The Free Press, Mankato, MN

June 25, 2013

Net benefits of salmon make it a nutritional trophy fish

By April Graff
Hy-Vee Registered Dietitian

---- — Q: I hear a lot about how healthy salmon is, but I’m not sure how to cook it and what to do with it. Also, I’m worried about the mercury in fish. How much should I be eating?

A: These days, everywhere you turn, you hear health professionals encouraging consumption of “fatty fish,” like salmon, due to their omega-3 fats and associated health benefits. Fatty fish are a rich source of DHA and EPA omega-3 fats which are associated with a lower risk of heart disease and may be beneficial in conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, eczema, asthma, depression and bipolar disorder. Additionally, omega-3 fats are critical in the formation of the brain and eyes of developing fetuses.

It’s easy to understand why we’d all benefit from regularly (at least twice per week) consuming fatty fish. Fatty fish, like salmon, are an excellent source of high-quality protein, and are low in saturated fat and cholesterol. A serving of salmon contains more Vitamin D than a glass of milk, another nutrient many of us are lacking in. There is no better time to start eating salmon than right now because it’s Alaska salmon season!

Alaska sockeye salmon are considered the best and are prized by high-end restaurants for their succulent, rich, flavorful and silky flesh. Why are these salmon so spectacular? All wild salmon are born in freshwater and migrate to the salty seas to mature. Eventually, they return to their home streams to spawn -- and because they stop eating prior to and during the trip, they must store extra fat to fuel egg production and provide energy during the trip.

So how should you cook this super-delicious fish? Simply. Alaska sockeye salmon is so delicious you’ll want to let the flavor shine in all its glory. Roasting is the perfect method to bring out the best of the fish’s natural flavor. My favorite method to roast salmon is foolproof. Lay a salmon filet on a foil-lined pan (skin side down). Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place the pan in a cold oven. Then turn the oven on to 400 degrees. Set the timer for 20 minutes. The salmon should flake easily with a fork. Check for doneness after 20 minutes.

The recommendations regarding fish and mercury are that people at the highest risk (pregnant woman and children) may eat up to 12 ounces, or two average meals a week, of fish and shellfish that re considered to be lower in mercury, and they should avoid fish that is considered to be higher in mercury content. Types of fish considered higher in mercury include: shark, swordfish, king mackerel, albacore tuna, and tilefish. Types of fish considered lower in mercury include shrimp, canned light tuna (not albacore), salmon, pollock, and catfish.