It is well known today, that a diet rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids has a wide range of health benefits, including neurological support, cardiovascular support and even cancer prevention.
And because our bodies cannot produce these essential nutrients, one of the best places to obtain these rich compounds are in fatty fish like salmon. However, it is important to note that the source of your Omega 3s is just as important as your quest of it. And in the case of salmon…
Not all salmon is created equally. In some cases, the salmon you consume can actually be detrimental to your health.
So, before you reach over to purchase that bright pink fillet off the shelves, make sure that the price you’re paying for your fish does not come at the cost of your health.
Fraudulent Farmed “Salmon”
When you think of a salmon, you naturally think of a fish that is swimming freely in the sea; one that is active, wild, swimming upstream and foraging for food. The result of this natural lifestyle is a highly nutritious, healthy piece of fish.
So, when you consume a “salmon” that was farm-raised in the opposite environment, expect just that; opposite results.
Countless studies are now revealing the distinct differences between a fish that is raised free in the wild, versus one that is confined to a cage for the entire duration of its lifetime. The differences do not just vary between lifestyle and accommodation, but between diet, health and ultimately nutritional value.
So, what does this mean for your health?
This means that you are potentially consuming a fish that piggybacks off the good reputation of its legitimate counterpart with significantly less to show for it. Farmed salmon contains significantly more calories, more saturated fat, more Omega-6 Fatty Acids (which we do not need more of) and less minerals. Furthermore, it contains less of the brain & heart healthy fats we need like EPA, DHA and significantly less Vitamin D; which is crucial to overall health and wellbeing.
And if that’s not enough, studies have even found farmed salmon to contain a high percentage of contaminants including pesticides, DLC’s, PCB’s, mercury and arsenic.
A Salmon is What a Salmon Eats
The statistics above do not come as a surprise, once you dig a little deeper into the diet and lifestyle of a farmed fish. According to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), a diet suitable for a farmed salmon includes “pellets similar to dog food” including “processed waste”.
This naturally carnivorous species ends up being fed a diet that is completely alien to its genetic makeup, with 50% being genetically engineered soy, corn, wheat gluten and yeast.
Have you ever seen a fish eat a stalk of corn? Me neither…
And regulations state: “There is no “requirement” for fish to be in diets for farmed salmon or any other farmed fish. It is possible to feed salmon on a fish-free diet.”
So if you choose to eat farmed salmon, you will just have to trust that these aquaculture companies actually feed their farmed salmon the 50% fish oils they claim to and not a diet entirely composed of food alien to to their species.
And if that isn’t enough, farmed fish consume a diet that is loaded with other additives such as antibiotics and synthetic “astaxanthin” pigmentation to give it the classic pink salmon color. Because this color naturally occurs through normal diet and lifestyle, these farmed fish have to be fed it instead. That is why farmed fish is a noticeably lighter, pink color in comparison to the deep, dark pink color of wild salmon.
Naturally, the tightly confined feeding grounds for these farmed salmon are also living, breeding grounds for disease. Massive outbreaks are occurring more frequently than ever, spreading sicknesses and disease such as sea lice and fish viruses (ISA- infectious salmon anemia virus, salmon alpha viruses and piscine reovirus), ultimately polluting our oceans and possibly your plate.
Although there is no simple answer on how to eliminate this problem, one step can be to mindfully consume and purchase verified wild salmon for the sake of your health and the environment, too.
New Genetically Engineered Salmon
And if you think you don’t consume genetically modified products but consume untraceable salmon, think again. Just in 2015, the FDA approved the first ever sale of a genetically modified animal to be sold for human consumption. And yes, you guessed it, it is salmon. These salmon are currently farmed and sold through AquAdvantage across North America. The catch? They are not required to be labeled, so you wouldn’t know if you were currently eating it or have been eating it for the past 2+ years. In addition, there is a serious lack of research on how this human-manufactured fish can affect your health long-term.
The Solution? Choose Wild-Caught Salmon.
Organic Opulence’s Pick
When looking to find fish that is both healthy and sustainable, a good online resource to turn to is:
Monterey Bay Aquariums Seafood Watch: Here, fish are thoroughly graded, not only for health purposes, but also for environmental impact.
My favorite choice for Wild Salmon is the Alaskan Sockeye Salmon originating from the Northern Pacific. These salmon are caught using lift nets – a sustainable method – and harvested during early Summer. This is known to produce a healthier, less contaminated round of fish.
If you are looking to purchase wild salmon, but cannot find it at your local grocer, there are great online companies that can ship them straight to your door!
Great sources include Vital Choice and my personal favorite for Sockeye Salmon, Kol Foods.
For more information regarding the topics discussed in this article feel free to visit the following resources:
Feeds for Aquaculture
Brain fatty acid-binding protein and omega-3/omega-6 fatty acids: mechanistic insight into malignant glioma cell migration.
Chronic consumption of farmed salmon containing persistent organic pollutants causes insulin resistance and obesity in mice.
FDA Corrects Misleading Data on GMO Salmon
Fish Faceoff: Wild Salmon vs. Farmed Salmon