Fish are nutritious and delicious! Not convinced? Read on and you may change your mind.
Omega-3, anti-inflammatory fatty acids, are abundant in fatty fish such as salmon and steelhead. With all the inflammatory foods we consume in the American diet, we almost cannot get enough of this opposing fat to keep us in a healthy balance. Inflammation is the host for many chronic diseases, a condition that can be managed by fat balance. Eat fish, especially pink fish like salmon, 1-3 times a week for max benefit. Include some ground flax or chia seeds into your daily diet and you are well on your way to a clean system. Salmon are also a good source of vitamin D, a nutrient rarely found naturally in our food supply.
But you don’t like the taste of fish you say?
Like most food, you must consider the source of your fish. Salmon and steelhead you consume should be wild caught from clean streams, lakes or the ocean. The environment in which these fish are raised will reflect their health and therefore our health when we consume them. For this reason, wild caught fish may appear brighter and can be much tastier than farm raised. Fish caught fresh in season, or canned or smoked in season, will make a world of difference when it comes to your taste buds. Be aware, wild caught salmon are harder to come across November through March; plan to get your salmon supply from frozen, canned or otherwise naturally preserved sources during these months, as anything fresh labeled “wild” during these months may be fraud. The main salmon season is May through September, depending on the species.
Here’s the scoop on sourcing fish:
Farm raised fish can be fed a range of foods, from fish meal to grains, some of which fish are not accustomed to eating and can make them sick, in which case antibiotics may be introduced to the species. The difference in diet also changes their fatty acid profile, with more inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids than wild fish, which contain a healthier ratio of the anti-inflammatory omega-3s.
And, if you are concerned about mercury levels in your seafood, good news! Wild caught salmon have very low levels of mercury compared to other aquatic animals that may collect this toxin from polluted water or their food supply. In addition, the Environmental Working Group has found that wild caught fish contain lower levels of toxic PCB chemicals compared to farm raised.
A few more facts:
The most common wild caught salmon in the NW is the Chinook. It is also the largest. Another popular NW salmon is the Coho. Any salmon from Alaska will be wild caught, as Alaska does not allow farming of fish. The most commonly caught commercial salmon species is the Alaskan Sockeye.
The most common farm raised salmon are Atlantic; these are only allowed wild caught on an individual basis, not for commercial sale. Pink salmon are smaller and more than likely used for canning; they are also found in the northwest. Chum salmon are highly farmed in Japan, are cheap, and found in all forms on the market: canned, smoked, fresh and frozen. Chum salmon may also be commercially fished in Alaska.
Remember, canned salmon can be a safe alternative to fresh or frozen, and may be cheaper. Just follow the same rules when selecting; wild caught in the northwest is best!
Pacific Northwest Salmon Center; pnwsalmoncenter.org
Why wild caught? whywild.org
Salmon Fishing in Oregon and Washington; nwfish.com
Environmental Working Group; http://www.ewg.org/reports/farmedpcbs
Lipid Composition and Contaminants in Farmed and Wild Salmon, Environ. Sci. Technol. 2005, 39, 8622-8629; http://www.puresalmon.org/pdfs/Hamilton_et_al_Environmental_Science_%26_Tech.pdf
Sea Grant California, University of California Cooperative Extensions, Commercially Farmed and Wild-Caught Salmon
NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-NWFSC-91, Biological Recovery Criteria for the Oregon Coast Coho Salmon Evolutionarily Significant Unit; http://www.nwfsc.noaa.gov/trt/oregonncal.cfm