Salmon's reputation as a healthy food is largely based on its unusual omega-3 fatty acid content. It is normal for 4 ounces of salmon to contain at least 2 grams of omega-3 fats - more than the average U.S. adult gets from all food over the course of several days. This omega-3 fat comes in two forms: EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). However, salmon is also rich in other properties, such as vitamin D and selenium, each of which have their own powerful health benefits.
Intriguing research into the protein and amino acid content of this fish has found that salmon also contains small bioactive protein molecules (called bioactive peptides) that may provide protection for joint cartilage, support with insulin effectiveness, and control of inflammation in the digestive tract. One thing to bear in mind, though, is that all of these benefits are derived from the consumption of wild salmon, and the farmed kind is an entirely different kettle of fish.
Here are 6 health benefits of salmon:
Research on fish intake and joint protection has shown that the omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon can be converted by the body into three types of compounds that prevent chronic inflammation. What's especially interesting is that it combines these anti-inflammatory benefits with anti-inflammatory relief related not to fat but to protein.
Recent studies show the presence of bioactive peptides in salmon may support healthy joint cartilage and other types of tissue. One bioactive peptide named calcitonin has been of special interest because it is also made in the human body by the thyroid gland, and we know that it helps regulate and stabilize the balance of collagen and minerals in bone and surrounding tissue. Such peptides may combine with salmon's omega-3 molecules to provide powerful anti-inflammatory benefits for joints. The incredibly high content of vitamin D and selenium found in salmon have also been shown to be key agents in preventing unwanted inflammation.
Much research has proven docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) to be the most important fat found in the brain, and the substantial content of this omega-3 fatty acid in salmon explains the benefits of salmon intake for thinking and the decreased risk of certain brain-related problems. Salmon intake is associated with decreased chances of depression, hostility in some studies of teenagers, and decreased cognitive decline in older people. Some studies have also demonstrated an association between IQ and a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Of particular interest is the recent discovery of what are called protectins. These are special compounds made from DHA which studies have shown play an important role as anti-inflammatory molecules, particularly when produced by nerve tissue. There has been speculation that some of the brain-related value of omega-3 fish intake may be due to conversion of the DHA in these fish to protectins that can aid in preventing excessive inflammation. Vitamin D has also been shown to be a major factor in supporting cognitive function, and salmon abounds in this nutrient.
Vitamin D has been shown to play a crucial role in lowering the risk of several types of cancer, including breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer. Salmon contains particularly high levels of vitamin D and selenium, which is also associated with prevention of certain types of cancer, including colorectal cancer.
Omega-3 fat is also connected to decreased risk for several types of cancer, including colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, and breast cancer. Regular omega-3 intake has been proven particularly effective against the blood cell or lymph cell-related cancers such as leukemia, multiple myeloma, and non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
It is well known that fish oil is good for improving vision. It also helps in avoiding age related macular degeneration. The omega-3 fats found in salmon have been demonstrated to be effective in combating both macular degeneration and chronic dry eye. In the case of macular degeneration, two servings of salmon per week is enough to significantly decrease risk.
Studies on dry eye have begun to focus specifically on the neuroprotectins made from DHA in salmon and other omega-3 fish. These omega-3 derived molecules might aid in preventing chronic dry eye by alleviating inflammation.
Intake of salmon has been connected to a decreased risk of numerous cardiovascular problems, such as heart attack, stroke, heart arrhythmia and high blood pressure. Consumption of omega-3-containing salmon is also linked with improved metabolic markers for cardiovascular disease.
The high levels of the antioxidant selenium in salmon have also been shown to be especially important in cardiovascular protection.
Skin and Hair Health
The omega-3s found in salmon lock moisture into skin cells, encouraging the production of strong collagen and elastin fibers, which contribute to more youthful looking skin. Omega-3s have also been known to alleviate skin blemishes and maintain a good luster of the hair. Omega-3s provide nourishment to hair follicles, helping hair grow healthy and preventing hair loss. A rich supply of proteins is also important for hair growth. The high protein content of salmon helps maintain strong, healthy hair.
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