What Type of Salmon Is the Healthiest to Eat?

Salmon is among the top five consumed fish species in the United States. The salmon steak is a versatile cooking ingredient. The mildly sweet, pink flesh stands up well to grilling, broiling and pan searing. Raw salmon is popular with sushi lovers, and the more refined crowd enjoys it seared with a side of grilled fennel bulb. Salmon swims primarily in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. It accumulates few heavy metals in its lifetime. The mercury level, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, is fewer than 0.09 parts per million, placing it on the lowest end of the heavy metal scale. Salmon consumption is steeped in issues regarding the safety of fishing and farming practices. The factors that determine which salmon type is the healthiest are deeply connected to these issues.

Fresh grilled salmon with herbs on a wooden plank (Image: Brent Hofacker/iStock/Getty Images)

Atlantic Farmed Salmon

Almost all salmon sourced from the Atlantic Ocean is farmed. Farmed fish swim in a defined space where they eat protein pellets. Some fisheries administer antibiotics and food coloring to farmed salmon to bolster their resistance to pathogens and darken their flesh. These measures add calories, fat and unwanted chemicals to their composition. Farming practices also pollute the ocean with harmful chemicals.

Wild Alaskan Salmon

Wild Alaskan salmon is the healthiest salmon available. The regulated safe fishing practices used to capture the salmon and the wild, natural diet they consume render it healthy for the palate and the environment. The calorie and fat content in wild salmon is lower compared with farmed salmon. The Environmental Defense Fund recommends children younger than age 6 years eat three servings or fewer each month because although the fish contains a lower level of contaminants overall, wild salmon contains moderate levels of PCBs.

Canned Salmon

Canned salmon is an option for people who prefer eating salmon in the winter, the off season for wild Alaskan salmon. The canned variety comes with or without bones and skin. The bones add minerals, and environmental agencies often discourage consuming the skin because its oily composition attracts chemical contaminants.

Nutritional Value

The primary nutrients salmon contains include minerals, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. A 3-ounce serving of the various salmon types provide the following nutrients: Wild canned salmon provides 465 International Units of vitamin D, or 116 percent of the 400 IU daily value, and 5.1 grams of fat, or 8 percent of the 65 grams Food and Drug Administration daily value; a 3-ounce wild salmon fillet provides 383 IU of vitamin D, or 96 percent of the daily value, and 3.7 grams of fat, or 6 percent of the 65 gram daily value; and a farmed salmon filet provides 10.5 grams of fat, or 16 percent of the 65 gram daily value. The USDA excluded the vitamin D value from the Nutrient Data Laboratory website.

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