Salmon has long been regarded as a prime food delicacy. From its aesthetic features (radiant orange color) to its flavorful taste and delicate texture, salmon allures many a palate and satiates the appetite with its low glycemic blood sugar stabilizing protein content. Equally virtuous are salmon’s long chained omega-3 fatty acids— EPA and DHA.
Noted nutrition scientist, author, researcher, speaker and Harvard graduate, Mr. Joyce A. Nettleton, D.Sc., R.D., is an authority on omega-3 fats in the diet and states that we should consume fatty fish (salmon at least one to two times weekly) for its cardio-protective properties. Studies relating the positive impact of omega-3 fatty acids on inhibiting tumor development in hormone sensitive cancers are equally impressive. Given the variability of data regarding safety issues for particular fish consumption, especially during pregnancy, Nettleton supports a conservative position—select the salmon you eat.
Unseen to the human eye however, is the backdrop to your salmon’s origin. Is it farm raised or was it harvested in the wild from pristine Alaskan waters? What difference does it make? More than you might imagine. If you are prematurely concluding that an environmentally “controlled” condition like salmon farming ensures purity and safety, you are in for a surprise. Here are a few fish facts to ensure that you are not just buying fish for eating but for supporting your health as well. Highly regarded dermatologist and bestselling author of The Wrinkle Cure and The Perricone Prescription, Dr. Nicholas Perricone suggests you “make sure salmon is your first choice” when selecting healthy foods. Highlighting salmon’s anti-inflammatory virtues—it is especially rich in antioxidants as well as protein and omega-3 fatty acids— Dr. Perricone suggests eating salmon several times per week and that choice should be wild salmon, not farmed. Why? In contrast to farmed salmon, sockeye salmon derived from the pristine waters of Alaska grows unadulterated by antibiotics, pesticides, growth hormones, synthetic coloring agents and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Also, are you aware the beautiful salmon fish filets you are cooking for dinner may have acquired their deep rich orange color synthetically via chemical treatment with synthetic carotenoids? How and why does this occur? Business ventures do not always incorporate sustainable practices. Such is the case in the salmon farming industry. Bestselling author and lecturer Dr. Christiane Northrup summed up some of the many problems associated with farmed Atlantic salmon versus wild Alaskan salmon. Multibillion dollar corporations based outside the U.S. dominate the salmon farming industry and have largely replaced fish from Alaska. Citing a study by Canadian scientist and ecotoxicologist Michael Easton, Northrup notes his comparative results between farmed and Alaskan salmon include elevated chemical contaminants and carcinogens (PCBs) in the farmed salmon.
Ninety-five percent of all Atlantic (not Alaskan) salmon is farmed. Nearly 100 percent is artificially colored, which may be provoking allergic reactions, notes Linda Joyce Forristal in her article, “It Something Fishy Going On?” Consumers should consider what it takes to produce “America’s favorite fish.” Forristal’s own suspected allergic reaction to farmed Atlantic fish led her to research and identify two culprits (and allergy incidents) used to dye the flesh of farmed salmon — canthaxanthin and astaxanthin (pronounced canth-a-zan’-thin and az-tuh-zan’-thin). Aside from their tongue twisting pronunciations, both substances are carotenoids naturally inherent in red algae, shrimp shells, lobster carapaces and flamingo feathers. Normally salmon forage their native habitat (ocean waters) for canthaxanthin and astaxanthin-rich algae or for crustaceans and plankton which ingest them. When confined to farms and unable to forage for food, their artificially induced colorings yield “insipid, unappealing color—one few consumers would choose.”
Is there a healthy alternative? In contrast, Alaska’s management of its fisheries is ecologically sound. All Alaskan salmon live in their natural habitat in the cold, clean waters of the North Pacific Ocean. Here they grow to adulthood at their natural pace, eating only their natural foods like shrimp, herring, squid, zooplankton and other marine life. They swim free on the high seas and then return to their natal streams on their own schedule. Alaska’s salmon fisheries are seasonal rather than year-round. Alaskan salmon are wild; there are no salmon farms in Alaska. In order to protect Alaska’s wild fisheries from potential problems, salmon farming was prohibited by the Alaska legislature in 1990 (Alaska Statute 16:40.210). Alaskan salmon helps to support robust populations of bears, eagles and a host of other species of birds and mammals. The abundance of these predator and scavenger salmon-eating species is testament to the success of Alaska’s salmon management. Alaskan salmon are an important and integral part of their natural ecosystem. Unlike those in other parts of the world, no Alaskan salmon stocks are threatened or endangered.
