Salmon is the most sought-after fish, cherished for its delicious, omega-3-rich pink meat. This medium-sized, oily fish lives in the Pacific waters extending from the Pacific coasts of Asia and North America and Atlantic coasts of Europe and North America.
Salmons belong to the salmonidae family of marine fish. Some of the commercial important salmons are Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), Chum Salmon (O. keta), Coho Salmon (O. kisutch), Pink (humpback) salmon (O. gorbuscha), Sockeye (O. nerka), Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar), Danube Salmon (Hucho hucho), cherry salmon (O. masou).
|Chinook salmon. Photo courtesy: Sam Beebe|
Salmons are large, fatty fish. They feed on krill (small crustaceans) and forage on small fish in the ocean. Salmon species exhibit dramatic physical features and color changes between marine and spawning phases.
In general, all salmon species feature long, oval bodies, small heads, small eyes, and a lower opening mouth that gape back below its eye. The mouth contains a row of stout, conical teeth. Its body features large scales and caudal fins (ray fins). Atlantic salmon grows 2 to 3 feet long and weighs up to 10 pounds.
Chinook Salmon is the largest Pacific salmon, typically growing up to 5 feet in length and can weigh up to 30 pounds.
Salmons are anadromous fish that live in saltwater as an adult but migrate into fresh water in the spring to spawn. Their lifespan ranges from 12 years for Atlantic salmon to about 5 years for sockeye. However, it varies even in the same species, since oftentimes, young "grilse" return to their natal waters to spawn and die soon after greatly shortening their lifespan.
Salmon is a large migratory fish completing its fascinating journey from natal freshwater streams, rivers, lakes, open bay, and to deep ocean waters, and back again to its natal waters to spawn and die.
They require cold, clean, oxygenated water to survive, and optimal temperatures vary depending on the species and life stage. Young smolts feed primarily on insects, small crustaceans, and other fish larvae.
On average, salmons hold about 160 calories per 100 grams of meat. American Heart Association recommends the consumption of at least 2 servings of oily fish to fulfill requirements of essential fatty acids, protein, minerals, and fat-soluble vitamins.
All species of salmons are rich sources of vitamin A, vitamin D, and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (PUFA).
Salmon is an excellent source of protein; 100 g provides 19.93 g (36% of RDI). Its protein profile encompasses all the essential amino acids in healthy ratios.
Salmon fish is rich in omega-3 eicosapentaenoicacid (EPA), docosapantaenoicacid (DPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) fatty acids. Research studies suggest that these fatty acids, particularly DHA, play an important role in the development of neural systems, especially in infants and children.
In adults, several large trials have evaluated the effect of fish or fish oils on heart disease. In the "GISSI Prevention Trial, heart attack survivors who took a 1-gram capsule of omega-3 fats every day for three years were less likely to have a repeat heart attack, stroke, or die of sudden death than those who took a placebo".
It is one of the finest sources of some B-complex vitamins such as niacin (provides 53% RDI/100 g), pyridoxine, and riboflavin.
Vitamin-A (453 IU/100g) is plentiful in salmons. vitamin-A and omega-3 are essential for healthy mucosa and skin.
100 g of salmon holds 526 IU of vitamin D; about 131% of daily recommended intake. Vitamin D plays an important role in the calcium metabolism and offers protection from cancers.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that pregnant women eat at least 8 ounces and up to 12 ounces (340 grams) of a variety of seafood lower in mercury a week.
Furthermore, salmons are composed of significant amounts of minerals including calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium. In this marine fish, the other trace elements commonly found are selenium and iodine.
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percent of RDA|
|Total Fat||10.43 g||52%|
|Dietary Fiber||0 g||0%|
|Omega-3 fats (PUFA)|
|EPA (20:5 n-3)||1.008 g||--|
|DPA (22:5 n-3)||0.301 g||--|
|DHA (22:6 n-3)||0.944 g||--|
Salmon sold as fresh, frozen, smoked, salt-cured, dried, and canned. You can buy either whole fish or dress it into steaks, roasts, and fillets.
Buy high-quality fish from authentic sellers. Purchase a whole salmon side or a fillet that is cut from the thickest part of the fish. Wild Pacific and Atlantic salmon will have pinker and brighter flesh than farmed varieties. Wild-caught are nutritionally rich and less in toxins than farmed ones. There are reported cases of farmed salmons containing artificial colorants/dye to make them look as pink as the wild salmon.
In the markets, you can come across ready-to-cook products such as salmon pâté, kabobs, marinated and peppered steaks and fillets, frozen entrees, jerky, salted, and burgers.
Avoid those with a strong fishy odor. Avoid smoked salmon with dried or brown edges that appear leaky and wet.
Salmon spoils quickly as its flesh is fatty and attracts bacteria. Always store in the freezer section of the home refrigerator.
The flesh close to the head of the fish is more delicate than the flesh nearer the tail. If you prefer to skin, just peel it inside out. Remove any bones before cooking.
Salmon may be pan-roasted, shallow fried, broiled, foil-baked, and grilled in the preparation of a variety of mouth-watering menus. Just ensure it should be cooked until the meat is opaque and flakes off easily.
Here are some serving ideas:
|Caesar salad. Photo credit: pui wong|
Smoked salmon is often served with capers and then slices of sweet onion.
It is used to give a special touch to sandwiches, salads, omelets, pasta dishes, mousses, and quiches. Avoid masking its flavor.
Canned salmon is used in sandwiches, salads, sauces, omelets and quiches. It is cooked in mousses, soufflés, pâté and crepes. As a spread, it is used on sandwiches, and canapés.
Salmon caviar (ikura) and roe in sacs (sujiko) are employed in sushi, and rice dishes in Japan.
Reports of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and antibiotics in farmed salmon have been cited in major publications, warning consumers about the harmful effects of eating farmed salmon on health. Also, artificial dyes injected salmon samples to make them appear pink have also been reported, further apprehending the consumers. (Medical disclaimer).
≺≺ Also read Lobster nutrition facts and health benefits.
Further reading (Links opens in new window):
Chinook Salmon. PDF.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Contribution.