Once only found only on plates of the posh, salmon now has a regular gig in the Australian diet. There are a couple of reasons for the popularity of our best slimy friend.
Firstly, salmon is more affordable and available than ever due to the success of fish farming. Secondly, all those things our grandmothers used to say about fish being brain food and generally good for you, have now been proved true.
Salmon is a versatile fish. You can eat it baked, barbequed, poached, grilled, stir-fried or raw a la sushi. It can be canned, smoked and frozen without losing significant nutrients. Even the most fish-phobic make an exception when it comes to salmon because of its firm and ‘meaty’ texture. Tell your children it’s chicken and they’ll soon be hooked.
As with any cultivated food there are benefits and some whiskers. The benefits are that farming salmon means we don’t deplete the ocean of their wild cousins. Farmed salmon provides all the same nutrients including omega three fatty acids, protein, zinc, iodine and the antioxidant Coenzyme Q10. The downside is that any kind of intensive farming will impact on the local environment. The fish are not eating their natural diet, although all efforts are made to create a situation as ‘nature identical’ as possible. Basically, we live in an imperfect world.
Although classified as an oily fish, gram for gram, Salmon contains less fat that lean meat. It’s the omega 3 fatty acids in salmon that hold the key to its claim to superfood stardom. Eating one to four servings of salmon (or other oily fish) a week significantly reduces the risk of Australia’s biggest killer, coronary heart disease. Eating salmon also reduces the risk of high cholesterol, heart arrythmia, high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis, crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, lupus, certain cancers, asthma, obesity, age related macular degeneration, diabetes and even various cognitive and learning disorders. Salmon is brain food indeed. Right again Gran.
Tip 1 - Go the can
Canned salmon, although a different species than Atlantic salmon, provides omega 3 fatty acids and protein and has the extra benefit of calcium, as the bones are edible, softened in the canning process. Choose canned salmon in brine or spring water. Smoked salmon contains omega three fatty acids and protein, but is high in salt.
Tip 2 - Omega 3
What exactly does omega 3 mean? You don’t have to be chemist, but it helps. A fatty acid is simply a chain of carbon atoms joined together by bonds (like the stalks in a daisy chain). The chain begins ‘alpha’ and ends at ‘omega’. The bonds are generally single, but some are double. An omega 3 fatty acid is so called because the first double bond is attached to the third carbon from the omega end. Got it?
Tip 3 - Class calcium
Salmon is always listed as a great source of calcium, but it is actually the bones in salmon which have all the calcium. So when using tinned salmon, mash up and eat the small bones.
Tip 4 - How to choose fresh salmon
Pick firm, shiny pieces with no smell and a good colour. If it smells fishy it’s old. Avoid pieces that are soggy or browning at the edges. If buying a whole salmon then pick one with springy flesh and good bulging eyes. If the eyes are withered or receeding, it’s old fish.
Tip 5 - Protein wars
Tinned salmon is easy to add to salads, or it can be used in wraps and sandwiches with handfuls of mixed salad. You can also mix tinned salmon through pasta and risotto, to add a chunk of protein to the dish.