Alaska’s salmon have been abundant for millennia and they are managed to ensure their future abundance. In Alaska, the fish come first. In each of Alaska’s river systems no fish are harvested until management biologists are absolutely certain that enough fish will return and “escape” to sustain the run. Fishery openings are tightly regulated and only those salmon which constitute a surplus above optimal “escapement” numbers are available to fisherman for harvest. Respecting and preserving the inherent life cycle of these ancient maritime wonders is written into the Alaska State Constitution. For this reason Alaska’s salmon fisheries are endorsed as your best environmental choice in seafood by such organizations as the Marine Stewardship Council, The Audubon Society’s Living Oceans Campaign and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program—all of which advise you to AVOID farmed Atlantic salmon.
Accessing Wild Alaskan Salmon
A prominent and ecologically motivated resource for obtaining wild Alaskan salmon is Vital Choice Seafood. Vital Choice was started by Randy Hartnell, a 20-year veteran Alaskan fisherman who utilizes his extensive knowledge of the Alaskan fishing industry to locate and provide the finest quality wild salmon available. Providing both canned and frozen products, Hartnell has filled a niche market with his Wild Red Alaskan sockeye salmon which he markets in convenient prepackaged flash frozen or canned form. For consumers, the ability to have wild Alaskan salmon delivered to your door translates into dietary convenience and versatility. Enjoy a delicious broiled sockeye filet or just pop open a can and eat the fully cooked salmon as it is or as an appetizer, an ingredient in soup, salad or casserole, a sandwich filling or main course protein component for those on carbohydrate restricted diets. The brine, skin and small soft bones found in canned salmon add further flavor and nutritional support—providing important calcium, protein and of course omega-3 fatty acids.
Each 3.5 ounce portion of either canned or frozen sockeye salmon provides 20 grams of protein; also six to seven grams of “healthy” fat—1.2 grams of which are omega-3 fatty acids, approximately the recommended daily intake for adults.
Hartnell considers some of his most important customers are women of childbearing are women of childbearing years: “We’re really trying to get the message out that our Alaskan salmon is one of the best possible sources of DHA, which is a fundamental component of prenatal brain and retinal development.” Hartnell notes that Alaskan sockeye salmon has repeatedly tested free of harmful levels of mercury and PCBs. He also cites numerous studies indicating that children born to (and breast fed by) women consuming a diet high in EPA and DHA are better developed and have been found to have higher IQs than those born to mothers on essential fatty acid restricted diets. A DHA deficit in the maternal diet has also been linked to low birth weight, premature delivery and post partum depression. “The name Vital Choice grew out of the recognition that our salmon was so vitally important to these people. As time goes on, we are learning that omega-3s are equally important to humans of all ages,” says Hartnell.
Maintaining optimal health intimately depends on accessing pure wholesome food harvested from unpolluted sources. On an ecological note, if ever there was a respectful way of harvesting animal protein for human consumption in a sustainable manner, it would be Alaska’s commercial salmon fisheries, which are the chief economic force behind the protection of wild salmon. Salmon are not harvested until they are nearly ready to spawn. Salmon do not spawn until they are ready to diet. “If you want to save wild salmon, you have to eat wild salmon,” says Hartnell. “Every time you ‘vote’ farmed salmon over sustainable harvested wild, you further weaken our precious wild salmon’s most passionate advocate.” Just as scientists continue to unravel the mystery behind the lengthy migratory routes of salmon, so too, scientists are following fish source omega-3s’ promising metabolic trail to understand how these remarkable fatty acids may thwart the course of cancer in addition to their contributory role in preventing degenerative diseases.
A number of prominent health authorities including Dr. Andrew Weil, Dr. Christiane Northrup, and Dr. Nicholas Perricone have endorsed Hartnell’s Vital Choice Seafood.
Tina Wellman, PhD, PNE
Author of Psychoneuroendocrinology: Copper Toxicity and Premenstrual Syndrome, Dr. Wellman has blazed a trail through the maze of alternative medicine, conventional wisdom, and complementary methods. She has been engaged in natural healing modalities for nearly 40 years, researching the mind-body connection to illness. Blending nutritional support with environmental detoxification, she patterns a healthy lifestyle to achieve wellness. Her compendium of healthier choices is a vital key to achieving total wellness. Dr. Wellman shares that key with her clients, providing them with the fundamental tools to recover their health.