When it comes to weight loss, salmon may not be the first thing that comes to mind. Many people enjoy salmon for its taste and its many health benefits, including improving heart health and lowering high blood pressure. But can salmon help you shed pounds?
Typically, increased fish consumption correlates with reduced prevalence of obesity – and salmon could be one of the best choices for losing weight. But its benefits aren’t just down to its high protein and low calorie content. Read on to find out why salmon is recommended as part of a nutritious weight loss diet.
Is Salmon Good For Weight Loss? Some consider salmon to be a superfood because of its high protein content and essential nutrients such as beneficial fats. In fact, salmon can help with weight loss. Research suggests that consistent consumption of fish contributes to greater weight loss, albeit modestly compared to non-fish diets such as meat-based diets. A 'modest amount' may seem insignificant, but body composition is what counts. This is where the effect of salmon consumption on weight loss becomes fascinating.
Is Salmon Good For Weight Loss?
Some consider salmon to be a superfood because of its high protein content and essential nutrients such as beneficial fats. In fact, salmon can help with weight loss. Research suggests that consistent consumption of fish contributes to greater weight loss, albeit modestly compared to non-fish diets such as meat-based diets. A 'modest amount' may seem insignificant, but body composition is what counts. This is where the effect of salmon consumption on weight loss becomes fascinating.
While eating oily fish or taking fish oil supplements does not lead to significant overall weight loss, it does significantly reduce abdominal fat and waist size. Now that we know how effective salmon is for weight loss, which varieties should be included in a balanced diet?
Are There Different Kinds Of Salmon?
Yes, there are several types of salmon, each with unique characteristics. These include Atlantic salmon, known for its rich, fatty texture, and five Pacific species: Chinook (King), Coho (Silver), Sockeye (Red), Pink (Humpy) and Chum (Dog). Each species varies in size, flavour and habitat, making them unique in both culinary and ecological terms.
Health Benefits Of Eating Salmon
As well as helping with weight management, the health benefits of eating salmon include
Promoting Healthy Vision
Salmon provides two essential nutrients known to be important for eye health and vision – astaxanthin and vitamin A. Astaxanthin, a carotenoid, has been shown to protect against eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration. Vitamin A plays an important role in maintaining vision at all ages.
Prolonged inflammation has been linked to several diseases, from cancer to diabetes. Omega-3s have anti-inflammatory properties. Increasing salmon intake reduces several markers of inflammation and improves overall well-being.
Promotes Bone Health
Salmon is a rich source of vitamin D and phosphorus, both of which are important for healthy bones. Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption, and a deficiency can lead to reduced bone mineral density. Phosphorus is another important mineral for maintaining bone strength
Reduced Risk Of Heart Disease
A diet rich in unhealthy fats such as omega-6 increases the risk of heart disease. Many people have excessive levels of omega-6. By balancing these with healthy omega-3 fatty acids, regular consumption of salmon helps to reduce the risk of heart disease and improve heart health
Supporting Brain Health
Research suggests that increased consumption of oily fish and other seafood may slow cognitive decline. Eating two portions of salmon a week can reduce the likelihood of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease by up to 30%.
Improving Mental Wellbeing
Omega-3 deficiencies have been linked to mental health problems, particularly depression. Research suggests that eating one portion of oily fish a week can significantly reduce the risk of depression. Regular use of fish oil supplements can reduce symptoms of depression in as little as three weeks.
Salmon Nutritional Profile
The nutritional value of salmon varies depending on the species. Wild-caught salmon tends to be richer in protein, while farmed salmon may contain more beneficial fats. However, each type of salmon is a good source of several micronutrients, including
- B vitamins, especially B12 and B6
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin A
Salmon is rich in protein and low in calories. A 100-gram portion provides
- Calories: 182 kcal
- Protein: 25.4 g
- Total fat: 8.13 g
- Carbohydrates: 0 g
- Dietary fibre: 0 g
Are There Any Scientific Studies?
Scientific research supports salmon for weight loss. Salmon reduces inflammation, which is important for weight management, and provides more protein with less unhealthy fat compared to meats such as beef. Regular consumption as part of a balanced diet, including fruit, vegetables and whole grains, can lead to further weight loss and improved body composition. This makes salmon an effective food choice in weight loss diets.
