There was a time, well over a quarter of a century ago, that salmon was considered unhealthy due to its high fat content when compared to the fat content of other fish. Nutritionists and physicians would warn patients who were overweight, obese or had heart problems to stay away from fatty foods, like salmon.
The good fat, Omega-3 fatty acid
Like most things in science, however, as time went on and more studies were conducted, it was found that while fatty fish, like salmon and other darker fish, did contain fat, it was a different kind of fat. This fat was found to be an omega-3-fatty acid, which is a type of fat the body actually needs in order to stay healthy and fight off certain maladies. So, salmon was given the green light, and is now recommended in a healthy diet as a good source of omega-3-fatty acids.
More on Omega-3
The omega-3-fatty acids provided by a diet rich in salmon and other foods like mackerel, flaxseed oil, canola oil and avocados are now touted as the good fat, even available in supplement form. Many people, however, are not clear on what an omega-3-fatty acid is and why it is needed in a healthy diet. Simply put, think of the fatty acid as a chain, with one end named alpha and one end named omega. The number in the name, 3 in this case, indicates how many carbons from the omega end a double bond is located, or using the chain analogy, how many links until there is a double link, or a very strong link from the omega end.
It’s a polyunsaturated fat
To the average person, this may not seem important, but to a chemist, it tells them pertinent information regarding the chemical qualities. So, an omega-3-fatty acid is a long chained fatty acid, polyunsaturated, meaning it has at least two double bonds, with the first one being 3 carbons from the omega end. It’s just geography. However, different loci of the double bonds make completely different chemicals, just like different locations on a map indicate different areas with different qualities. Omega-6-fatty acids are also polyunsaturated fatty acids, but they are found in soybean oil, corn oil, meat, and other foods. Unlike omega-3s, however, research has found diets high in omega-6s tend to cause a higher rate of hypercholesterolemia and heart disease. So, it really is all about “location, location, location”.
People who participated in several different studies on the consumption of salmon and other omega-3 rich foods showed a decreased risk of developing dementia, arthritis, cancer and heart disease. Additionally, those who had already experienced a heart attack were found not only less likely to have an additional cardiac episode, but if they did have another heart attack, their mortality rate was dramatically reduced, even if they began a diet rich in omega-3s after their initial heart attack.
Influence of vitamins and minerals
However, such studies tend to be somewhat inexplicit because those who ate the diet rich in salmon also tended to eat other seafood such as lobster, oysters and crab. All of these other foods contain large amounts of calcium, magnesium and vitamin C, which can skew the results in favor of omega-3s because the aforementioned vitamins and minerals are known to be heart healthy and usually accompanied not only by other healthy foods, but healthy habits in general.
Salmon, while commonly known as promoting cardiac health, has also been associated with promoting health in several physiological areas. With its high concentration of omega-3 fatty acid, salmon can ensure proper eye, spine and neurological development of the fetus and help protect the elderly against neurological deficits.
Regarding the neurological benefits of salmon, there have been recent studies conducted, theorizing that in addition to reducing the risk of dementia in the elderly, it can also help adults who are suffering with depression and other mood disorders deal with their illness and reduce the need for pharmaceutical therapies.
Healthy skin and joints have also been noted in studies developed mainly to promote the consumption of salmon as part of a healthy cardiac regimen. In fact, the American Heart Association has a dietary guideline recommendation that adults should eat at least two servings of salmon (or another omega-3 rich fish) per week. So, the next time a person rejects salmon because of the fat content, some of the details in the above paragraphs can be shared with them; for their own edification, of course.There was a time, well over a quarter of a century ago, that salmon was considered unhealthy due to its high fat content when compared to the fat content of other fish. Nutritionists and physicians would warn patients who were overweight, obese or had heart problems to stay away from fatty foods, like salmon.