Monday, May 3, 2010

Salmon: Wild or Farmed?

The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fish per week (that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon) to help with heart health. Does it matter if one chooses farmed or wild salmon? Here are points to consider:

Cost: On average, farmed tends to be lower in cost than wild salmon.

Environmental Impact: Farms have more concentrated waste that can seep out and damage the ecosystem. The fish in farms are also more prone to parasites and disease due to living in close quarters, which may then impact nearby fish or require use of pesticides and antibiotics. Wild salmon can remain sustainable when not over-harvested. Alaska, Washington, Oregon and California are still considered sustainable fishing areas.

Nutrition: Wild salmon have higher levels of protein due to swimming long distances and high levels of antioxidants from their natural food source. Farmed salmon have higher fat content, which includes a higher level of undesirable pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids than wild.

Health: Farmed salmon often contain higher levels of hazardous heavy metals and toxins due to their higher fat content.

Taste: Wild salmon typically have a richer, more complex flavor.

Making the personal decision on the best source of salmon can be difficult. Read labels, or ask those working in the seafood department at your local supermarket.

For more information about seafood choices that are best for your family and the environment, visit Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch site.

- Rebecca Rajcich, dietetic intern, and Debra A. Boutin, MS, RD, chair and dietetic internship director, Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University

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