Salmon is widely thought of as a healthy entrée — and for good reason. Salmon is packed with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, on top of being a great source of protein and selenium. Plus, salmon is not only delicious to eat, but also easy and versatile to prepare.
Yet, despite all of these benefits, all salmon is not created equal. The nutritional profile between farm-raised and wild-caught salmon is staggeringly different — and once you know the facts (and have seen the side-the-side comparison), you aren’t likely to ever reach for anything but wild-caught again.
Here are five quick facts to help you distinguish between farm-raised and wild-caught salmon in the future:
1. Farm-raised salmon has more fat and calories
In a nutritional comparison between farm-raised and wild-caught salmon, the farm-raised fish has substantially more calories and fat. For example a 198-gram fillet of wild-caught salmon has 281 calories and 13 grams of fat, but the same sized farm-raised fillet has 412 calories and 27 grams of fat. This difference is largely due to the different diet each fish receives in its respective environment. While wild salmon eat a variety of algae, plankton and krill, farm-raised salmon eats processed fish feed designed to help the fish grow bigger, faster.
2. Wild-caught salmon is richer in minerals
Although farm-raised salmon does bring a nice dose of vitamin C to the table, its wild-caught counterpart touts almost twice the amount of zinc, potassium and iron. Ultimately, the nutritional value of salmon directly correlates with the original diet it was fed (processed fish food or sea-dwelling invertebrates). The option is yours to decide.
3. Wild-caught salmon contains more natural astaxanthin
If you’ve ever seen a wild-caught fillet next to a farm-raised fillet, you likely noticed something was off. Wild salmon tends to have a brighter, richer pink-red color, while farm-raised salmon is a dull pink. This is due to the amount of the molecule astaxanthin, which wild salmon get naturally from their diet, but farmed salmon receive synthetically. Astaxanthin is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It can also improve blood flow and enhance your mitochondrial energy production. Just look for the deeper color so you’ll know you’re getting the real deal.
4. Farm-raised salmon may contain contaminants
Some studies have shown that farm-raised fish contain harmful contaminants, such as pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which have been linked to cancer. These contaminants are ingested by the fish through the food they eat and the environment in which they live. While the exact levels and dangers of these contaminants aren’t always known, this is definitely a case of better safe than sorry.
5. Wild-caught salmon tastes better
While this may be a bit biased, wild salmon is known for having a greater depth of flavor and a richer taste. If you’ve spent your life eating farm-raised salmon over the real thing, then the difference in taste is something you’ll have to taste to believe.
Yes, it’s true that any kind of salmon contains heart-healthy fats and can be part of a well-balanced diet. However, the benefits of wild-caught salmon are substantial — and you deserve to be eating the best.
Hungry yet? Take your pick of wild-caught salmon here. Warning: you might never look back.