Salmon: Health Benefits, Nutritional Information

Salmon is a commonly consumed fish praised for its high protein content and omega-3 fatty acids.

There are five main varieties of salmon:

  • Chinook salmon is highest in fat, most expensive and desired for its silken texture
  • Sockeye salmon is lower in fat, but still, has enough fat for the salmon flavor to come through
  • Coho salmon has a milder flavor and is often targeted by sport fisherman
  • Humpback salmon is more delicate, pale in color, and not consumed as often
  • Chum salmon is lower in fat and often used in sushi.

Nutritional breakdown of salmon

A salmon
Salmon is high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids.

According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, 3 oz of cooked Sockeye salmon (approximately 85 g) contains:

  • 133 calories
  • 5 g of fat
  • 0 g of carbohydrate
  • 22 g of protein.

The same amount of cooked Sockeye salmon also provides:

  • 82% of daily vitamin B12 needs
  • 46% of selenium
  • 28% of niacin
  • 23% of phosphorus
  • 12% of thiamin
  • 4% of vitamin A
  • 3% of iron.

Salmon also contains cholesterol, although recent studies have suggested that the cholesterol content of foods does not necessarily increase harmful cholesterol in the body.

Saturated fat intake is more directly related to an increase in harmful cholesterol levels, however, and salmon is not a significant source of saturated fat.

Possible benefits of consuming salmon

Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of fish and shellfish like salmon decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease while also promoting healthy cholesterol levels.

Fish and shellfish are especially important for providing omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in very few foods. A 3 oz portion of salmon is estimated to provide over 1,500 mg of omega-3s.

Heart health

Data from the Cardiovascular Health Study show that high dietary intakes of DHA and EPA (the long-chain fatty acids found in fish) may lower the risk of fatal heart attacks. The higher the levels of omega-3 fatty acids found in the blood, the lower the incidence of congestive heart failure.

Fast facts about fish oils

  • The fillets of oily fish contain up to 30% oil
  • Studies have found that fish oils may protect against Alzheimer’s disease, vision loss, and epilepsy.

Learn more about fish oils

Separate observational studies among both Japanese and Inuit people, two cultures that eat high levels of fatty fish, noted that the amount of heart disease deaths were about half the amount typically seen in Western countries. This finding held true when corrected for other lifestyle factors that could influence heart disease death rates.

A 2004 meta-analysis of 13 cohort studies found that eating fish once per week can reduce the risk of dying from coronary heart disease by 15%. The more fish that was consumed, the lower the risk. Adding an extra 5 oz of fish per week reduced the risk to 8%.

“Omega-3 fatty acids levels in the blood have a greater impact on risk for heart disease than cholesterol, total fat or fiber,” says William S. Harris, director of the University of South Dakota Nutrition and Metabolic Disease Research Institute in Sioux Falls. “The higher the omega-3 levels, the lower the risk of heart disease and death and vice versa.”

Harris cites a study conducted in Italy in which participants with chronic heart failure were given either omega-3 capsules or a placebo. The subjects who took the omega-3 capsules were 9% less likely to die than those who did not take them.

Thyroid disease

Selenium has been shown to be a necessary component for proper thyroid function. A meta-analysis has indicated that people with thyroid disease who are selenium deficient experience pronounced benefits when increasing their selenium intake, including weight loss and a related reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.5

Salmon is a good source of selenium, along with Brazil nuts and yellowfin tuna.

Mental benefits

According to the National Institute on Alcohol and Abuse and Alcoholism, omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to decrease aggression, impulsivity, and depression in adults. The associated decrease is even stronger for kids with mood disorders and disorderly conduct issues, like some types of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

A long-term study conducted in the UK indicated that children born to women who ate at least 12 oz of fish per week during pregnancy had higher IQs and better social, fine motor and communication skills.

Due to salmon’s potential for containing mercury, pregnant women should limit salmon consumption to 6 oz per week combined with 6 oz of a low-mercury fish such as sardines, wild-caught trout, flounder or sole.

Another study by Chicago’s Rush Institute for Healthy Aging found that over a 4-year period, people from Chicago aged 65-94 who had at least one fish meal per week had a 60% lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease compared with those who rarely or never ate fish.

How to incorporate more salmon into your diet

Grilled salmon.
Salmon can easily be used as the main source of protein in meals.

Quick tips:

  • Use salmon as your main source of protein
  • Add salmon to pasta or rice dishes
  • Mince salmon to top salads
  • Make salmon patties or burgers.

