Grilled salmon can fulfill a large part of your daily protein requirement, and careful preparation ensures a healthy meal. When you’re prepping salmon for the grill, keep your protein source lean and low in calories by using nonstick cooking spray, in place of oils. Season it with freshly squeezed lemon, chopped sage and basil, cracked pepper, or whatever herbs and spices you enjoy. This way you’ll get the protein you need without adding fat and calories.
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Why You Need Protein
While protein is most often recognized as a muscle-building nutrient, that isn’t all it does. Your body continuously breaks down complex protein molecules, leaving behind smaller components known as amino acids. These amino acids help your brain send and receive messages; give structure to cells, veins and arteries; and, if need be, they can be converted into energy if carbohydrates or fat aren’t available.
Protein in Salmon
Most types of salmon have between 21 and 22 grams of protein per 3-ounce grilled fillet. Chum, chinook, sockeye and Atlantic salmon all fit into this range. If you prefer farm-raised salmon, however, you won’t get quite as much protein. For example, farm-raised Atlantic salmon has fewer than 19 grams of protein in a 3-ounce cooked piece, but you’ll get more than 21.5 grams from the same amount of the wild variety.
Protein vs. Other Macronutrients
Protein generally makes up the biggest percentage of calories in most types of salmon. In grilled sockeye and chum salmon, at least 60 percent of the calories are from protein; a 3-ounce cooked fillet has 130 to 145 total calories. Closer to 55 percent of the 155 calories in 3 ounces of grilled wild Atlantic salmon are from protein, while 45 percent of the 195 calories in a 3-ounce cooked chinook fillet come from protein. Just over 40 percent of the total calories in farm-raised Atlantic salmon are from protein. All of the remaining calories in all types of salmon are from fat, particularly heart-healthy polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon does not contain any carbohydrates.
Daily Protein Recommendation
Use your average daily calorie intake to calculate your protein needs. Ten to 35 percent of those calories should come from protein, according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This amounts to 200 to 700 calories from protein for a 2,000-calorie diet, for example. Divide the calories by 4 if you’re counting grams instead, because protein offers 4 calories per gram. In the case of 2,000 calories daily, this would be 50 to 175 grams of protein. Your 3-ounce grilled salmon fillet provides 10 to 45 percent of that amount.