Perhaps you’ve heard that salmon is good for you. Do you know why? Maybe you know a little something about Omega-3s or the importance of fish oil. Does that ring a bell? I hope so, as it means you’re on the right track. If not, read on. Either way, here’s what you NEED to know about salmon – the good, the bad and a recipe to boot.
Omega-3s are very important for us to consume because they are essential for normal metabolism. Our body cannot make them by itself; they must be consumed. Omega-3s are found in plant and marine oils, including salmon and they are VERY important as our health is concerned.
For example, Omega-3s make up significant structural components of our cell membranes of tissues throughout the body including the retina, brain and sperm. Yup, Omega-3s are important from conception right on through the rest of your life, especially if you want to remain in your “right mind.”
The brain is highly dependent on DHA – one of three forms of Omega-3 – as low DHA levels have been linked to depression, memory loss, schizophrenia and neurological diseases (Alzheimer’s , Parkinson’s, etc.). The incidence of neurological diseases and other health problems appear to worsen as we consume more Omega-6 essential fatty acids as compared to Omega-3. Ideally, our ratio should be pretty close to 1:1. Let’s take a look at where each comes from:
Healthy Omega-6 come from eggs, poultry, whole-grains and some vegetables. Unfortunately, they also come from vegetable oil, which most Americans are sucking down right, left and center. AVOID ALL hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats, margarine, vegetable oil and shortening. These oils are often “hidden” in many cakes, cookies, crackers, granola bars, candy bars, fried foods and fast foods. Now, you’re not supposed to eat that crap anyway, so much of that shouldn’t be a problem, right?
Omega-3s are prominently found in wild, cold-water fish (salmon, herring, sardines, tuna, halibut, etc.) and wild game (ex. buffalo and venison). These are the best sources of the fatty acids DHA and EPA. The third Omega-3 – ALA – can be found in walnuts, seeds (flax, chia, hemp), some nut and seed oils, and some vegetables (sprouts, kale, spinach, salad greens).
There are other sources for each of these, but it’s hard to pin-down exactly what Omega’s you’re getting and how much. For example, an organic egg contains an Omega-6 to 3 ratio of 1:1 – perfect. A conventional egg contains a ratio of approximately 16:1 – terrible! A ratio of 16:1, 20:1, or what has been seen in many Americans diets…50:1, is linked to the many health issues mentioned above. As always, you benefit from eating organic whenever possible.
Is all salmon created equal? Well, yes (close anyway), if we would just let nature take its course. Instead, we continue to do two things: pollute nature and try to act as though we know better than nature.
There’s a huge difference between “wild” salmon and “farm raised” salmon. More and more of our salmon (and fish in general) are coming from fish-farms and are not caught in the wild. These fish-farms are typical of most factory farms anywhere. They are overcrowded, sickly and polluted…while the animals are being fed whatever it takes to make them reproduce faster and grow up quicker.
Farm raised salmon is commonly given antibiotics and chemicals for issues like sea lice and skin and gill infections. They are given hormones and drugs in order to accelerate growth and reproduction. Lastly, they’re given chemicals to turn their meat pink. Yup, without those chemicals your farm-raised salmon would be grey. How palatable would that be to you?
Farm raised salmon have been shown to contain levels of chemicals such as PCBs up to sixteen times higher than wild, ocean-caught salmon. That’s ridiculous, but so is the fact that more and more of our wild salmon is being polluted by PCBs, mercury and DDT, due to our polluting of our waters. Sad, sad, sad…
So what’s a person to do if they want to eat healthy, unpolluted salmon? Here are a couple suggestions:
1) Don’t eat salmon (or any other fish) at a cheap restaurant. If you’re eating out, choose to eat your fish at higher-end establishments, and ask if it’s wild or farm raised.
2) Don’t buy your salmon (or any other fish) from conventional grocery stores. Buy from a specialty market or a grocery store such as Whole Foods that takes our environment and the quality of foods seriously.
3) Once you’ve got your salmon, treat it (and yourself) to a savory recipe. SEE BELOW…
Roasted Salmon Fillets on Leeks and Fennel
4 – 6oz salmon fillets, skinned (I prefer to remove the bones)
2 – fennel bulbs
4 – large leeks
1 – lemon
Preheat the oven to 425, and lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet (you can use a cake pan or casserole dish)
Cut off the stems and feathery tops and any bruised outer stalks from the fennel bulbs. Finely chop the tops of the bulbs until you’ve reserved about 1/3 cup for garnish. Reserve a few of the fennel feathers for garnish and discard the remaining tops and any stems. Cut each bulb in half lengthwise and trim away the tough core. If you don’t know how, YouTube a video demonstration. Cut the bulbs crosswise into thin slices.
Julienne each of the leeks, including about an inch of where it begins to green. You don’t want to wind up with dirt in your food or the leek falling apart, so YouTube a demonstration here as well if needed.
Scatter about one-half of the leeks and about one-half of the sliced fennel bulbs evenly over the bottom of the prepared baking sheet. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Place the salmon fillets on top of the vegetables. Season with salt, pepper, thyme leaves from six sprigs, and about half of the fennel tops. Drizzle with the juice from half the lemon a couple Tbsp. of olive oil. As a side note: I love coarse, Alaea Hawaiin sea salt from www.artisansalt.com on all my salmon – just this salt and pepper is great on fresh salmon.
Roast the salmon until opaque throughout when pierced with a knife, about 20 minutes (or cook to 145 degrees if using a thermometer like me). The cooking time will depend upon the thickness of the fish; allow about 10 minutes for each inch.
Meanwhile, place the remaining chopped leeks and fennel in a baking dish. Season the vegetables with salt, pepper, leaves from about 6 sprigs of thyme, the remaining chopped fennel tops, juice from the other lemon half, and a couple Tbsp. of olive oil. Roast the vegetables alongside the fish in a seperate dish until the vegetables are lightly browned and tender, about 15 minutes.
Using a spatula, transfer the salmon and vegetables to a warmed platter. Garnish with the reserved feathery fennel tops. Transfer the seperately roasted vegetables to a warmed serving dish. Serve the fish and vegetables immediately.