What’s Better? Farmed vs. Wild Salmon

Delicious portion of fresh salmon fillet with aromatic herbs,

I love seafood of all types and while I like salmon, it’s not first on my list of favorites. However, it’s so versatile, so nutritious and full of FoodTrients, I try to eat it fairly often. One of the things I am careful to do is to eat wild salmon as opposed to farmed salmon.

Most experts agree that wild or farmed, the protein in all salmon is excellent and that it is loaded with Omega-3 fatty acid, which are good for heart health, your joints and brain function. Here are more health benefits to salmon:

  1. Improves bone density and strength.
  2. Improves your mood. Salmon has been shown to reduce the risk and incidence of depression, hostility in young adults and help fight cognitive decline in the elderly.
  3. The fats in salmon provide cardiovascular benefits such as reducing inflammation, preventing excessive blood clotting, and relaxing the arteries.
  4. Eating salmon two to three times per week can help protect you from heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure and high triglycerides.
  5. Salmon can decrease the risk of macular degeneration, a chronic eye condition that can lead to blindness.
  6. Eating salmon during pregnancy and nursing helps build children’s brains. Salmon contains high levels of DHA (decosahexaenoic acid), which is the main structural fatty acid in the central nervous system and retina.
  7. Salmon’s an excellent source of vitamin D. One can of salmon, for example, contains a day’s worth of vitamin D.
  8. Salmon is an excellent source of tryptophan, an all-natural sedative. Studies show that tryptophan increases sleepiness and helps to shorten the time it takes to fall asleep.

Wild Salmon FoodTrientsThere is some controversy that farmed salmon, grown in open net cages in the Pacific Northwest, can be harmful due to the number of fish in the cage, what they’re fed and the effect on the environment. According to the Washington State Department of Health, the issues of farmed salmon fall into three main categories: 1. Environmental concerns; 2. Contamination; 3. Omega-3 fatty acid levels in edible portions. The good news is both wild and farmed salmon are high in Omega-3 fatty acids and have low levels of mercury, PCBs, and other contaminants.

A lot of the bad press about farmed fish was as the result of a widely-cited study in 2004 that found the levels of PCBs, a potentially carcinogenic chemical, to be ten times higher in farmed fish than in wild-caught fish. While no one likes the idea of ANY carcinogens in their food, the level in the farmed fish was still less than 2% of the amount that would be considered dangerous. Subsequent studies reported that PCB levels in farmed fish are similar to those of wild fish. As for other environmental and sustainable concerns, wild-caught fish are sometimes harvested using techniques that do a lot of damage to the ecosystem and other fish. On the other hand, fish-farming practices can pollute the water and threaten local flora and fauna. The bottom line is that there are good and bad practices in catching and farming fish– it all depends on who is doing the fishing and/or farming.

The decision whether to eat farmed or wild salmon is a personal one. But keep in mind that there are many health benefits of any salmon. If you can find wild salmon in your local fish department and can afford to buy it, that’s great. But if wild is not readily available or too expensive, consuming farmed salmon a couple of times a week will do you more good than harm.

What does Farmed Salmon look like

The Monterey Bay Aquarium here in California has a site that tells you what fish are the Best Choices (Alaska and New Zealand salmon), Good Alternatives (Canadian, California, Oregon, and Washington wild salmon) and which to stay away from (Farmed Atlantic salmon). I refer to the site and the app all the time.

In the new edition of my cookbook, The Age GRACEFULLY Cookbook now available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, I created one of my favorite salmon recipes – Salmon Poached in Pickling Spices. Don’t forget to watch the recipe video, too.

Salmon Poached in Pickling SpicesPoached Salmon low rez

Pickle juice makes a nice poaching liquid, but I’ve found that pickling spices without the vinegar are even better for poaching fish, especially salmon. You can make your own spice mix or you can buy prepackaged pickling salts. I top this poached salmon with my Pecan and Sundried Tomato Tapenade and my Mock Sour Cream. It can be served hot or cold.

Serves 4

3 cups water
1 Tbs. pickling spices
2 lb. salmon fillets, skin on
1 recipe Mock Sour Cream
1 recipe Pecan and Sundried Tomato Tapenade (See below)

  1. In a deep skillet, bring the water and pickling spices to a boil over medium heat.
    2. Add the salmon, skin-side down, and poach for 20 minutes or until cooked through.
    3. Spread a spoonful of Mock Sour Cream on each plate, lay a portion of the poached salmon on it, and top with a spoonful or two of Pecan and Sundried Tomato Tapenade.

Chef’s Note: To make your own pickling spices, mix 3 tsp. dried dill, 1 tsp. salt or salt substitute, 1 tsp. mustard seeds, 1 tsp. fennel seeds, and 1/2 tsp. ground peppercorns. You can use smaller salmon fillets, but they will cook faster, so check them after 10 minutes. 


Pecan and Sundried Tomato TapenadePecan Tomato Relish 2crop238

I found the inspiration for this tapenade while at a health spa in Mexico. Of course, I put my own special FoodTrients spin on it to create a great topping for fish and a dip for crackers and bread. The pecans can be toasted or raw. I like to use sundried tomatoes preserved in olive oil.
Yields 1 1/2 cups

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/2 cup minced sundried tomatoes
2-3 Tbs. sliced black olives
2 Tbs. minced cilantro leaves
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbs. minced roasted garlic
1 Tbs. low-sodium soy sauce or tamari sauce

  1. Mix all the ingredients in a glass bowl.

Chef’s Note: To make a wonderful salad dressing out of the tapenade, blend it in a food processor with up to 1/2 cup olive oil.  

About Grace O

Grace O has been cooking and baking professionally and recreationally all of her adult life. As a child in Southeast Asia, she learned the culinary arts by her mother’s side in her family’s cooking school. She became so well versed in hospitality and the culinary arts, she eventually took over the cooking school and opened three restaurants. She is widely credited with popularizing shrimp on sugar-cane skewers and being one of the first culinarians to make tapas a global trend. She has cooked for ruling families and royalty. Grace O’s move to America precipitated a career in healthcare, inspired by her father, who was a physician. Twenty years and much hard work later, she operates skilled nursing facilities in California. Grace O strives to create flavorful food using the finest ingredients that ultimately lead to good health. Her recipes, although low in saturated fat, salt, and sugar, are high in flavor. Grace employs spices from all over the world to enliven her dishes, creating food that is different and delicious. She believes that food can be just as effective at fighting aging as the most expensive skin creams. And since she’s over 50 herself, she’s living proof of that. foodtrients.com
What Do FoodTrients Do?
Ai Anti- inflammatories

Reduce inflammatory process in cells, tissues, and blood vessels, helping to slow aging and reduce risk of long-term disease.

Ao Anti- oxidant

Prevents and repairs oxidative damage to cells caused by free radicals.

IB Immunity Boosters

Support the body’s resistance to infection and strengthen immune vigilance and response.

MB Mind

Improves mood, memory, and focus.

F Disease Prevention

Reduces risk factors for common degenerative and age-related diseases.