February 27, 2020

What Type of Salmon Is the Healthiest to Eat?

There are many different types of salmon — specifically, five types of Pacific salmon and two types of Atlantic salmon. These days, Atlantic salmon is typically farmed, while Pacific salmon species are primarily wild-caught. Wild-caught Pacific salmon are typically considered to be the healthiest salmon.


Atlantic salmon and Pacific salmon both live in regions around the northern United States. However, any Atlantic salmon you find in your local supermarket likely comes from a farm.

The Atlantic salmon and Pacific salmon sold throughout the United States were all once wild-caught. Wild Atlantic salmon is now considered endangered because its population is declining. Catching wild Atlantic salmon is consequently banned. Farmed Atlantic salmon are considered substantially different from their wild counterparts. It's fine to eat farmed Atlantic salmon, though most people don't consider this the best salmon to eat due to its reduced nutrition, bland flavor and the negative effect farms can have on the environment.


At most American grocery stories, Pacific salmon can be purchased wild-caught or farmed. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game explains that there are five main types of Pacific salmon:

  • Chum or dog salmon
  • Coho or silver salmon
  • Chinook or king salmon
  • Pink or humpy salmon
  • Sockeye or red salmon

Each of these species can be found in the Bristol Bay watershed and share this pristine ecosystem with many other fish species. Pride of Bristol Bay is a trusted purveyor of wild sockeye salmon in fillets or portions. 

Never frozenFresh, wild-caught Pacific salmon is usually only sold between June and September, but with good freezing practices (read the 5 Main Advantages to Flash Freezing here) these species are available all year long through trusted, fishermen-owned companies like Pride of Bristol Bay.r.


The main difference between farmed and wild salmon involves how the fish is raised. Farmed salmon are raised in pens and fed fishmeal, fish oil and other protein-rich foods that aren’t part of the species’ natural food source. In comparison, wild salmon roam between freshwater and the open ocean. They consume a varied natural diet of zooplankton and smaller fish, some of which have the naturally-occuring compound astaxanthin, which is responsible for the rich red color of wild fish. Many farmed salmon are dyed pink and red to match the natural color of their wild counterparts. 

The differences in how these fish are raised influences their nutrition. According to Harvard Health Publishing, both wild and farmed salmon are rich in healthy unsaturated fats known as omega-3 fatty acids. However, the exact nutritional benefits that farmed salmon can provide you with vary based on the food your salmon consumed. Farmed salmon typically have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Unfortunately, they also have larger amounts of unhealthy saturated fats compared to wild-caught salmon and unnatural food additives, like antibiotics. You may be able to find certified organic farmed salmon in your local grocer, because the fish has been fed “organic” fish meal and other foods not natural for it. Wild sockeye salmon is natural in every way. 

This difference is primarily caused by the food that the farmed salmon is fed throughout its life. A February 2016 study in the Journal of Scientific Reports found that farmed salmon primarily fed a land-based fishmeal diet had lower levels of healthy unsaturated fatty acids and more saturated fats than wild-caught fish and farmed fish that had been fed marine-based fishmeal.

The American Heart Association recommends minimizing your saturated fat intake and increasing your healthy unsaturated fat intake whenever possible. Because farmed salmon is likely to have more saturated fat than wild salmon, many people consider wild-caught fish the healthiest salmon. Farmed salmon may also lack certain essential nutrients present in wild-caught fish.

However, if you're unable to obtain wild-caught salmon, both Harvard Health Publishing and the study in the Journal of Scientific Reports still consider farmed salmon to be a healthy choice. This is because both farmed and wild salmon have more healthy unsaturated fats and less unhealthy saturated fats compared to other commonly consumed sources of protein, like steak and chicken. That being said, it is important to understand the difference between farmed and wild fish before purchasing for you and your family. 

Consuming fish like salmon twice a week can have benefits for your cardiovascular health, preventing issues like heart disease and stroke, thanks to the unsaturated omega fats. Although many marine products contain omega fatty acids, both farmed and wild salmon are a particularly healthy choice of seafood because they are also low in mercury and Omega-3s can be exceptionally good for your brain health. To purchase wild, all-natural sockeye salmon direct from the fishermen check out our buy page here


This article has been adapted from its original form for the readers at Pride of Bristol Bay. This article has been adapted from its original form for the readers at Pride of Bristol Bay READ THE ORIGINAL, FULL ARTICLE

LIVESTRONG.COM - By Siddhi Camila Lama, MS, PhD, CNC, CPT


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