Or, try these healthy and delicious recipes developed by registered dietitians:

Salmon veggie bake
Salmon pasta salad
Smoked salmon & vegetable egg casserole.

Potential health risks of consuming salmon

Salmon can contain a moderate level of mercury and should be consumed six times or less per month. Pregnant women especially should watch their intake of potentially high mercury foods.

To minimize the risk of food-borne illness, buy fresh salmon properly refrigerated at 40 °F or below. Pick up salmon at the end of your shopping trip to minimize the time it is exposed to warmer temperatures. If the salmon smells overly “fishy,” it should be discarded.

If buying frozen salmon, be sure to defrost in the refrigerator, not on the kitchen counter or in the sink, so that there is no opportunity for bacteria to grow.

It is important to note that a person’s total diet or overall eating pattern is the most important factor for disease prevention. It is better to eat a diet with variety than to concentrate on individual foods as the key to good health.

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Red Cabbage Microgreens Could Reduce Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

Many of us were told to “eat our greens” as children. Now, new research suggests that we should eat our microgreens, after finding that the red cabbage variety of the tiny vegetable may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
[Red cabbage microgreens
Researchers found that red cabbage microgreens significantly reduced circulating levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol in mice fed a high-fat diet.
Image credit: American Chemical Society

Study co-author Thomas T.Y. Wang, of the United States Department of Agriculture in Beltsville, MD and colleagues recently reported their findings in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Microgreens are seedlings of edible plants and herbs that can be grown indoors and harvested in just 1-2 weeks when they are still immature.

Although they were once only served in high-end restaurants as a garnish, microgreens have grown in popularity in recent years, with more than 40 types now gracing the window boxes of homes across the United States.

Basil, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, lettuce, kale, and red cabbage are just some of the herbs and vegetables that can be grown as microgreens, but why are some people opting for these over the fully mature types?

Though small in size, studies have suggested that microgreens are big in nutrients. One study found that the tiny leaves of microgreens have up to 40 times the amount of nutrients – such as vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene – than the leaves of their mature counterparts.

Now, the new study from Wang and colleagues provides evidence that the high levels of nutrients in microgreens may translate into significant health benefits.

Microgreens reduced circulating LDL cholesterol

Previous research has suggested that mature red cabbage may reduce levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. This is often referred to as “bad” cholesterol, as excess levels can raise the risk of heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases.

With this in mind, Wang and team hypothesized that red cabbage microgreens may be even more beneficial for cholesterol levels, given their higher nutrient content.

To test this theory, the researchers used 60 mice that had diet-induced obesity and randomized them to one of six feeding groups for 8 weeks:

  • A low-fat diet
  • A high-fat diet
  • A low-fat diet supplemented with red cabbage microgreens
  • A high-fat diet supplemented with red cabbage microgreens
  • A low-fat diet supplemented with mature red cabbage
  • A high-fat diet supplemented with mature red cabbage

The researchers found that supplementation with either red cabbage microgreens or mature red cabbage reduced weight gain induced by a high-fat diet, and the vegetables also lowered LDL cholesterol levels in the liver.

However, the red cabbage microgreens were found to contain higher levels of polyphenols and glucosinolates – compounds that can lower cholesterol – than mature cabbage, and mice fed the tiny vegetables alongside a high-fat diet showed much lower circulating levels of LDL cholesterol.

Furthermore, red cabbage microgreens were found to reduce levels of triglycerides – a type of fat that can increase the risk of heart disease – in the liver.

Based on their results, the researchers conclude that red cabbage microgreens may be more beneficial for heart health than mature red cabbage:

“These data suggest that microgreens can modulate weight gain and cholesterol metabolism and may protect against CVD [cardiovascular disease] by preventing hypercholesterolemia.”

 

Is Shrimp High in Cholesterol? Nutritional and Heart Health Information

Eating shrimp as part of a balanced diet is not only safe but can offer a person several key nutrients.

Doctors previously recommended against eating shrimp as part of a heart-healthy diet, citing the high levels of cholesterol.

However, after years of research and a better understanding of what contributes to heart disease and higher cholesterol, scientists now consider eating shrimp to be an excellent addition to a well-rounded diet.

Is shrimp high in cholesterol?

shrimp prawn on a grill
Shrimp may be eaten as part of a balanced diet, and the way it is prepared is key to its effect on cholesterol.

One serving of shrimp contains 189 milligrams of cholesterol, which translates to roughly 60 percent of the total recommended amount of cholesterol per day.

This high level of cholesterol was the reason why doctors used to believe that shrimp was bad for heart health.

It was thought that shrimp would increase levels of LDL, or “bad cholesterol” in people, but it is now known that is not the case.

