Is Salmon the Healthiest Food in the World?

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Despite that hyperbolic title, salmon is universally known to be one of most nutrient dense and well-balanced sources of protein. But where does it rank among so called “superfoods”? What are the differences of wild-caught and farm raised, and does it actually matter?

The Superfood Scam

Lately, it seems like there’s been a conscious effort for companies to push any routine food as a “superfood”. This lazy, upgraded rhetoric may be an attempt to justify higher costs or entice buyers. Fruits, vegetables, and normal foods that were titled as such for decades have suddenly become superfoods. Yet, according to research, these foods have less nutrients than ever before.

According to soil and nutrient analysis, these foods that have been haphazardly labeled as superfoods, and usually not. Many of them are filled with pesticides, toxins, and lower in nutrients than in previous decades. So how does salmon compare to the commonly denoted superfoods like spinach, kale, apples, tomatoes, berries, avocado’s, quinoa, oats, and  many others?

Frankly, high-quality salmon usually blows them out of the water. There are many valuable, nutritious foods, but the overall range of nutrients in salmon easily put it in the top 10  in the world. In addition, the foods that are ideal for our bodies depend on our own personal deficiencies.

Salmon’s Impressive Nutrient Diversity

Firstly, salmon is a powerhouse of several important minerals. It contains heart-healthy potassium,  selenium, magnesium, iodine, iron, calcium, phosophorus, as well as a small amount of zinc and copper. Many of these minerals are common deficiencies that people’s bodies are screaming out for more of. Secondly, it is a rare source of vitamin D, with respectable amounts of several B-vitamins.

In addition, it is filled with high-quality protein. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, recovering from a workout, or just getting quality nutrients, it’s an ideal protein. Lastly, it contains valuable fatty acids and carotenoids. The fats in salmon are healthy for the heart and may lower inflammation.

Wild-Caught Vs. Farm-Raised

Another important topic is the ongoing debate of farm raised vs wild-caught. Many people buy whatever is the lowest price, but is it worth it to spend a bit more? Unfortunately, the unbiased answer may be yes. When it comes to nutrient quality, toxins, and overall health benefits, it appears that there is a difference.

The majority of the salmon market now comes from farm based operations. According to the statistics taken by the United Nations, the amount of farm-raised Atlantic salmon has increased by around 1000% in the last 25 years! It is estimated that 75% of what’s available on the market is farmed.

What’s the Problem with Farm-Raised?

The strange thing about farm-raised fish is that it could actually be very healthy. Controlling conditions could potentially produce a very pure and nutrient dense product. However, that doesn’t match up with reality. While farm-raised salmon still has some nutrients, it’s usually lower than wild-caught.

The lighter, dulled color indicates less carotenoid pigments, which are considered very healthy. Farm-raised salmon has a higher fat content and lower mineral content per gram when compared to wild-caught. Moreover, the biggest issue has been toxicity. Farm-raised fish has been seen in research to contain higher levels PCB’s, dioxins, toxaphene, dieldrin, heavy metals, and more.

Not all studies unanimously agree on this, but many do. Dioxins are immunosuppressive and heavy metals are incredibly toxic. Of course, there are heavy metals in nearly every food, but the amount varies tremendously. Many other toxins found have in most farm-raised fish cause the benefits to turn into potential harms. Questionable practices are also employed at times with fish farming operations.

Comparing Toxicity

A revealing study reported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services compared the levels of 14 toxins in 700 wild-caught and farm-raised samples. These samples were purchased from vendors all around the world. The results showed that the Atlantic farm-raised salmon had higher levels of 13 toxins when compared to Pacific wild-caught.

The South American farm-raised was less toxic than Atlantic salmon. Unfortunately, the majority on the market is Atlantic. farm-raised. Despite the relatively low level of SOME toxins in South American salmon, several harmful ones were still way too high.

European farm-raised salmon was found to be quite toxic in nearly all areas measured! The toxicity surpassed that of North or South American. This comprehensive study makes it clear that wild-caught seafood appears to be consistently superior in nutrient content and lower toxicity. While there may be exceptions at times, wild-caught nearly always comes out victorious in research.