Go, Fish: In This Case, Salmon

It’s no wonder that salmon has become a go-to protein for keeping us ship shape. In general, fish is full of good-for-us nutrients—and salmon leads the pack (or school) thanks to its being an excellent source of protein as well as vitamins and minerals (including vitamin B12, selenium, and potassium). Add the heart-health champion omega-3 fatty acids you get when enjoying this tasty treat and you’ve got a real winner for getting and/or staying healthy.

Although science has yet to determine exactly why fish oil (rich in omega-3s) is so beneficial for the heart, it may be because it helps reduce inflammation and high blood pressure, decreases triglycerides, raises good HDL cholesterol and makes blood thinner and less sticky (so it’s less likely to clot). These represent all of the major risk factors for heart disease. And because omega-3s help reduce inflammation, they are also the healthiest fats for people with arthritis or other inflammatory diseases and even might help reduce the frequency, duration, and severity of migraine headaches.

Kid-Friendly, Kid Beneficial

Fatty fish like salmon has also been shown to improve cognitive function. Omega-3s—specifically the type known as DHA—are an important component of brain cell membranes. Of course, getting kids to eat fish can sometimes be a struggle. But as parents, we should keep trying.

My simple and healthy recipe for Ricotta-Dill Salmon Patties offers all the benefits of salmon while serving it up in kid-tempting burger-like patties.

You can also make salmon more kid-friendly by topping it with a sweet glaze like teriyaki or hoison sauce (as in this Hoisin-Glazed Salmon)—or by mixing flaked salmon into a pasta dish with lemon and garlic sauce. And it should be noted that for us bigger kids, research shows it’s never too late to reap the brain-boosting benefits of a diet high in omega-3s.

The D-List

Salmon (along with Atlantic mackerel) also happens to be one of the few substantial food sources for vitamin D, which is crucial for overall health since it allows our bodies to absorb and use calcium—a nutrient that protects bones, teeth and gums from disease. The naturally occurring vitamin D found in salmon makes it easier for teeth and bones to get the full power of calcium from the other foods being consumed.

Wild at Heart?

Recently, there’s been a big debate in nutritional circles about which is better for us—wild salmon vs. farmed. Wild salmon is more preferable because of the higher rate of contaminants found in farmed. These findings are the result of an in-depth study (“Risk-Based Consumption Advice for Farmed Atlantic and Wild Pacific Salmon Contaminated with Dioxins and Dioxin-like Compounds”).

Say Goodbye to the Fish Platter

Salmon is a more versatile recipe ingredient than you might think. While salmon steaks are the tried-and-true way to go, there are newer, more inventive options for serving up your new nutritional best friend.

Joy Bauer, MS, RDN, CDN, is the health and nutrition expert for NBC’s Today Show and founder of Nourish Snacks.

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