Salmon are usually classified either as Pacific (Oncorhynchus family) or Atlantic (Salmo family) salmon, according to the ocean in which they are found. There is just one species of Atlantic salmon, while there are five species of Pacific salmon including chinook (or king), sockeye (or red), coho (or silver), pink and chum. Norwegian salmon, a popular type of salmon often offered on restaurant menus, is actually Atlantic salmon that is farm-raised in Norway.
The health benefits of salmon include proper cardiovascular health, correct muscle and tissue development, boosted eye health, and efficient body metabolism.
1. Cardiovascular Benefits of Salmon
Intake of fish rich in omega-3 fat (including salmon) is associated with decreased risk of numerous cardiovascular problems, including: heart attack, stroke, heart arrhythmia, high blood pressure, and high triglycerides in the blood. Intake of omega-3-containing fish is also associated with improved metabolic markers for cardiovascular disease. Some cardiovascular benefits from omega-3 fat in fish like salmon start with only one omega-3 fish meal per week. Most of the benefits, however, start to show up in research studies with somewhat higher fish intake, along the lines of 2-3 times per week.
2. Improves Mood and Cognition
Many researchers consider DHA to be the most important fat found in the human brain, and the unusual concentration of this omega-3 fatty acid in salmon helps explain the research-documented benefits of salmon and omega-3 fish intake for thinking and the decreased risk of certain brain-related problems that accompanies omega-3 fish consumption. Intake of omega-3s and omega-3 containing fish is associated with decreased risk of depression, decreased risk of hostility in some studies of teenagers, and decreased risk of cognitive decline in older persons. Some studies have shown an association between IQ and omega-3 intake, and also between IQ and intake of omega-3 fish.
3. Joint Protection
One fascinating area of omega-3 and omega-3 fish research has involved the joints. Research on fish intake and joint protection has shown that EPA from fish like salmon can be converted by the body into three types of closely-related compounds that work to prevent unwanted inflammation. All of these omega-3 fat derivatives are able to help prevent excessive and unwanted inflammation. What’s especially interesting about salmon, however, is that it combines these anti-inflammatory benefits that are related to omega-3 content with anti-inflammatory benefits that are related not to fat but to protein. One particular bioactive peptide called calcitonin has been of special interest in these studies, because a human form of calcitonin is made in the human body by the thyroid gland, and we know that it is a key hormone for helping regulate and stabilize the balance of collagen and minerals in the bone and surrounding tissue. Salmon peptides—including calcitonin (sCT)—may join forces with salmon’s omega-3 molecules to provide unique anti-inflammatory benefits for the joints.
4. Eye Health Benefits
Omega-3 intake and consumption of omega-3 fish has been associated with decreased risk of two eye-related problems: macular degeneration and chronic dry eye. In the case of macular degeneration (a chronic eye problem in which material in the center of the retina on the back of the eyeball begins to deteriorate and cause loss of vision), two fish servings per week is the amount that has been shown to significantly decrease risk. For decreased risk of chronic dry eye, a somewhat higher amount of omega-3 fish intake (2-4 servings per week) was the minimum amount needed, with 5-6 weekly servings showing even greater reduction of risk.
Like brain studies on omega-3 fish intake, dry eye studies have started to look specifically at neuroprotectins made from DHA in salmon and other omega-3 fish. These omega-3 derived molecules may help prevent chronic dry eye by lowering background levels of inflammation in the eye.
5. Decreases Cancer Risk
Intake of fish rich in omega-3 fat is also associated with decreased risk for several types of cancer. These cancer types include colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, and breast cancer. Some of the strongest findings for decreased cancer risk following regular intake of omega-3 fish involve the blood cell or lymph cell-related cancers including leukemia, multiple myeloma, and non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Similar to cardiovascular studies, cancer risk studies typically begin to show measurable benefits when omega-3 fish are consumed at least once per week.
6. Skin and Hair Health Benefits
The omega-3s found in salmon lock moisture into skin cells, encouraging the production of strong collagen and elastin fibers, which contribute to more youthful looking skin. Omega-3s have also been known to alleviate skin blemishes and maintain a good luster of the hair. Omega-3s provide nourishment to hair follicles, helping hair grow healthy and preventing hair loss. A rich supply of proteins is also important for hair growth. The high protein content of salmon helps maintain strong, healthy hair.
7. Helps You Sleep Better
Inadequate sleep could lead to many complications. Salmon fish has tryptophan which is a natural sedative making it a great food for anyone who has trouble sleeping.
8. Increases Metabolism
The omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin-D and selenium within salmon all combine to help manage insulin levels throughout the body, thereby facilitating the absorption of sugar and the subsequent lowering of blood sugar levels.