Unlike most other fats, omega-3 fats are considered "essential," meaning you must get them from your diet since your body can't create them.
Although there is no recommended daily intake (RDI) of omega-3 fatty acids, many health organizations recommend that healthy adults get a minimum of 250–500 mg of combined EPA and DHA per day (3).
EPA and DHA have been credited with several health benefits, such as decreasing inflammation, lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of cancer and improving the function of the cells that line your arteries (4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source).
A 2012 analysis of 16 controlled studies found that taking 0.45–4.5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per day led to significant improvements in arterial function (8Trusted Source).
What's more, studies have shown that getting these omega-3 fats from fish increases levels in your body just as effectively as supplementing with fish oil capsules (9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source).
As for how much fish to eat, consuming at least two servings of salmon per week can help meet your omega-3 fatty acid needs.
BOTTOM LINE:Salmon is rich in long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure and decrease risk factors for disease.
Salmon is rich in high-quality protein.
Like omega-3 fats, protein is an essential nutrient that you must get from your diet.
Protein plays a number of important roles in the body, including helping your body heal after injury, protecting bone health and maintaining muscle mass during weight loss and the aging process (11Trusted Source, 12Trusted Source, 13, 14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source).
Recent research has found that for optimal health, each meal should provide at least 20–30 grams of high-quality protein (16Trusted Source).
BOTTOM LINE:Your body requires protein to heal, protect bone health and prevent muscle loss, among other things. Salmon provides 22–25 grams of protein per 3.5-ounce serving.
Salmon is an excellent source of B vitamins.
Below is the B vitamin content in 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of wild salmon (2):
- Vitamin B1 (thiamin): 18% of the RDI
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): 29% of the RDI
- Vitamin B3 (niacin): 50% of the RDI
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): 19% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 47% of the RDI
- Vitamin B9 (folic acid): 7% of the RDI
- Vitamin B12: 51% of the RDI
These vitamins are involved in several important processes in your body, including turning the food you eat into energy, creating and repairing DNA and reducing the inflammation that can lead to heart disease (17Trusted Source).
Studies have shown that all of the B vitamins work together to maintain optimal functioning of your brain and nervous system. Unfortunately, even people in developed countries may become deficient in one or more of these vitamins (18Trusted Source).
BOTTOM LINE:Salmon is an excellent source of several B vitamins, which are needed for energy production, controlling inflammation and protecting heart and brain health.
Salmon is quite high in potassium.
In fact, salmon contains more potassium than an equivalent amount of banana, which provides 10% of the RDI (19).
A large analysis of 31 studies found that supplementing with potassium significantly reduced blood pressure, especially when added to a high-sodium diet (22Trusted Source).
One of the ways in which potassium lowers blood pressure is by preventing excess water retention.
One study found that restricting potassium led to an increase in water retention and blood pressure in healthy people with normal blood pressure (23Trusted Source).
BOTTOM LINE:100 grams of salmon provide 11–18% of the RDI of potassium, which helps control blood pressure and prevent excess fluid retention.
Selenium is a mineral found in soil and certain foods.
It's considered a trace mineral, meaning your body only needs tiny amounts of it. Nevertheless, getting enough selenium in your diet is important.
Studies have shown that selenium helps protect bone health, decreases thyroid antibodies in people with autoimmune thyroid disease and may reduce the risk of cancer (24Trusted Source, 25Trusted Source, 26Trusted Source, 27Trusted Source).
One study found that blood levels of selenium increased significantly more in people who consumed two servings of salmon per week than those who consumed fish oil capsules containing less selenium (29Trusted Source).
BOTTOM LINE:A 100-gram serving of salmon provides 59–67% of the RDI of selenium, a mineral involved in protecting bone health, improving thyroid function and reducing the risk of cancer.
Astaxanthin is a compound linked to several powerful health effects. As a member of the carotenoid family of antioxidants, astaxanthin gives salmon its red pigment.
One study found that 3.6 mg of astaxanthin daily was enough to reduce oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which could potentially reduce the risk of heart disease (30Trusted Source).
In addition, astaxanthin is believed to work with salmon's omega-3 fatty acids to protect the brain and nervous system from inflammation (32Trusted Source).
What's more, astaxanthin may even help prevent skin damage and help you look younger.
In one study, 44 people with sun-damaged skin who were given a combination of 2 mg of astaxanthin and 3 grams of collagen for 12 weeks experienced significant improvements in skin elasticity and hydration (33Trusted Source).
