4 Nutritious Reasons to Add Salmon to Your Meal Rotation

Plus, why smoked salmon should be eaten in moderation.

If you're tired of the same slate of chicken and pasta dinners, consider adding salmon to your weekly meal rotation. The popular fish boasts a mild flavor (perfect for little ones or those who don't love fishy fish) and can be prepared in dozens of different ways. Don't have a ton of time? Pop some salmon in the oven for a meal that's ready in less than 30 minutes. Eager to impress a group of friends at a dinner party? Try a slow-roasted citrus salmon recipe.

In addition to its rich flavor and versatility, salmon is essentially the superfood of the sea and is one of the healthiest foods you can eat. "Salmon is really known for being a protein-rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which help to fight inflammation, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk for disease," explain sisters Tammy Lakatos Shames, RD, CDN, CFT, and Lyssie Lakatos, RD, CDN, CFT—aka The Nutrition Twins. "And protein helps you to stay satisfied, and helps your body to heal after an injury, and repair and rebuild muscle."

Believe it or not, that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to salmon's impressive nutrition profile. It's also a great source of key nutrients like potassium and riboflavin, it isn't packed with mercury like other types of fish, and it's easy to store, cook, and freeze. Need more evidence that salmon is more than worthy of a spot in your grain bowl or on your dinner plate? Keep reading!

Nutrition and Health Benefits

In addition to protein and omega-3 fatty acids, salmon is a great source of other important nutrients that are beneficial to our overall health. Additionally, the nutritious fish, which is known for its pink hue and buttery taste, is relatively low in calories—a 3-ounce serving has approximately 175 calories.

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Packed with B vitamins

"Salmon's also one of the best sources of vitamin B12, and a good source of other B vitamins, which help to turn the food you eat into energy," Tammy and Lyssie explain.

More specifically, a 3.5-ounce serving of salmon contains more than the recommended daily value of vitamin B12, more than 60 percent of the recommended daily value of niacin, and more than half the recommended daily value of vitamin B6, which is critical for brain development and keeps the nervous system and immune system healthy.

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Contains other key vitamins and nutrients

"Salmon contains potassium, which helps to fight bloat and regulate blood pressure; selenium, which helps with bone health and protects against cancer; vitamin D for strong bones; iron for growth; and an antioxidant called astaxanthin, which may help keep the brain, heart, skin, and nervous system healthy," the sisters share.

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Reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke

If you're worried about heart disease or a stroke, stock up on salmon. It has been scientifically proven to be a heart-healthy food, which means eating it frequently may reduce the likelihood of both medical events. "Salmon can lower your cholesterol and blood pressure, reduce inflammation in your arteries, and reduce your risk of heart disease," note the Nutrition Twins. "It also lessens your risk of having a heart attack and a stroke."

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Lessens the risk of cognitive decline

Want to keep your mind sharp as you age? Eat salmon. "It has been shown to reduce your risk of some cancers, as well as cognitive decline and diseases, including Alzheimer's," Tammy and Lyssie explain. To reap these benefits, they suggest you consume at least two, 4-ounce servings per week of seafood that is high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon.

Risks of Eating Salmon

Despite salmon's many pros, there are certain individuals who should stay away from it. "If you're on blood thinners, be careful not to go overboard on fish and stick within the guidelines, since fatty fish also thins the blood," the sisters state.

And while mercury is a concern when consuming some fish, salmon is relatively low in mercury. However, according to Tammy and Lyssie, salmon may contain other substances that can be damaging to the body.

"Salmon can contain PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) which are industrial chemicals that have been shown to cause adverse health effects. These include potential cancers, and negative effects on the immune, nervous, and endocrine systems. "If you're worried about ingesting PCBs, pay attention to the type of salmon you buy. "Farm-raised salmon have higher levels of PCBs than wild-caught salmon, so try to choose wild salmon over farm-raised salmon when it's an option," they add.

Is Smoked Salmon Healthy?

Smoked salmon is a fillet of salmon that has been cured and smoked, which enhances the flavor of the fish and helps to preserve it. This version, which you've likely spotted on many brunch menus, retains several of the nutritional benefits that a serving of poached or grilled salmon might have. "Smoked salmon is packed with the same nutrients as grilled salmon, from B vitamins and antioxidants to omega-3 fatty acids. Therefore, it offers many of the same benefits—it can help fight against heart disease, improve brain health, lower cognitive decline, and reduce inflammation."

But, as anyone who has ever tried a piece of smoked salmon will tell you, the cured fish is very salty. Not surprisingly, consistently consuming the amount of sodium found in a serving of smoked salmon can have adverse effects on a person's health over time.

"Smoked salmon is very high in sodium, and has nearly nine times the sodium as fresh salmon," the sisters note. "There's only 75 milligrams of sodium in 100-grams of fresh salmon, versus 672 milligrams of sodium in the same size serving of smoked salmon—nearly the amount some of the population should get in an entire day."

They add: "Eating too much sodium can increase your risk of stroke and heart disease. Additionally, people with high blood pressure or a cardiovascular condition should eat sodium sparingly, thus typically people who fall in this category should aim for less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day—the amount suggested by the American Heart Association."

And consuming too much sodium can have other possible consequences as well. "From a cancer risk perspective, the American Institute for Cancer Research considers smoked and cured fish in the same category as processed meats," Tammy and Lyssie explain. "Scientists aren't sure why processing the salmon may increase cancer risk, but they think salting could be part of it. According to The World Cancer Research Fund, there is strong evidence that preserving foods through salting, including salted or dried fish, increases the risk of stomach cancer."

How to Store Salmon

When it comes to storing raw salmon, it needs to be refrigerated immediately and kept in its original packaging. Once in your refrigerator, it will stay fresh for up to two days.

If you'd prefer your raw salmon to have a longer shelf life, stick it in the freezer. Per the USDA, raw salmon can be kept in the freezer (again in its original store packaging) for three to eight months, though the flavor and texture will lessen after a lengthy storage period.

Cooked salmon is a different story. According to the USDA, cooked fish can be safely stored in the refrigerator for up to four days, and can be stored in the freezer for up to three months.

If you're ready to try your hand at cooking some salmon, check out our favorite salmon recipes, as well as these tasty side dishes that go well with salmon.

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  3. Rimm EB, Appel LJ, Chiuve SE, et al. Seafood long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and cardiovascular disease: a science advisory from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2018;138(1):e35-e47. doi:10.1161/CIR.0000000000000574

  4. Amen DG, Harris WS, Kidd PM, et al. Quantitative erythrocyte Omega-3 EPA plus DHA levels are related to higher regional cerebral blood flow on brain SPECT. J Alzheimers Dis. 2017;58(4):1189-1199. doi:10.3233/JAD-170281

  5. Qin B, Plassman BL, Edwards LJ, et al. Fish intake is associated with slower cognitive decline in Chinese older adults. J Nutr. 2014;144(10):1579-1585. doi:10.3945/jn.114.193854

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