Should You Eat Salmon if You Have High Cholesterol?

Fish offer a number of health benefits. Large, fatty fish like salmon, which eat smaller fish, contain omega-3 fatty acids that have a number of cardiovascular benefits. Omega-3 fatty acids can help lower triglyceride levels and may help lower cholesterol as well, but not all studies show a benefit in improving cholesterol. Salmon does contain cholesterol, which you need to add to your diet if your physician wants you to keep your cholesterol intake below a certain level.

Grilled salmon on wood plank with herbs and spices
Credit: Brent Hofacker/iStock/Getty Images

Cholesterol in Salmon

Foods from sources like salmon contain cholesterol, since animals, including humans, need cholesterol for a number of body functions. A 3-ounce serving of cooked wild Atlantic salmon contains 60 milligrams of cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends limiting cholesterol intake to 300 milligrams per day. Eating a serving of salmon does not exceed your daily cholesterol allowance.

Low-Density Cholesterol Benefits

Several small studies show that omega-3 fatty acids have some benefit in lowering low-density, or "bad" cholesterol. An Iranian study reported in the June 2009 issue of "Acta Cardiologica" compared the effects of a placebo and 1 gram of fish oil per day on cholesterol in people with metabolic syndrome -- who often have high cholesterol levels. People who took fish oil had a decrease in LDL as well as in their total cholesterol levels.

High-Density Cholesterol Benefits

A University of California study in the February 1991 issue of "Lipids" found that eating salmon for 40 days significantly increased high-density lipoprotein, the so-called "good" cholesterol. A U.S. Department of Agriculture study conducted by researchers from the Western Human Nutrition Research Center found that eating salmon for 20 days increased HDL by 10 percent.


Omega-3 fatty acids in salmon can have positive benefits on cholesterol. However, some studies show that omega-3 fatty acid supplements may increase LDL levels, such as one published in the April 2013 issue of "Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases." Salmon can also contain mercury or other toxins. Limit your salmon intake to two times a week. Farmed salmon may contain more contaminants than wild salmon.

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