one older study, consuming two servings of farmed salmon per week increased omega-3 blood levels by 8–9% and decreased omega-6 levels after 4 weeks.
Additionally, some research suggests that regular consumption of fish may be linked to lower levels of triglycerides and several other risk factors for heart disease.
Summary: Consuming salmon can help protect against heart disease by increasing levels of omega-3 fats, decreasing levels of omega-6 fats, and lowering triglycerides.
8. Salmon may benefit weight management
Consuming salmon frequently can help you lose weight and keep it off.
Like other high-protein foods, it helps regulate the hormones that control appetite and make you feel full.
In addition, your metabolic rate increases more after eating protein-rich foods, such as salmon, compared with other foods.
Suggested read: 15 incredibly heart-healthy foods
Plus, research suggests that the omega-3 fats in salmon and other fatty fish may promote weight loss and decrease belly fat in individuals who are overweight.
One study in children with the nonalcoholic fatty liver disease found that supplementing with DHA, the main omega-3 found in salmon, led to significantly greater reductions in liver fat and belly fat compared with a placebo.
In addition, salmon is fairly low in calories. A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of farmed salmon has only 206 calories, and wild salmon has even fewer at 182 calories.
Summary: Consuming salmon may help you manage your weight by reducing appetite, boosting your metabolism, increasing insulin sensitivity, and decreasing belly fat.
9. Salmon can help fight inflammation
Salmon can be a powerful weapon against inflammation.
Many experts believe that inflammation is the root cause of most chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Several studies have found that eating more fish helps reduce markers of inflammation in people at risk for these and other diseases.
One study in 4,105 people found that frequent consumption of fish was associated with lower levels of white blood cells, which are often used as a measure of chronic inflammation.
According to another review, fish oil supplementation was found to significantly reduce levels of several specific markers of inflammation, including CRP, IL-6, and TNF-a.
Summary: Salmon and other fatty fish can help lower inflammation, which may reduce risk factors for several diseases and improve symptoms in people with inflammatory conditions.
10. Salmon may protect brain health
A growing number of studies suggest that including salmon in your diet might improve brain function.
Both fatty fish and fish oil have been found to reduce depressive symptoms, protect fetal brain health during pregnancy, decrease anxiety, slow age-related memory loss, and lower the risk of dementia.
One study in 1,566 older adults found that consuming at least one serving of fish per week was associated with decreased rates of cognitive decline.
Summary: Frequent salmon consumption may help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, protect fetal brain health in pregnancy, and decrease the risk of age-related memory problems.
11. Salmon is delicious and versatile
Salmon is undeniably delicious. It has a unique, delicate flavor with a less “fishy” taste than many other varieties of fatty fish, such as sardines and mackerel.
It is also extremely versatile. It can be steamed, sautéed, smoked, grilled, baked, or poached. It can also be served raw in sushi and sashimi.
Additionally, canned salmon is a quick and inexpensive option that provides the same impressive health benefits as fresh fish. Almost all canned salmon is wild rather than farmed, and its nutrition profile is excellent.
Look for it in BPA-free cans to avoid the potential health risks that have been linked to this chemical.
Here are some healthy ideas for incorporating salmon into your diet:
- Use canned salmon in place of tuna when making tuna salad with healthy mayo.
- Whip up a Cobb salad with canned salmon, hard-boiled eggs, avocados, lettuce, and tomatoes.
- Enjoy smoked salmon and cream cheese on sprouted-grain bread with cucumber or tomato slices.
- Try making grilled salmon with avocado sauce.
- Bake an herb-crusted salmon with a side of veggies for an easy weeknight dinner.
Summary: Salmon has a delicious flavor and can be prepared in many different ways. Canned salmon is another convenient and inexpensive option.
Salmon is a nutritional powerhouse that provides several impressive health benefits.
Consuming at least two servings per week can help you meet your nutrient needs and reduce the risk of several diseases.
In addition, salmon is tasty, satisfying, and versatile. Including this fatty fish as a regular part of your diet may very well improve your quality of life and your health.
Suggested read: 7 science-based health benefits of selenium