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Health benefits of salmon.

Summer’s high temperatures make it a perfect time to use your grill for meals instead of heating up the kitchen.

A healthy option for a main entree is salmon. There are several varieties, including sockeye, pink, coho, chum, chinook and Atlantic.

Salmon is a treasure chest of nutrients. It is known as the best food source of omega- fatty acids, the essential fats that your body can’t make on its own. These polyunsaturated fats play an important role in heart health, reducing inflammation in the body, brain health and maintaining good bone structure.

The omega- fatty acids work with another compound called astaxanthin to protect the brain and heart, and might help protect skin from sun damage. Astaxanthin is a phytochemical that gives salmon its reddish-pink color.

Salmon is also a good source of several vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins such as B, niacin, thiamin and B. One serving ounces of salmon provides almost half of your recommended intake for the mineral selenium, which helps fight heart disease, cancer, thyroid disease and mental decline associated with aging.

Salmon also is an excellent source of protein, which is important for muscle maintenance and metabolism. One serving of wild-caught salmon can provide more than a day’s worth of vitamin D, but farm-raised salmon provides % less of that vitamin.

So, what is the difference between farm-raised and wild-caught? Wild-caught salmon, often Alaskan salmon, develop in their natural environments and are the healthiest choice. Farm-raised salmon are enclosed in an environment that can be high in toxins and contaminants and might be lower in certain nutrients.

If purchasing farm-raised salmon, make sure they come from a safe source.

Besides fresh salmon, you can also purchase canned or smoked salmon. The most common canned species are pink and sockeye. The pink which is often cheaper has more omega- fatty acids, but might not be as flavorful as sockeye. Since canned salmon is preserved, it is higher in sodium than fresh varieties. The soft bones found in canned salmon can be mashed with the salmon meat to add calcium to the diet.

Smoked salmon is preserved by exposing it to high heat. The smoking processing decreases the nutritional value of the fresh salmon and increases the sodium content significantly.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the American Heart Association recommend eating fish two times a week. Research has shown that following that recommendation can decrease your risk of death by % and reduces the risk of a heart-related death by %.

Salmon is just one of the types of fish to include in your diet. One of my favorite recipes is for maple-glazed salmon. Check out the recipe on our page at .facebookmHealthyLivingWashCo.

Lisa McCoy is a family and consumer-sciences educator with University of Maryland Extension in Washington County.

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