We explain the benefits of eating salmon.
King salmon were introduced to NZ in the 1800s but their numbers in the 'wild' never increased enough to establish a viable commercial fishery. Fortunately for salmon lovers, salmon farming, an industry that is only 30 years old globally, is now established in the Marlborough Sounds and at Stewart Island, providing us with readily available fresh or smoked salmon.
Salmon is cured in a brine of sugar and salt before it is smoked. Cold-smoked salmon is smoked at a low temperature and the fillets sliced very thinly. Hot-smoked salmon is smoked at a high temperature and has a cooked flavour and temperature; this tends to be sold in fillets.
People with high blood pressure will want to limit their intake of smoked salmon as the brine curing means it is high in sodium (around 1700mg per 100g).
Much of the canned salmon in our supermarkets originates from Canada. Varieties include red (sockeye) and pink salmon. If one of your reasons for buying salmon is to increase your omega-3 consumption, read the labels first as the omega-3 content in these products can range from around 0.2-2.7g per 100g.
As well as being a protein source, salmon is a good source of omega-3 fats. These are known as 'essential' fats because we must consume these in our diet as our bodies are unable to produce them from other types of fat. Western diets often contain a low ratio of omega-3 fats to omega-6 fats, and we are encouraged to increase our intake of omega-3.
Omega-3 fats are widely accepted as having a protective role in heart health through lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels. They are also associated with brain development in infants; reduced risk of diabetes; a reduction in osteoporosis; and alleviating some symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.
Salmon is a good source of a wide range of vitamins and minerals. Like all seafood, salmon is a good source of both iodine and selenium, minerals that are essential to our health.
Tips for using salmon
- Mix a small amount of smoked salmon with natural yoghurt or lite cream cheese and a squeeze of lemon juice for a yummy dip or spread.
- A rye cracker topped with hot-smoked salmon, tomato, salt and pepper makes a tasty mid-afternoon snack that will boost your omega-3 as well.
- Tinned salmon is a good thing to have on hand for salads and pasta dishes. Try tossing a can of salmon through some cooked pasta with baby spinach leaves, capers and a dash of lite sour cream.
- Salmon can be rich as a main meal, so keep portion sizes small and pair it with fresh, light flavours like lemon and dill, rather than creamy sauces.
- Don't overcook fresh salmon, or it will be dry and unappetising! It's best left slightly opaque.