The Nutritional Benefits of Wild Fish

The Nutritional Benefits of Wild Fish

All fish are loaded with omega-3 and the same, right? Eh, not quite. Here’s why you should choose the wild variety as part of your healthy diet.

SUMMER! You've got your survival guide ready and you’re on the road to getting in the best shape of your life. Or at least you’re considering losing those last five pounds after seeing the transformation of your token chubby buddy into Greek God on the beach over Memorial Day. Whatever the reason, it’s time to DO WORK and change up your eating habits.

But a dude/chick can only have so much grilled chicken, and fish is a great way to switch things up while getting some different nutrients in the process. Unfortunately, along with the protein that fish provides comes a lot of other crap if you’re not careful about where it’s sourced from. While this is true about fish in general, today we’re gonna take a closer look at a health-nut fave: salmon.

You’ve probably heard that salmon is chock full of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids (AKA fish oil) that can help everything from depression to heart disease, make your skin and nails healthier, and even make you more intelligent! Who would complain about that? But, as it turns out, the benefits are dependent on quality, and some salmon (i.e. most of the farm-raised variety) aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

Farmed V. Wild

Wild salmon are like the equivalent of local, grass fed beef from a small farm. Unfortunately only 10-20% of the US salmon supply comes from the wild. The other 80% is farmed. Fish farming, aka aquaculture, has been called the equivalent of a “floating pig farm”. Sick. But there are several other reasons why fish farming is prcoessed meat nasty, besides being mean to poor little Nemo.

My man Dr. Seuss once said “One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish”. How about grey fish? Yes, I’m talking about that distinguishing bright “pink” salmon flesh. What if it was actually an ugly grey that was dyed pink with synthetic pigments?

No joke. You can even select which tone you want on your very own SalmoFan! I wouldn’t mind my kitchen being a #20 and my future (hybrid) Range Rover being a #33 or #34, but really, choosing the pigment of fish?

Wild salmon is naturally bright pink because it eats little pink krill (like mini shrimp). Farmed fish, on the other hand, eat ground up fish meal and fish oil – essentially processed food. Let’s not even get into the use of genetically modified soy, vegetable protein, or chicken feathers and slaughter waste for food. Ew. Besides being unnatural, unsustainable, and polluting the environment, fish meal doesn’t give those fishies the pretty pink color we’re used to seeing. Enter the SalmoFan. As if this wasn’t already ridiculous enough, canthaxanthin, one of the most commonly used dyes, hasn’t been proven safe and has been linked to vision damage. And that’s just the beginning.

A captive fish city serves as the ideal incubator for nasty infectious diseases and parasites like sea lice. As if this wasn’t terrible for the fish supply, the environment, or your health, they throw some chemicals in: vaccinations and antibiotics, antiparasitic drugs, fungicides and insecticides. Hellooooo, antibiotic resistance! Oh, and did I mention how a study found that farmed salmon had 16x more toxic PCB’s (polychlorinated biphenyls) than wild? I’d bet you a 1R shopping spree that a post-practice/workout dinner of carcinogenic crap is not listed as part of your meal plan.

I know, I know, forget the ocean, because this is about YOU, protein lover. Well it’s worth noting that farmed salmon contain 15% less protein than the wild variety, far fewer heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and a higher percentage of total fat. Check out this comparison chart:

(Side note: Wild Atlantic salmon is endangered and illegal to fish. Coho= Alaskan)

So yeah, that was a little exhausting. What are your key takeaways? For one, wild salmon is always worth the extra price, but if it’s out of your budget, don’t reach for that faux-pink fish just yet.

  1. Buy frozen wild salmon, keep it in the freezer, and use as needed.
  2. Usually canned salmon is wild. Go for skinless/boneless. Mix with lowfat condiments like mayo/greek yogurt/lemon juice and herbs and make a lttle sandwich or salad…
  3. If salmon is going to be a little more infrequent now that you’re staying wild, get the heart health benefits from a high-quality fish oil.

If you’re not sure or confused by a totally contradictory label like the one above, remember these two general rules: If a fish is wild:

  1. It will always brag about it on the label/menu
  2. It will never also say “farm raised”

And it’s really as simple as that. Use that cabeza of yours (it’s there for other things than boozing!), opt for healthier versions of this superior source of protein, throw salmon on top of a delicious salad recipe, and enjoy!

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About the Author

Carolyn is a Nutritionist/Registered Dietitian and has her masters in Clinical Nutrition from NYU. She went to Tulane in New Orleans for undergrad, spent 3 months traveling around the world on Semester at Sea and then swung through Boulder, CO before landing in her current home of NYC. Carolyn has a blog called One Smart Brownie (www.onesmartbrownie.com) to simplify healthy eating for those who don’t spend their lives studying nutrition. Her favorite hobbies include getting new stamps on her passport and telling yo mama jokes, and she says that if she were to have a crush on a food it would be chocolate biscotti, no questions asked.