5 Benefits of Eating Wild Alaska Salmon

I will list 5 benefits of eating Wild Alaska Salmon because eating healthy is at the top of my list, especially when I go to the grocery store and see so many choices.  How do I know which food items are the healthy choices and which ones aren’t? The fastest way for me to get information on healthy food choices is to do an internet search.

When I started seeing “Atlantic Farm Raised Salmon” in the grocery stores, I wanted to know what I was buying.  Being raised in Alaska, I knew the best, tastiest salmon was wild  Alaska salmon.  I had to ask myself some questions:  Is there a difference between wild caught and farm raised?  What are the differences?  Is one healthier than the other to eat?  The first time I saw Atlantic farm raised salmon in the store, I didn’t buy it because I was concerned about health issues.

What Does “Farm Raised Fish” Mean?

Farm raised fish are raised in tanks, net pens, or other enclosures.  They are located in sea water, impacting the local environment and eco-systems with their waste by-products (chemicals, antibiotics, and fish pellet food).  Fish are crammed into these enclosures causing disease so they rely heavily on antibiotics.  They are fed unnatural diets such as corn meal, soy, genetically modified canola oil and even pellets of chicken feces.  Growth hormones and other chemicals are added so they can quickly gain weight to be ready for market as early as they can.   Farm raised salmon are often fed chemicals to provide the pink coloring to the meat to make them look like wild salmon.

Farm raised salmon has seven times more polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) than wild Alaska salmon (1).  PCBs are man-made and were used in electrical equipment.  They were banned in the 1970’s because of the environmental impact to eco-systems and health concerns for humans.   Farm raised salmon have lower levels of protein, and contain omega-3s, which are at higher levels than wild Alaska salmon; however, their effectiveness is lowered because the levels of omega-6 fatty acids (unhealthy fat) are much higher.   We need to think about what these chemicals, antibiotics, and unhealthy fats are doing to our bodies and health.

There are some fish farms on the East Coast of the US and Canada that are regulated by the government with higher standards, but these farmed salmon are still not a healthy alternative to wild Alaska salmon.  The US is also developing onshore, closed farms as a way of containing the waste, making them easier to treat.  They are experimenting with recirculating systems, hoping to filter wastewater so there is less impact on the environment.  See Monterey Bay Acquarium Seafood Watch salmon recommendations based on these categories: Best, Good Alternative and AVOID.(2)

What Does “Wild Fish” Mean?

Wild fish come to us from the oceans, lakes, rivers and streams where they live and grow in their natural habitat. Salmon are born in fresh water, journey to the ocean, and then return to where they were born to reproduce and die.  However, there are some salmon species that

sockeye salmon return

Alaska Sockeye Salmon Return to Spawn

remain in fresh water their entire lifespan, but still roam free unlike farm raised salmon. Their diets are natural and aren’t full of chemicals and antibiotics.  Wild fish in the oceans such as salmon, eat krill (small crustaceans) and shrimp, which have very low contaminants such as mercury.

Because they roam free, they are not prone to disease like farm raised salmon crammed into small enclosures.  They grow naturally in the wild, rather than quickly as they do in pens filled with growth hormones.  Wild salmon have a short lifespan so contaminants don’t build up in them as they do in salmon that are farm raised quickly in chemicals and antibiotics.  Wild Alaska salmon come from the cleanest and purest water–where you can actually stand on the banks of a river to fish for them.  You can find out more about wild Alaska salmon from the State of Alaska such as Fish Facts and Consumption Guidelines.  (3)

5 Benefits of Eating Wild Salmon

  1. There is more than a days’ worth of vitamin D in one serving of wild salmon.
  2. Wild salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids which is a natural anti-inflammatory.
  3. Omega-3 fatty acids help to keep bones and joints healthy, help our brains function efficiently, and reduce the risk of developing atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
  4. They are a source of lean protein, zinc, iron, selenium and vitamins A, C and D. Vitamin A, D and selenium protects the nervous system from age-related damage.
  5. Wild Alaska Salmon and other Alaska seafood come from clean, pristine waters, resulting in lower mercury levels than most wild caught seafood harvested from around the world.

If I have a choice of farm raised Atlantic salmon or wild Alaska salmon, I will choose wild salmon every time.

Fraud and Mislabeling

According to a study by Oceana, they found that of the 82 salmon samples in the winter of 2013-2014 from restaurants and grocery stores, 43 percent were mislabeled and DNA testing found that farm raised Atlantic salmon was being sold as wild-caught. Their labels claimed that they were wild, Alaska or Pacific, but the DNA proved them to be farmed Atlantic salmon.  They also found that labeling included specificity of types of salmon, but DNA tests showed that they were lower-value fish. You can download a copy of the report here. (4)(5)

How You Can Tell if You Are Buying Wild Alaska Salmon

  • Buy fresh Alaska wild salmon when it is in season (late May to October) or fresh-frozen at sea. During the winter months, buy canned sockeye (red) Alaska salmon as it is all wild.
  • Fresh fish, including salmon, should not have a smell. If it does when you open the package, return it to the store from where you bought it.
  • Fresh wild Alaska salmon (sockeye) should be bright red (not pink), firm to the touch, and with even color throughout.
  • A good sign of high omega-3 fatty acids is white marbling on the fish. The white lines should be thin.  If it is labeled “wild” and the white lines are fat and the color is pale pink, then it’s farm raised so watch for mislabeling too.

You can find out more about the nutritional impact that wild Alaska salmon has on your health by visiting Dr. Mercola’s website.  Dr. Mercola is an osteopathic physician.  Osteopathic physicians treat the whole person, not just the symptoms. (6)

So What is Your Choice—Wild Alaska Salmon or Atlantic Farm Raised?

Weigh the benefits and differences between wild Alaska salmon and farm raised Atlantic salmon to make your decision based on your own health needs or preferences. It is really up to you.  My choice will always be wild Alaska salmon, so, today I bought wild Alaska salmon for dinner tonight.   Before I bought it, I made sure it was labeled “Wild” and it read “Sockeye”; it was bright red, and firm to my touch with thin white lines.  I can’t wait for dinner tonight!

Watch this video of Alaska Copper River Sockeye Salmon Cooking Demonstration:

Photo credit: www.wbayer.com – www.facebook.com/wbayercom via RemodelHunt / CC BY

Photo credit: www.wbayer.com – www.facebook.com/wbayercom via RemodelHunt / CC BY

Photo: Alaska Sockeye Salmon Return to Spawn -Photo credit: USFWS Pacific via Interior Design / CC BY

Photo credit: USFWS Pacific via Interior Design / CC BY

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