Food & Fitness After 50: Seafood Nutrition Part 1

I shared my Alaskan adventure with you in a previous post and today I’ll answer your questions about the nutritional benefits of seafood. You asked so many great questions that I’m breaking it down into two parts, so welcome to Part 1. Thanks to all who submitted questions before my trip and thanks to the experts at Trident Seafoods CorporationSeafood Nutrition Partnership , and the National Fisheries Institute for providing insights for my responses.

Let’s start with an overview of the nutritional benefits of fish:

  • High in lean protein
  • Low in saturated fat (the type that raises bad blood cholesterol levels)
  • Rich in vitamin B12
  • Supports healthy brains, eyes, blood pressure, and triglyceride levels
  • Eating 2-3 servings of seafood a week reduces risk of death from all chronic diseases by about 17%.
  • All fish is healthful, but “fatty” fish are rich in omega-3 fats, specifically EPA and DHA.

Omega-3s are needed for more than a healthy heart. They are also critical for pregnant women and babies for making healthy brains for growing children. Unfortunately, only 1 in 10 of us meet the goal of eating seafood twice each week. (Dietitians take a food first approach, but if you don’t eat seafood, an omega-3 supplement is advised and more on this in a future post.) This chart identifies the fish richest in omega-3s. But, don’t worry if your favorite is on the lower end of the omega-3 chart. In the words of Dr. Tom Brenna of the Dell Pediatric Research Institute at University of Texas, “even fish with low omega-3s can deliver significant amounts if they are consumed frequently.”

snp_rdtoolkit2018_omega3_chart1

So on to your questions!

Question: I would like to understand the different types of salmon.

In last week’s post I gave you a handy way to remind the 5 different types of salmon, but here’s a rundown on the 5 types of wild-caught salmon, according to Analise Gonzales, Sales & Business Development Manager for Trident Seafoods:

  • King salmon or Chinook is the largest species (the current sport-caught world record is 97.25 pounds!) and is rich, moist, and buttery with a robust flavor. It is the highest in omega-3s and you are most likely to find it in an upscale restaurant.
  • Sockeye or red salmon is ruby red in color and remains red throughout cooking. It is high in omega-3s and is the second most abundant Alaskan salmon species.
  • Coho or silver salmon is the most commonly used in foodservice for its taste, color, and price point. It is moderate (compared to King or Sockeye) in omega-3s.
  • Chum or Keta salmon is moderately abundant, so it is a great value fish, with lighter color and milder flavor.
  • Pink salmon is the most abundant and is often used in canned salmon. It has the lowest omega-3s of all the wild-caught salmon.

Question: What’s the difference between Pacific and Atlantic Salmon?

Pacific salmon is wild caught. Atlantic salmon that you buy in the grocery store or  served in a restaurant is farm-raised. According to the National Fisheries Institute, wild Atlantic salmon is protected under the Endangered Species Act, so commercial fishing of Atlantic salmon is not allowed.

As for the nutrient profile, “it is based on what the salmon consume in their diets, and that would differ for wild species as well as farmed,” says registered dietitian Valerie Agyeman, Communications Manager for the Seafood Nutrition Partnership. “For example, Coho salmon from the Great Lakes has a different diet and “exercise regimen” than Alaska Coho. The five species of salmon, as mentioned above, also have different nutrient profiles, including omega-3s. The same is true for Atlantic salmon. What the farmers feed the fish will determine the omega-3 levels in the fish.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) website provides more details on the diet of fish, but wild-caught salmon eat tiny shellfish and krill that have natural pigments, carotenoids (the colorful pigment that we eat in foods like carrots) that give salmon it’s deep red or pink color. Farmed salmon are fed diets that are formulated by nutritionists to include plant proteins, minerals, and vitamins. Many farmed salmon also are fed fish meal that contain fish oil so that they have omega-3 levels in their flesh, providing the beneficial oils to us when we eat them.

Agyeman says “there are a lot of fantastic advances in fish feed for farm-raised salmon, including some nutrient-rich algae-based options loaded with omega-3s.” (And, when we write about fish oil supplements in a future post we’ll talk about algae-based omega-3s which are popular with plant-based eaters who avoid seafood.)

Question: Which salmon tastes better, wild-caught or farm-raised?

It depends on personal taste and what you are accustomed to eating. People who live in Alaska or the Pacific Northwest who grew up eating wild-caught salmon enjoy the bolder taste and meatier texture, compared to farm-raised, but taste is subjective! Farm-raised tend to be fattier than wild-caught salmon.

Seafood is lifesavingQuestion: Does the preparation method, frying vs. grilling, alter the omega-3 content?

Yes, omega-3s are long chains of unsaturated fats and frying can oxidize them, thereby reducing the beneficial omega-3 levels. To preserve the healthy fats, baking, broiling, grilling, or poaching is preferred over frying. But, keep in mind that the type of fish that is fried is usually a milder, white fish (like Tilapia) that is relatively low in omega-3s compared to salmon.

 Question: Does freezing or canning salmon alter the omega-3 content?

According to Agyeman, the answer is, no, “although do keep in mind that different species have different omega-3 levels. Pink salmon, which is often used for canned salmon, is lower in omega-3s than other species.”

Stay tuned for Part 2 where we will look at the differences in smoked salmon, Arctic char vs. salmon, and what to look for in the freezer case when choosing fish.

 

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.