Salmon contains between 0.4–3.8 mg of astaxanthin per 3.5 ounces, with sockeye salmon providing the highest amount (34Trusted Source).
BOTTOM LINE:Astaxanthin is an antioxidant found in salmon that may benefit heart, brain, nervous system and skin health.
This is due, in large part, to salmon's ability to boost omega-3s in the blood. Many people have too many omega-6 fatty acids in their blood, in relation to omega-3s.
In a four-week study of healthy men and women, consuming two servings of farmed salmon per week increased omega-3 blood levels by 8–9% and decreased omega-6 levels (39Trusted Source).
BOTTOM LINE:Consuming salmon can help protect against heart disease by increasing levels of omega-3 fats, decreasing levels of omega-6 fats and lowering triglycerides.
Consuming salmon frequently can help you lose weight and keep it off.
Like other high-protein foods, it helps regulate the hormones that control appetite and make you feel full (42Trusted Source).
In addition, your metabolic rate increases more after eating protein-rich foods like salmon, compared to other foods (43Trusted Source).
One study in children with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease found that supplementing with DHA, the main omega-3 found in salmon, led to significantly greater reductions in liver fat and belly fat, compared to a placebo (46Trusted Source).
BOTTOM LINE:Consuming salmon may help you control your weight by reducing appetite, boosting metabolic rate, increasing insulin sensitivity and decreasing belly fat.
Salmon can be a powerful weapon against inflammation.
Several studies have found that eating more salmon helps reduce markers of inflammation in people at risk for these and other diseases (35Trusted Source, 36Trusted Source, 50Trusted Source, 51Trusted Source).
In an eight-week study of middle-aged and elderly Chinese women, consuming 3 ounces (80 grams) of salmon and other fatty fish daily led to reductions in the inflammatory markers TNF-a and IL-6 (35Trusted Source).
In another eight-week study, 12 men with ulcerative colitis who consumed 21 ounces (600 grams) of salmon per week experienced a decrease in inflammatory markers in their blood and colon, along with self-reported improvements in symptoms (51Trusted Source).
BOTTOM LINE:Salmon and other fatty fish can help lower inflammation, which may reduce risk factors for several diseases and improve symptoms in people with inflammatory conditions.
A growing number of studies suggest that including salmon in your diet might improve brain function.
Both fatty fish and fish oil have been found to reduce depressive symptoms, protect fetal brain health during pregnancy, decrease anxiety, slow age-related memory loss and lower the risk of dementia (52Trusted Source, 53Trusted Source, 54Trusted Source, 55Trusted Source, 56Trusted Source).
In one study of people aged 65 and older, consuming fatty fish at least twice a week was linked to a 13% slower decline in age-related memory issues than consuming fatty fish less than once a week (55Trusted Source).
In another study, people with normal brain function who consumed fatty fish on a regular basis were found to have more grey matter in their brains. Researchers noted that this could reduce their risk of memory problems later in life (57Trusted Source).
BOTTOM LINE:Frequent salmon consumption may help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, protect fetal brain health in pregnancy and decrease the risk of age-related memory problems.
Salmon is undeniably delicious. It has a unique, delicate flavor with a less "fishy" taste than many other fatty fish, such as sardines and mackerel.
It is also extremely versatile. It can be steamed, sautéed, smoked, grilled, baked or poached. It can also be served raw in sushi and sashimi.
Additionally, canned salmon is a quick and inexpensive option that provides the same impressive health benefits as fresh fish. In fact, almost all canned salmon is wild rather than farmed, and its nutrition profile is excellent.
Look for it in BPA-free cans to avoid the potential health risks that have been linked to this chemical.
Here are some healthy recipes for incorporating this fish into your diet:
- Use canned salmon in place of tuna when making tuna salad with healthy mayo.
- Cobb salad with canned salmon, hard-boiled egg, avocado, lettuce and tomatoes.
- Smoked salmon and cream cheese on sprouted-grain bread, with cucumber or tomato slices.
- Grilled salmon with avocado sauce.
- Simple herb-crusted salmon.
- Crab-stuffed salmon with lemon butter.
BOTTOM LINE:Salmon has a delicious flavor and can be prepared in many different ways. Canned salmon is a convenient and inexpensive option.
Salmon is a nutritional powerhouse that provides several impressive health benefits.
Consuming at least two servings per week can help you meet your nutrient needs and reduce the risk of several diseases.
In addition, salmon is tasty, satisfying and versatile. Including this fatty fish as a regular part of your diet may very well improve your quality of life.