Nicole Spear, MS, CNS
Salmon: A Super-Protein (with recipes!)
Salmon is, by far, one of the most beneficial proteins for optimal health and wellness. We hear a lot about “super-foods,” which are coined so as a result of their impressive nutrient composition per volume.
Salmon is my “super-protein” because of its unrivaled health benefits and for the diverse culinary options it offers.
Unfortunately, an increasing number of Americans turn up their noses to fish and seafood, in favor of the juicy red burger or the conventional poultry. I suppose it is very “American” to surrender to (and foster!) the power of preference when making dietary choices, but of course, our health often reflects this attitude and soon medical burdens may force us to choose wisely, rather than selfishly. Fortunately, for the “picky eaters,” salmon is a more mild-flavored fish and can assume a variety of flavors based on how it is prepared.
Health Benefits of Salmon
1) It is an ANTI-INFLAMMATORY protein. To the average “Joe,” this statement will be meaningless, but your interest may be piqued if I informed you that inflammation was responsible for a vast majority of our common health problems, including cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes. Most of us have experienced a cut or scrape on our skin, which resulted in temporary redness, heat, swelling and pain. These are the 4 characteristics of inflammation and is our body’s way of sounding an alarm regarding potential danger. The immune system sends “first responders” to the scene of action to control infection, stop the bleeding, and begin the process of repair.
On a larger scale, stress, toxins, a poor diet, and lack of exercise will sound a continual alarm, leading to a low-grade level of inflammation throughout the entire body. This is known as chronic, systemic inflammation. As first responders continuously circulate through the body and keep the immune system active, the stress of inflammation mounts, leading to various health conditions. Cardiovascular disease involves inflammation of the blood vessels. Inflamed cells in any organ system are prone to mutations and more apt to become cancerous in the presence of active inflammation. Various endocrine organs respond to inflammation by raising hormone levels and affecting metabolism. Chronic, systemic inflammation damages brain cells, potentially increasing risks of poor mental and cognitive health. The bones respond to inflammation by releasing calcium and minerals, leading to osteoporosis and joint deterioration.
Keeping inflammation controlled is vital for good health and the special fats and proteins found in salmon, help to curb the inflammatory response in the body.
2) It is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, a 3oz fillet of salmon contains nearly 2200mg of omega-3 fats, making it twice as potent as traditional fish oil capsules, which may or may not deliver fresh, unprocessed omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fats not only fight against inflammation, but they also feed the brain and central nervous system. Omega-3 fats are critical for developing children’s cognitive skills, but are also important for balancing moods and behaviors. Studies show that adequate omega-3 fats can be beneficial for ADHD, autism, Alzheimer’s, and dementia. Omega-3 fats will optimize brain function, memory, concentration and mood.
Omega-3 fats are important for supporting the immune system, making them ideal for protecting against the recent trends of autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Crohn’s disease, and others.
Finally, omega-3 fats boost cardiovascular health by balancing cholesterol, normalizing blood viscosity (aka. thickness), counteracting inflammation associated with hardening of the arteries and protecting against heart arrhythmias.
3) A 3oz fillet contains nearly 40mcg (57% RDA) of selenium to support thyroid health. Stressful lifestyles, toxins, and dietary deficiencies are contributing to the rise in hypothyroidism and the need for thyroid support. Selenium and iodine are partners in thyroid health, acting together to activate thyroid hormones. This critical gland will not function adequately if either of these nutrients are missing and unfortunately, neither nutrient is well-sourced in the traditional American diet.
4) Canned salmon (with the bones) can provide nearly 400IU (100% RDA) of vitamin D. A vitamin D deficiency is extraordinarily common among Americans, leading to poor bone health, weakened immune systems and increased risks for all forms of cancer. There has been a massive effort to make individuals and doctors aware of the importance of vitamin D and the lack adequate dietary vitamin D. However, it is important to emphasize that the vitamin D is found in the bones of canned salmon, so crunch away!
How To Purchase Salmon
Before exploring a few appetizing ways to serve this super-protein, it is important to know how to purchase it. Always purchase wild-caught salmon and walk away from the farmed salmon. Farmed salmon are not raised in a natural environment nor fed a natural diet. They are fed a diet of genetically-modified corn and soy; therefore, the nutrient content of farmed salmon is significantly different from wild-caught salmon. Many salmon farms also add artificial dye to make the salmon appear more pink and fresher. Farmed salmon can be laced with antibiotics and heavy metals, neither of which are good for your gut or health. If that doesn’t disturb you, this next fact should. The FDA has now approved genetically engineered salmon, produced by AquaBounty Technologies in Massachusetts, despite ongoing law suits from those concerned about the dangers of genetically engineered salmon.
Canned or frozen wild-caught salmon are equally healthy, but look for canned salmon in BPA free cans. Canned salmon should include the bones if you want to benefit from the vitamin D.
Classic Baked Lemon Salmon with Spices
This is my most classic and versatile recipe. It can be as simple as baking salmon with the only the first 5 ingredients, or you can begin adding any of the extra ingredients to make this a gourmet dish. Gluten-free, dairy-free, Nut-free, Candida-safe, Paleo-friendly, Vegan….kidding on that last one! Ingredients:
Unrefined, extra virgin coconut oil
Celtic Sea Salt
Dill (fresh or dry)
Parsley (fresh or dry)
Red onion, sliced
Instructions: Line a baking sheet or glass dish with parchment paper for easy cleanup. Place each fillet (skin down) on the parchment paper and coat with melted coconut oil. Squeeze fresh lemon (or pour 100% lemon juice) over the fillets. You may add more or less to taste. The more lemon juice you add, the less “fishy” the flavor. Sprinkle generous amounts of celtic sea salt and pepper, to taste. Layer any of the optional spices on top, as desired. Bake at 400 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes or until the fillets begin to fall apart with a fork.
Dijon Salmon This salmon recipe is sweeter, but equally versatile. It is a great option for those who are not fans of salmon and need a little help befriending this protein. Gluten-free, dairy-free, Paleo-friendly, but this is not a Candida-safe recipe.
4 Salmon fillets
1/2 cup melted unrefined, extra virgin coconut oil
6 tablespoons organic Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons raw honey
½ cup almond or pecan meal
½ cup ground flaxseed
4 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
Celtic sea salt
Instructions: In a small bowl, combine the coconut oil, Dijon mustard, raw honey, and optional onion powder. In another bowl, combine the nut meal, flaxseed and parsley. Line a baking sheet or glass dish with parchment paper for easy cleanup. Place each fillet (skin down) on the parchment paper. (Optional: squeeze fresh lemon (or pour 100% lemon juice) over each fillet.) Coat each fillet with the honey mustard sauce, reserving enough to drizzle each fillet later. Generously sprinkle the nut/flax mixture on top of the sauce. Drizzle with remaining honey mustard sauce. Bake at 400 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes or until the fillets begin to fall apart with a fork.
Paleo Salmon Patties I am always trying to find creative ways to add greens to our diet, so this recipe was born to unify both healthy greens and healthy protein. This one is kid-friendly, Paleo-friendly, gluten-free, dairy-free, and Candida-friendly.
1-15oz can wild Alaskan salmon
3 free-range eggs
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup diced spinach, kale or Swiss chard
1 tsp parsley
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
Celtic sea salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Instructions: Drain the liquid from the can, but keep the skin and bones. Add all ingredients together in a bowl and mix well. Using a large frying pan, coated with unrefined coconut oil, cook until each side is browned. The kids will probably appreciate a dab of natural ketchup on top!