What’s The Best Type Of Salmon To Eat To Lose Weight?
1. Does Salmon Skin Help With Weight Loss?
Many people throw away salmon skin, but they overlook an important aspect. Rich in omega-3 and protein, salmon skin is just as effective for weight loss as salmon meat. Salmon skin is also rich in collagen peptides, which are beneficial for hair and skin health. Research suggests that the proteins in salmon skin may have anti-diabetic properties.
2. Does Eating Smoked Salmon Help You Lose Weight?
Fish is one of the best sources of protein, and smoked salmon is a prime example. Consuming higher amounts of high quality protein, such as fish, facilitates weight loss by increasing feelings of satiety and satisfaction, as well as building muscle. As a source of lean protein, salmon is low in carbohydrates, unhealthy fats and calories, making it better for weight management than high-fat meats such as red meat.
3. Is Canned Salmon Effective For Weight Loss?
Canned salmon retains as much protein as its fresh counterpart. However, although canned fish is a good source of omega-3, the levels of this fatty acid in canned salmon vary due to natural differences in salmon muscle. In addition, the thermal processing of canned salmon results in the depletion of some micronutrients, making certain canned salmon varieties potentially less beneficial for weight loss than fresh salmon.
With the understanding that salmon is beneficial for weight loss, the key question remains: how does eating a real food rich in fat promote weight loss? Is the fat in salmon healthy?
Is Salmon Fat Good For You?
Salmon has a particularly healthy fat: omega-3 fatty acids. These polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) have many benefits, and recent research suggests that they can help you lose weight – especially unwanted body fat. In fact, not only do omega-3s reduce visible abdominal fat and shrink waistlines, but studies also show that they help eliminate visceral fat – the invisible but harmful fat that accumulates around your internal organs.
So it’s clear that salmon fat is beneficial, but why does eating more fat lead to fat loss? It seems paradoxical, but the answer may lie in the effects of omega-3s on mental health, fat metabolism and the gut microbiome.
Omega-3 “Stimulates” Adipose Tissue
There are two primary forms of fat (or ‘adipose’) tissue – white (WAT) and brown (BAT). People with more BAT and less WAT typically have a lower risk of obesity. Excess WAT is detrimental because it requires little energy to maintain. However, BAT has a greater thermogenic potential and uses more energy to produce heat.
You do not have to surrender to your white fat. Research suggests that increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil can ‘stimulate’ fat by converting white adipose tissue to brown. This increases insulin sensitivity, slows down fat storage and boosts fat metabolism – contributing to weight loss.
In addition to eating more fish, other ways to stimulate BAT include exercise, exposure to cold, and polyphenols – colourful fruits and vegetables are an excellent source.
Omega-3 Activates Brain Adaptations
Fascinating research suggests that omega-3s influence the activity of the hypothalamus – a part of the brain that controls the intensity of hunger. A properly functioning hypothalamus is essential for weight management. This area of the brain responds to two hormones that control eating – leptin and ghrelin, known as your ‘satiety’ and ‘appetite’ hormones respectively. Leptin increases as you eat, and when it reaches a certain threshold, your hypothalamus signals you to stop eating.
So if your hypothalamus is functioning normally, you will follow the leptin signals and stop eating when you are satisfied. Problems arise when your hypothalamus is malfunctioning. It takes about 20 minutes for leptin levels to reach their maximum, so even people who are sensitive to leptin can overeat if they eat quickly. Not responding to leptin can further prolong the stop eating signal.
Omega-3s And The Gut Flora
In summary, omega-3 fatty acids can influence the balance of beneficial bacteria in your gut. An imbalanced gut microbiome – characterised by increased levels of harmful bacteria and reduced levels of beneficial bacteria – is associated with a tendency to gain weight. Research shows that the proportion of two families of bacteria is a reliable indicator of obesity: the Bacteriodetes/Firmicutes ratio. A higher amount of Firmicutes compared to Bacteriodetes indicates a risk of weight gain.
This is where the role of salmon becomes crucial. Animal studies have shown that eating fish or fish oil rich in omega-3 fatty acids can improve the Bacteroidetes/Firmicutes ratio, which is beneficial for weight loss. A well-balanced gut microbiome slows down digestion, limiting the intake of elements that are detrimental to maintaining a healthy weight, and favours the intake of substances that are beneficial.
