Nutrition Showdown: Farmed vs Wild Salmon

Holistic nutritionist, and Skipper Otto’s member, Melissa Evanson will be contributing some nutrition-focused blog posts over the next few months, starting with her take on the nutritional value of farmed vs. wild salmon. Have questions about seafood and nutrition? Melissa will be at the Fisherman’s Wharf pick up on Thu July 6 to answer all your questions. Not in Vancouver? Email us at info@skipperotto.ca with your questions and Melissa will answer them on our Facebook page.

 

We’ve all seen the headlines and heard about what a nutritional powerhouse salmon is:

“Salmon the everyday superfood!”

“Top 10 reasons to eat more salmon!”

“Why you aren’t eating enough salmon!”

Salmon is credited for everything from decreasing inflammation1, lowering blood pressure2, and reducing cancer risk3. But is all salmon created equal or does farmed salmon differ nutritionally from wild-caught salmon? Let’s take a closer look.

There are a few key differences between farmed and wild salmon.

Farmed salmon have a higher fat content than their wild counterparts which means it has more calories and less protein per serving, and a higher omega-3 essential fatty acid (EFA) content.

You’d think higher omega-3s would be a good thing and mean more omega-3 per serving. Not exactly.

 

You can’t get one without the other

Nutritional assessments have found more omega-3s per gram in farmed compared to wild salmon, but farmed salmon also comes with a substantial serving of omega-6s. We then need to factor in that omega-6s and omega-3s compete for the same receptors in our bodies4. So looking to the ratio of omega-3:6 as opposed to total omega-3 is essential when assessing health and nutritional benefits. When we do that, we can see that wild salmon have a significant nutritional advantage with a 14:1 ratio vs the 3:1 ratio of farmed salmon (see table).

You may ask “What’s so bad about omega-6? Aren’t they also an ‘essential fatty acid’?”
Yes, but…

Omega-6 and omega-3 are both EFAs, which means they are essential for the body and need to be consumed via the diet. Throughout history, humans ate a diet where EFAs were balanced. But over the past century, dietary shifts have resulted in significant increases in our consumption of omega-6s and decreases in our consumption of omega-3s. This has resulted in increased prevalence of weight gain, obesity5, and chronic inflammation6 due to the difference in response that omega-6 EFAs elicit in the body compared to omega-3s.

 

With great fat, comes great responsibility

Increased fat in farmed salmon brings other things with it. Farmed salmon have been found to have significantly higher concentrations of “fat-loving” contaminants as PCBs, dioxins, and pesticides7, most likely due to their feed. While it has been argued that the benefits of consuming omega-3s from farmed salmon outweigh the health risks of contaminants, why risk it if you can eat wild salmon instead of farmed?

The bottom line: wild salmon wins over farm salmon from a nutritional standpoint, whether it be based on contaminant levels, healthy fats, or overall micronutrient density.

Find out more tips and approaches for optimal health at www.facebook.com/melissaevansonrhn/

 

Melissa Evanson, R.H.N.
melissaevansonrhn@gmail.com

 

References

1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24860193

2 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26817716

3 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4418048/

4 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25373089

5 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4808858/

6 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3335257/

7 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16323755

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