As a follow on from the recent series on the Weekly Grocery Shopping List of foods that contain the nutrients the body needs that contain the nutrients the body needs I am going to repeat my series from 2017 on the health benefits of some of our most common foods.
Food therapy is a broad term for the benefits to the body of a healthy, varied and nutritional diet of fresh foods.
Most of us walk through the fresh produce departments of our supermarkets without really paying much attention to the individual fruits and vegetables. This is a great pity because the vast majority of these foods have been cultivated for thousands of years, not only for their nutritional value but also for their medicinal properties. If you eat a healthy diet you are effectively practicing preventative medicine. A robust immune system, not only attacks external opportunistic pathogens, but also works to prevent rogue cells in the body from developing into serious disease.
NOTE – If you are on any prescribed medication do not take yourself off it without consultation with your doctor. If you follow a healthy eating programme and lose weight and are exercising you may not need the same dose and with your doctor’s agreement you may be able to reduce or come off the medication all together.
Much of the salmon available today comes from fisheries and conditions and feed of these farmed fish have improved through regulation in recent years. However, I am not convinced by the publicity and prefer to eat fish that has been caught in the ocean and to me there is definitely a difference in the taste of this salmon. You can buy ocean caught fish frozen or fresh depending on where you live and for me the freshest is fish that has been caught and frozen whilst the trawlers are still at sea.
There is always some concern about the levels of mercury in fish and studies indicate that ocean caught salmon from the northern seas and rivers have levels that are considered to be low and safe for more regular consumption.
Salmon has been on my ‘must eat’ list for a long time and in this day and age, when obesity and heart disease are becoming the top causes of premature death, then including it in your diet regularly is very important.
There are a number of health issues apart from heart function that eating salmon benefits including weight loss, bone health, a healthy immune system and brain health. The nutrients in this important source of protein are also helpful in preventing cancer and diabetes.
Omega-3 (Linolenic Acid) is the principal Omega-3 fatty acid and is used in the formation of cell walls, improving circulation and oxygen. It is important that your overall cholesterol is kept to a normal level but it is equally important to ensure that the balance between the LDL (lousy cholesterol) and the HDL (healthy cholesterol) is maintained with a lower LDL to HDL ratio.
Omega 3 appears to maintain that correct balance. LDL (low density lipoprotein) has smaller particles than the higher density lipoprotein and when oxidised becomes dangerous. Because it is smaller it is able to clump and attach to the walls of the arteries and cause a dangerous narrowing. Pieces can also break off and travel in the bloodstream to major organs like the brain and the heart. An added bonus in eating salmon muscle is that it contains peptides that may also lower blood pressure.
One trial in New Zealand measured adults with a high cholesterol level over a 4-week period. They consumed 3g of salmon oil per day and after the 4 weeks they showed an increase of HDL and a decrease in LDL levels. Lowering both cholesterol and blood pressure levels certainly contributes to a healthy heart.
Omega 3 is linked to brain health in a number of ways. The brain contains a large amount of fat especially Omega 3 fatty acids in particular DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). In studies DHA levels determined levels of brain activity and cognitive function and is thought to be essential for the growth and functional development of the brain in babies. This ability is not limited to young humans as it is vital that this brain activity and function is maintained into old age. Including Omega 3 fatty acids in our diet therefore may well decrease our risk of developing degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Carrying additional weight can certainly contribute to strain on the heart muscle and the salmon has a rather unusual property that whilst yet unproven may help in weight loss.
There is a protein that is released when we begin to eat called amylin. This protein travels to the brain where it is measured and the brain then decides when we have eaten sufficient food and should stop eating. Unfortunately we have got very adept at overriding this message from the brain and consequently we tend to eat more than we actually need leading to weight gain.
The salmon produces a hormone called calcitonin, which has the same effect on animals as amylin does in humans. There is no conclusive proof but it is felt that this hormone when eaten might result in us consuming less food.
The other possible weight loss property of salmon is Chondroiton sulphate. Chondroiton is often used in conjunction with Glucosamine as a joint repair preparation but in this case the Chondroiton which is found in the nose of the salmon appears to have fat blocking capabilities. It appears to work in two ways by reducing the amount of fat absorbed into the intestines and then preventing any fat that has been absorbed from being stored in the cells. This will require a great deal more research but could be an interesting property in the fight against obesity.
As we get older the risk of bone fractures increases with many women particularly suffering from hip joint disease after menopause. Omega 3 may be instrumental in decreasing bone loss and therefore osteoporosis.
Our immune system is working ceaselessly against the constant onslaught of bacteria and viruses and on the whole if we have a healthy diet containing plenty of antioxidant rich foods our defence system keeps us safe. However, from time to time something slips through and then we need to know that all the complex mechanisms of the immune system are functioning perfectly.
Salmon is high in selenium,which is avery important trace mineral that activates an antioxidant enzyme called glutathione peroxidase, which may help protect the body from cancer. It is vital for immune system function and may help prevent prostate cancerin particular.
Overall, the salmon contains many nutrients in the flesh and also in parts of the fish such as bone that is often included in canned fish. It is an excellent source of calcium, magnesium, iron, iodine, manganese, copper, phosphorus and zinc, some of which are of particular benefit for the cardiovascular system and the heart.
Apart from its role in the formation of teeth and bones, calcium is also required for blood clotting, transmission of signals in nerve cells and muscle contractions. There is some indication that higher calcium intake protects against cardiovascular disease particularly in women.
The main function of iron is in haemoglobin, which is the oxygen-carrying component of blood. When someone is iron deficient, they suffer extreme fatigue because they are being starved of oxygen and the major organs of the body such as the heart become deprived of this life essential element.
Salmon is very versatile and provided it is from a healthy source and not from poorly maintained fish farms it can be eaten two to three times a week served hot or cold with plenty of fresh vegetables and salads. It is particularly delicious served chilled with a spinach salad and new potatoes.
You can also eat canned ocean caught salmon and this is particular good if you eat the soften bones that tend to come with it – if you find this unappealing simply mash the salmon and bone together with a fork and use on salads.
For some delicious recipes that will encourage you to include more salmon in your diet.. please head over to an earlier post where Carol Taylor shares some of her favourite dishes: Cook from Scratch – Salmon
©Sally Cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2020
I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-two years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.
If you would like to browse my health books and fiction you can find them here: My books and reviews 2020
Thank you for dropping in today and your feedback and questions are very welcome.. thanks Sally.