Though most “superfoods” are plant-based, wild Alaskan salmon is one of few animal superfoods when it comes to nutrition. It is the only animal that I list in my Top 15 Ultimate Superfoods Guide.
Cold water fish and sharks in the wild seem to contain many more nutritional benefits for humans than regular farmed raised fish do. For example, squalene, a component of the livers of cold water sharks, may have many disease fighting properties beneficial to humans.
In this article, I will be discussing the nutritional benefits of wild Alaskan salmon and what makes it such a superfood, and one of my top 15 superfoods.
First, I want to tell you a story about…
Farm Raised Salmon Contamination
I was never one for eating farm raised salmon but, as I was soon to find out, I never knew there were good reasons for not eating it. What I did eat, though, was farm raised shrimp!
So one day I came across a magazine which had a multi-page, centerfold article in it about farm raised salmon. Even though I did not buy farm raised salmon myself, I had eaten it before at other people’s places, so I was still curious about it.
I proceeded to read the article and it was rattling off chemicals that they put in the feed for these overcrowded farming pens such as cancer-causing PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), hormones, color dyes, anti-parasite chemicals, dioxins, etc…
There were pictures of what the salmon look like in their pens when they’ve been raised this way. The color of their meat is not the vibrant pinkish hue that wild salmon are supposed to have. These fish have a grayish-green color to their meat and that’s why they have to add color with dyes.
This is why you see labels with “Color Added” stuck to them on farm raised salmon, which consumer groups had to fight to get these put on.
The article went on to state how PCBs give off an ammonia-like scent, which made me think of 2 recent incidents I had when cooking farm raised shrimp.
I bought farm raised shrimp from my local supermarket and on 2 different occasions, something did not seem right about them. The first time I was cooking a batch, I thought maybe I left them in the refrigerator too long ( a few days) and they just naturally went bad. OK, not problem.
Then again, I bought some farm raised shrimp and cooked them that very night. Now I know they are good, but as I was pan cooking them, I smelled a strong ammonia-like scent. It smelled as if I had poured a nice amount of floor cleaner into my shrimp! I threw them out and did not eat them but i didn’t know why they smelled like that. I again thought I bought a bad batch!
Fast forward to the future, and now, as I was this article about farm raised salmon, I finally realized what was wrong with those shrimp: they were contaminated with PCBs too! Yes, I learned that farm raised salmon and shrimp are some of the most contaminated seafood on Earth.
I immediately stopped all purchases of farm raised shrimp, and even ask if the shrimp is wild caught or farm raised when I eat out at restaurants too. I don’t touch the stuff with a ten foot pole anymore. Unfortunately, most salmon sold in the US is farm-raised and comes from 3 major area: Chile, U.S. Pacific Northwest/Western Canada, and Norway, with the Norwegian being the most contaminated, according to the article I read.
When Congress banned PCBs in 1976, no one contemplated that 20-odd years later we would have invented a new industry that re-concentrates these toxins in our bodies. (Environment Working Group Vice President for Research, Jane Houlihan. ‘First-Ever U.S. Tests Of Farmed Salmon Show High Levels Of Cancer-Causing PCBs‘ Article 2003).
Wild Alaskan Salmon To The Rescue
What I read that I should be eating is wild Alaskan salmon! It’s not that you shouldn’t ever eat farm-raised salmon, its that you shouldn’t eat too much of it. Atleast to me, its just that eating wild Alaskan salmon is the much safer option. It’s also the most nutritious too, especially since its not contaminated.
There are several species of the Alaskan breeds: Sockeye, Copper River, CoHo, King (the largest). These breeds retain their pink flesh color from eating their natural food sources in their natural habitats.
Wild Alaskan salmon are also known for having a hefty amount of omega-3 fatty acids, possibly the highest known concentration of any animal-based food source. Its also a good source of Vitamin D, and B Vitamins, Potassium, Carotenoids, Iodine, Selenium, and Protein.
The United States, and western diets in general, are renown for having many times more Omega-6 fats than Omega 3s. This is out of whack and need to be rebalanced with Omega 3.
Being a rich source of marine-based Omega-3s, wild alaskan salmon provides nutrients that allow the body to help protect itself from many diseases that have been associated with a diet low in Omega-3 fats.
It’s interesting that Okinawans have the highest longevity rate in the world, whose diet is mainly fish-based. Heart disease and cancers, and even mental conditions such as depression, occur less frequently in Eastern cultures like Okinawa, Japan than in Western cultures. I think diet has a lot to do with it.
That said, increasing our intake of Omega 3 may reduce risk of coronary heart disease, reduce high cholesterol, reduce blood pressure, reduce risk of diabetes, help balance triglyceride levels, lower the risk of stroke, prevent certain types of cancers, help lower the onset of age-related degenerative diseases, lower the rate of depression, lower hypertension, and increase the defensive ability of the immune system.
That’s a lot of nutritional benefit from eating more wild salmon but that’s why wild Alaskan salmon is also called a “superfood”.