Shrimp can actually increase the levels of HDL, or “good cholesterol” thereby supporting heart health.

Are they safe to eat for people with high cholesterol?

Shrimp are now generally considered safe for people with high cholesterol to eat. They contain a number of useful nutrients.

Despite the higher cholesterol levels, shrimp contain minimal saturated fat and no trans fat. Both trans and saturated fat are considered factors to increasing bad cholesterol.

As part of a balanced diet, shrimp can be a good addition. People on a strict diet set by a doctor or dietitian should ask their provider before including shrimp.

Things to consider when eating shrimp

What is more damaging to cholesterol and a heart-healthy diet is not the shrimp so much as the way it is prepared.

Here are some general tips and suggestions for preparing shrimp to be as heart-healthy and low in cholesterol as possible:

Do:

  • bake, boil, grill, or cook with little to no oil
  • season with spices, garlic, and herbs
  • add lemon juice

Don’t:

  • fry, sauté in butter or oil
  • serve in a creamy or buttery sauce
  • add unnecessary salt when cooking and eating
  • serve with over-processed carbohydrates such as white pasta

Check the bag, box, or with the seafood department as to where the shrimp were caught or raised. Shrimp from farms in other countries often have higher levels of pollutants because of the unregulated farming practices.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to tell whether or not the shrimp being sold comes from a safe farming practice or even if it was caught in the wild. Both farmed and wild-caught shrimp run a risk of containing pollutants, so look for the labels, “sustainably farmed” or “MSC-certified” that indicate better choices.

One last consideration for consuming shrimp is that it is a known allergen to some people. Shrimp are shellfish, so people allergic to shellfish should avoid eating them.

Nutritional information for shrimp

shrimp prawn in the shape of a heart
Shrimp are low in calories, high in protein, and a great source of selenium and B12.

Shrimp, like most seafood, offers a variety of nutrients that are recommended in any diet.

Shrimp are naturally low in calories, offering less than 100 calories per serving. Additionally, shrimp are low in fat and high in protein.

Some additional benefits of shrimp include:

  • Excellent source of selenium, an antioxidant that helps reduce the free radicals often responsible for premature aging and disease.
  • Great source of vitamin B12 that helps with red blood cell creation among other benefits.
  • Good source of phosphorus that is essential for removing waste and repairing tissues and cells.
  • Provides choline, copper, and iodine to the diet, which are all necessary to the body’s functions.
  • Also provides astaxanthin, an antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation and fight signs of aging.

How do they compare with other forms of seafood?

Seafood is getting a lot of praise lately from doctors and dietitians who recommend adding seafood regularly to a balanced diet. Shrimp, like a lot of shellfish and other food sources found in the sea, are high in cholesterol. This does not mean that they are necessarily dangerous for people to consume regularly, however.

Other popular seafood options may offer less cholesterol and similar health benefits. Here are a few other seafood sources and how they compare to shrimp.

Crab

Crab meat, like most seafood, is high in protein and is low in fat and calories. Crab contains less cholesterol and contains an assortment of vitamins.

However, unlike shrimp, crab is naturally higher in sodium levels. This makes it a bit of a challenge for people with high blood pressure.

Lobster

One of the pricier alternatives to shrimp is lobster. This shellfish has a slightly higher level of cholesterol than shrimp. However, like shrimp, lobster is also low calorie, low in saturated fat, high in omega-3 and selenium, and has about 24 grams of protein in a single serving.

salmon
Although salmon may have a higher fat content than shrimp, it has less cholesterol per serving.

Salmon

Salmon is rich in heart-healthy omega-3. Salmon also has a higher fat content than either lobster or shrimp. Salmon has less cholesterol per serving than shrimp.

A serving of salmon is also high in protein and filled with B vitamins, which boost energy and support metabolism and a healthy nervous system.

Additionally, salmon is an excellent source of potassium and phosphorus, a nutrient that helps bone development. Potassium helps regulate the heart and blood pressure. For the most nutrients, look for wild salmon.

Oysters, clams, and mussels

This group of seafood is packed full of nutrients such as iron, zinc, B12, phosphorus, niacin, and selenium. Clams both boost good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol.

Though shrimp is high in cholesterol, it is still considered a good choice for anyone, even those concerned about their heart health.

People on strict diets should talk with their doctor before adding shrimp into their diets.

All people should consider the potential risks of purchasing farm-raised shrimp that may contain more pollutants than fresh-caught shrimp.

In moderation, shrimp consumption for the average person can add many nutrients essential to the human body.