For a healthy heart, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating two 3-ounce servings of fatty fish, which can include salmon, per week. This type of fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are associated with heart disease protection, notes the National Institutes of Health.
Why You Should Exercise Caution Farmed salmon, however, has gotten a lot of flak over time because it’s primarily farmed in open net pens. These fish are vulnerable to infection from disease and parasites, so to help prevent those exposures, they’re sometimes treated with high levels of antibiotics and pesticides. Antibiotics in fish can increase the risk of creating antibiotic resistance in humans. This is especially true of farmed salmon from Chile, which is routinely imported to the United States, according to Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. It rates two-thirds of farmed salmon from Chile as a fish to avoid eating. (The nonprofit has partnered with the salmon industry in Chile to bring down antibiotic use by at least 50 percent by 2025.)
That’s not the only possible cause for concern, as some fish can also be a source of mercury, which can harm your nervous system and be particularly dangerous for a developing fetus, says the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Because the potential benefits outweigh the risks, the EPA recommends that women and children eat two servings of fish per week, as it is an excellent source of protein, omega-3s, vitamin D, iron, and other important minerals. (This is in line with the AHA’s suggestions.) What’s key is choosing the right type of fish.
Bottom Line You can include fish in your diet — and it’s healthful to do so — just be mindful of your choices, says Stella Volpe, PhD, RDN, professor and department head of human nutrition, foods, and exercise at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. The EPA suggests buying fish based on mercury levels, adding that the best choices are low in mercury, and — guess what — that includes salmon.
What’s more, what’s healthy for the planet is good for you, too. To make an environmentally sound choice, you can check the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch National Pocket Guide for responsibly farmed and fished options. Ultimately, eating a variety of seafood will deliver a variety of nutrients while reducing your risk of overconsuming a certain contaminant.
You might also remove the visible fat and skin when you eat farmed fish, as that’s where contaminants are more likely to accumulate. Preparation matters, too. Be sure to bake or sauté rather than deep-fry, Dr. Volpe suggests.
RELATED: A Detailed Guide to Following a Pescatarian Diet