Salmon: What\'s in the Can??>

Supermarket Buying Guide: Seafood

Salmon: What's in the Can?

by Edward R. Blonz, Ph.D.  

Canned salmon is an excellent—and relatively inexpensive—source of heart-healthy omega-3 fats and other nutrients. But to net the most benefits, read the fine print on the cans. Here's what to watch for:

  • Omega-3s. All canned salmon is rich in omega-3s, but the amounts vary a lot. Regular canned salmon, with skin and bones, has about 10 to 14 grams of total fat per 4 ounces (about ½ cup), which provides about 2,000 milligrams of omega-3s. Skinless, boneless, "premium" canned salmon has much less total fat (about 3 to 4 grams per 4 ounces), and thus only about 650 milligrams of omega-3s. That's still a lot, though—and more than most other fish. Health experts generally recommend about 250 to 500 milligrams of omega-3s per day, on average, for healthy people and 1,000 milligrams (1 gram) per day for people with heart disease.
  • Calcium. Canned salmon is a good source of calcium if you eat the (soft, chewable) bones, plus it supplies some vitamin D. You may prefer how the leaner "premium" canned salmon looks and tastes, but since the bones have been removed, you won't get much calcium. A 4-ounce serving of regular canned salmon, on the other hand, has about 200 milligrams of calcium (20 percent of the Daily Value). If you mash up the salmon, you may not notice the bones, especially if you mix in a little mayo.
  • Wild versus farmed. Most canned salmon is wild, and the label says so. But some companies use farmed salmon. For instance, Kirkland (Costco brand) sells both wild and farmed canned salmon. Alaskan pink or sockeye (also called red or blueback) salmon is wild-caught. If it's labeled "Atlantic" salmon, it's farmed. If you eat a lot of canned salmon, look for wild-caught, due to concerns about polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in farmed salmon.
  • Product of USA or Thailand? Some cans of pink salmon are labeled "Alaskan wild-caught" and "product of Thailand" (or another country in Asia). Why the seeming contradiction? Pink salmon is the most abundant and cheapest wild salmon. Chicken of the Sea told us that when more is caught than its cannery in Alaska can handle, the surplus fish is frozen and sent to be canned in Thailand. Some other companies also send their pink salmon overseas for processing. That's an extra long way for a fish to travel before reaching your plate.

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