This versatile fish is popular for its velvety pink flesh, and its delicate, mouth-watering taste makes salmon a delicacy in many countries. In Japanese cuisine, salmon is a key ingredient in sushi rolls, and is normally served raw. Fresh salmon can be cooked in a variety of ways, but baked salmon with potatoes, accompanied by a fresh salad, is a particularly sought-after summer dish.
Salmon is highly nutritious, containing large doses of omega-3 fatty acids (a good-for-you fat), selenium, and vitamins D and E. Cooking salmon takes a little time, but that’s no excuse for not including salmon in your diet—there are easier options. Lox (cured salmon) and smoked salmon are quick, easy-to-prepare, healthy snacks.
Salmon is sold smoked, canned, and fresh or frozen as steaks and fillets. Depending on the type of salmon and the diet they had, the color of a salmon’s flesh can be pink, white, light orange, or red. Its heavy-scaled skin is silver and black with some light speckles. Salmon steaks are available with the skin still intact (the skin is edible—see “Organic Benefits”)
Cooked salmon steaks and fillets have a buttery, flaky texture that melts in your mouth. Although salmon has a mild fish flavor, there are many ingredients that complement its taste. Combine cooked salmon with exotic flavors like ginger, soy sauce, lemongrass, and hot spices.
Smoked salmon has a delicate, silky texture. Since it is normally cured with salt and spices, smoked salmon yields a bold smoky taste.
Farmed salmon is available year round at fish markets and fishmongers. Wild salmon is also available year round, but it’s in season from March until September.
Always make sure that the flesh of fresh salmon is moist and firm to the touch. When buying the whole fish, look for clear, bright eyes and clean gills. Fresh salmon has a strong, sea water smell.
Avoid buying salmon that looks fatty and mushy or emits a foul smell.
Organic aquaculture farming involves raising fish commercially without using antibiotics and chemicals. As of 2015, there are no official organic regulations for fish farming in the United States, meaning there is no way for a fish farm in the US to legally sell fish with an organic label. Fish labeled as organic is likely shipped from other countries and is therefore very rare and pricey.
Wild-caught salmon contains fewer antibiotics and harmful chemicals than traditionally farmed salmon. Wild-caught fish is also more readily available and cost effective than that labeled organic. Keep in mind, the majority of omega-3 fatty acids, an important nutrient found in salmon (see Health Benefits), are stored just under the skin. By cooking organic and wild-caught salmon with the skin intact, more of these omega-3s are absorbed into the salmon flesh, increasing its nutritional value.
Farmed salmon is the most readily available and cheapest choice. Both wild and farmed salmon offer the same nutritional value. However, studies indicate farmed salmon contains five to ten times more pollutants than wild-caught salmon, and the majority of these pollutants end up in the salmon skin. So if you are eating farm-raised salmon, opt to remove the skin while cooking to decrease the amount of pollutants you ingest.
Bearing in mind that fish starts to deteriorate the moment it leaves the water, fresh salmon must be refrigerated in an airtight bag or container and consumed within 24 hours. Fresh salmon can also be stored in the freezer for two to three months. Store smoked salmon in the coldest part of the refrigerator, where it will keep for two weeks.
Ideally, ask your fishmonger to gut and scale the salmon for you. When preparing salmon that has been frozen, it must be left to thaw in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours.
Fresh salmon can be grilled, poached, braised, baked, steamed or deep fried, and served with salads and potatoes. Make sure the fillets or steaks are cooked thoroughly. When properly cooked, salmon develops a firm flesh that breaks down easily in your mouth. Alternatively, you can serve salmon chunks in risotto with shrimp, mussels, and other seafood.
Use smoked salmon in sandwiches, platters, or salads, with cucumbers, arugula, and a creamy sauce.
Vitamin E (Tocopherol)
Vitamin E is present in everyday neurological functions and may play a role in protecting the brain from cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. As a powerful antioxidant, vitamin E is essential for scavenging free radicals, supplying them with their much-needed electron pair. Eyesight, skin, and the immune system are all positively benefited through vitamin E intake.
Composed of amino acids (building blocks of protein), this essential nutrient aids in the healing of wounds and the growth of hair, skin, and nails; provides a substantial amount of energy and satiation; catalyzes metabolic reactions; and promotes a healthy hormonal and immune system response.
Alongside sodium and chloride, potassium is an electrolyte essential for conducting electrical reactions in the body. Potassium aids proper muscle function, digestive health, and skeletal contractions.
Although commonly described as a mineral, selenium behaves like an antioxidant, helping to reduce the number of free radicals in the body. This may aid in slowing the visible signs of aging, protecting cardiovascular health, and promoting the immune system.
Vitamin B12 is also known as the energy vitamin, important for metabolizing all macronutrients (fats, protein, and carbohydrates) and transforming them into useable energy. Vitamin B12 also plays an integral role in cognitive function and the nervous system.
Often produced by the body via sunlight exposure, vitamin D is essential for maintaining proper absorption of calcium into bones and teeth. Vitamin D may also play a role in mood stability, blood-sugar regulation, insulin sensitivity, cognitive function and memory, cardiovascular health, immune system health, prevention of certain types of cancer, and metabolism. Vitamin D is also necessary for increasing energy levels and fighting against fatigue and depression.
Research on salmon consumption has shown positive health results, thanks to the fish’s high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. One Swedish study found that men who consumed fatty fish, including salmon, on a regular basis, had a reduced risk of developing prostate cancer. Omega-3 fatty acids may also lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases and protect against the possibility of heart attack.
Combined with vitamin D, selenium, and amino acids, which are also found in salmon, omega-3 fatty acids protect the body’s nervous system from aging diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, macular degeneration, and Parkinson’s disease.
Salmon also contains vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant needed to protect the body against heart disease, cataracts, and cancer, and maintain a healthy immune system. Another essential component found in salmon is vitamin D, which together with the omega-3 fatty acids, promotes a healthy nervous system, making one feel happy and energized.
- Salmon are born in freshwater streams and rivers, but later migrate to the oceans.
- Artificial coloring is used in the diets of traditionally farmed salmon to give the fish a rich pink color. In wild-caught salmon, this color is natural.
- Approximately 60% of the world’s salmon is farmed. The four largest salmon-producing countries are the United Kingdom, Chile, Norway, and Canada.