Brain Swelling Contributes To Weight Gain
It’s long been known that brain swelling is associated with impaired cognition and even mental disorders. Researchers may now be able to predict a person’s tendency to gain weight by looking at the level of inflammation in their hypothalamus. The more inflammation there is in the hypothalamus, the more likely you are to be overweight. However, animal experiments show that introducing omega-3 into the brain of an obese rat immediately reduces eating and stops further weight gain.
This is not unexpected, as omega-3 is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent, reducing inflammation in the hypothalamus and improving its function. What is surprising, however, is the speed with which it changes dietary habits. These changes are accompanied by an increased responsiveness to leptin – the hormone that signals satiety – leading to a reduction in food intake. In addition, omega-3s have the extraordinary ability to help you lose weight by changing the composition of your body fat.
Are There Any Negative Effects Of Eating Too Much Salmon?
Eating too much salmon, although generally healthy, can have negative effects. Salmon has high levels of mercury and other pollutants, especially in larger and older fish. Excessive consumption can lead to mercury accumulation in the body, which can cause health problems. In addition, farmed salmon can contain higher levels of contaminants such as PCBs.
Excessive consumption can also lead to an imbalance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. To minimise these risks, it’s important to eat in moderation and choose wild-caught or responsibly farmed salmon.
Incorporating Salmon Into Your Diet
The best thing about including salmon in your diet is its remarkable adaptability and ease of incorporation. Some nutritious salmon dishes include
- Oven-baked wild salmon flavoured with lemon and thyme
- Grilled salmon steaks served with rice and a ginger-miso dressing
- Rye bread topped with smoked salmon, avocado and cream cheese
- A salmon mayo and cucumber sandwich using canned salmon
- A salad mix of canned salmon, crisp lettuce, boiled eggs and fresh tomatoes
As it’s healthier to avoid fried foods, choose a method of cooking salmon that doesn’t require oil. There are several healthy ways to cook salmon, including
- Baking in the oven
- Char grilling
- Gently poaching
- Steam cooking
- Light sautéing
Salmon can also be eaten raw when fresh, for example in sushi dishes.
Who Should Avoid Eating Salmon?
People who should avoid eating salmon include those with fish allergies, as it can cause allergic reactions. People with dietary restrictions or religious beliefs that prohibit the consumption of seafood should also be cautious. Pregnant women are advised to limit their intake due to mercury content, although salmon has relatively low levels of mercury compared to other fish.
In addition, people with health conditions that require a restricted intake of protein or potassium should be aware that salmon is rich in these nutrients. Consultation with a healthcare professional is recommended for personalised dietary advice.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is salmon better for weight loss than other types of fish?
Salmon is one of the best options due to its high protein and omega-3 content, but other fish such as mackerel, sardines and trout are also beneficial for weight loss.
Can eating salmon help reduce belly fat?
While no food can specifically target belly fat, salmon’s nutrient profile can help with overall weight loss, which may include a reduction in belly fat.
How often should I eat salmon for weight loss?
Aiming for 2-3 servings of salmon per week can be a healthy part of a weight loss diet, as recommended by many health organisations.
Is wild salmon better than farmed salmon for weight loss?
Both are good options. Wild salmon may have a better fatty acid profile, but farmed salmon is also nutritious and often more affordable.
Does the way salmon is prepared affect its benefits for weight loss?
Yes, cooking methods do matter. Grilled, baked or poached salmon is healthier than fried salmon because it retains more nutrients and is lower in unhealthy fats.
With salmon’s many health benefits and its ability to help you lose weight, it’s no surprise that it’s the world’s most popular fish. As well as helping you to lose weight, salmon can improve your brain and heart health and even boost your mood. It’s a good idea to eat salmon once or twice a week as part of a balanced diet to help maintain muscle mass, ideal omega-3 levels and weight management.
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Jayson Peterson is an experienced pharmacist, naturopathic physician, medical examiner, and minister. After earning his Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the Medical University of South Carolina, Jayson Peterson completed clinical rotations at several prestigious healthcare institutions and has been affiliated with several pharmacy chains throughout his career. His main passion and zeal is focused on providing world-class patient care by giving precise details and thorough instructions to those who need it most.