I get excited when I know that a juicy, tender, flavoursome steak awaits in the fridge for dinner. No, I haven’t decided to add red meat to my MS diet – though this specific steak has its own beautiful red/pink hue! I’m talking about my salmon fetish! It really has become one of my all time favourite foods. Quick and easy to prepare, it goes brilliantly with my steamed vegetables or raw salad and leaves me feeling clean and completely satisfied. Many of you have written to me about how much you enjoy salmon and yet others I have chatted to were not even aware that salmon was an option. In this post, I want to elaborate on why salmon is an essential part of the MS Diet and hopefully persuade you, if you are not currently eating it, to start including it in your weekly meals.
Wild salmon is a true superfood that actually contributes to and enhances our body’s healing processes. Time and time again, it is mentioned in conjunction with MS recovery and a healthy MS diet. It has a gorgeous array of nutrients and fats that our bodies just love. Omega 3’s, vitamin D and antioxidants are the little miracle workers contained in salmon that keep us in tip top shape and loving life.
Salmon is the common name for several species of fish. It is often also called “trout”, but unofficially as trout don’t usually migrate, whereas salmon do. Typically, salmon are born in freshwater, after which they migrate to the ocean. They return to freshwater to reproduce. This migration is often very spectacular, especially the spawning season that comes after it. The name “salmon” is thought to derive from a latin word meaning “to leap”, which these amazing fish do to get upstream on their way to reproduce.
Salmon is widely available through about nine commercially fished species. You should be able to find it at almost every grocery store or your local fishmonger. It can be more expensive than other fish, but it just depends on the supply in your area. It is very affordable in London where I live (yay!).
Of the many types of salmon, they are most often broken down into region of origin. Atlantic salmon is most common in Northern Europe and along the Atlantic region of the eastern United States. Because Atlantic salmon was initially harvested in Norway, many types of Atlantic salmon are labeled “Norwegian salmon”. Nearly all Atlantic salmon is farmed. The rest of the world’s salmon originates in the Pacific region, most notably Alaska and Canada. Some Pacific salmon is also harvested or farmed in the American Northwest.
King Salmon (also called Chinook salmon) is most notable for its flesh, which ranges in color from white to a deep red color. Chum (much less common), is also called dog salmon for it’s dog-like teeth. Chum has a pale to medium-colored flesh that sets it apart in flavor. Coho salmon (silver salmon), has a vibrantly colored red flesh and an especially silver skin. Sockeye is most known for its bright red-orange flesh and deep flavor. Finally, Pink salmon is the most common Pacific salmon with a very light colored flesh and its low fat content, which is probably what you may find in your supermarket.
Wild vs Farmed Salmon
Have you checked where your salmon actually comes from? Not all salmon are created equal! There is a BIG difference between wild salmon that is ocean or stream caught and farmed salmon reared in crowded pens and fed cornmeal (see picture of salmon fish farm below). Wild salmon has far more health benefits for people with MS, than farmed salmon. You may be shocked, as I was, when I first discovered the truth! Here are some of the differences that generally occur:
- Pro-inflammatory because of a higher omega 6 content. They are fed corn products and byproducts which are high in Omega-6 vegetable oil.
- Provide less usable Omega 3s than wild salmon due to what they eat
- 20 percent more fatty than wild salmon because they circle lazily in their pens instead of leaping up rocky streams. How depressed they must be!
- Vaccinated and given antibiotics to ward off infection.
- Given a salmon coloured dye in their food to produce their pink colour. Without this their flesh would be grey in colour.
- May contain higher levels of pesticides because of the salmon feed
- May contains added hormones which may interfere with your own levels
Anti-inflammatory due to the more stable Omega 3 and 6 balance
- Higher content of usable Omega 3s – wild salmon eat krill, smaller fish and algae which are all rich sources of Omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants such as astaxanthin.
- Less fatty because they are allowed to swim freely in oceans and rivers
- Protein content is generally 20 percent higher
- Natural pink colour from the krill they eat.
- Antibiotic and pesticide free
Shopping For Wild Salmon
So where does one find this elusive ‘wild’ salmon? How much more expensive is it than farmed salmon? These are questions you may be asking yourself right now. I have good news for you. It should be freely available in most of the big supermarket chains and is not that much more expensive. It is worth the small premium. If you want to choose your cuts then visit a good fishmonger. You can also purchase excellent quality wild salmon online and it is delivered to your door. Surprisingly, canned wild salmon is also a fantastic and economical choice. This is available from all supermarkets and can even be ordered through Amazon! So it shouldn’t be difficult to add it to your MS diet ingredient list!
When buying salmon, the suggestion is that you purchase line-caught Alaskan fish first. This is based on the fact that the healthiest populations exist in Alaska. The Alaska Salmon Fishery recently received the Marine Stewardship Council’s label for sustainability. This was due to their successful efforts of conserving and protecting wild salmon habitats.
Specifically look out for these things when buying:
- Avoid fishy-smelling and discolored salmon as it may not be fresh.
- The eyes should be clear and there should be no cuts or abrasions on the belly.
- The flesh should be firm and not separated from the bone.
- If you purchase salmon that is pre-packaged, select one without a lot of liquid.
A note about smoked salmon: the smoking process, although adding a delicious favour, also reduces the health content of the salmon. Eating smoked salmon may increase your risk of intake of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, chemicals that can elevate your risk of cancer. In other words, it is toxic for your body, which makes it inflammatory for MS’ers! Its probably best to steer clear of smoked salmon. Watch out for fresh “Atlantic” salmon which is generally farm-raised. The name refers to the species, not the fish’s origin. Always read the labels on the packaging very carefully to make 100 percent sure the salmon you are buying is not farmed.
Why Salmon Is Ideal For Your MS Diet
I love salmon, and so does my body. Here are some benefits you can expect to receive by eating it as part of your MS diet:
MS Specific Benefits
Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids: Just two servings per week with your MS diet provides the recommended intake of Omega 3. However, you can eat it more often if you are in a position to do so.
Wild Salmon is a rich source of Omega 3s (EPA & DHA) which are critical to good health and are essential for brain development and function. They cannot, however, be produced naturally by the human body and need to be obtained from food. The human brain is made up of 60% structural fat, and in order to function properly, needs the right kind of fat. Omega-3s make sure that signals are passed quickly and easily between the membranes of our brain cells. These fats are also raw materials in the repair and reconstruction of the myelin sheath, one of the main goals of a healthy MS diet. They also have a strong anti-inflammatory effect on the body and help to reduce symptoms caused by inflammation on the nerves (helps create an anti-inflammatory diet). Read more about this further down.
Vitamin D: Salmon is also a potent source of Vitamin D which is a critically important piece of the Healing MS puzzle. Vitamin D is a protective factor for MS and has been shown to reduce relapses and slow disease progression.
It also plays a role in regulating the immune system and keeping our rogue T-cells in check. Many people with MS have low levels of vitamin D and need to be on supplementation. However, eating a few servings of salmon per week will keep your levels strong and healthy. I do still recommend supplements though, if your levels are on the low side.
Anti-inflammatory Effects: The omega 3s in salmon provide a powerful anti-inflammatory effect. Omega 3 fatty acids balance the effects of omega-6 fatty acids in your MS diet. Omega-6 fatty acids make your body produce eicosanoids that promote inflammation. The eicosanoids produced from omega-3 fatty acids counter their inflammatory effect. Obviously, the less inflammation in our bodies, the less symptoms we will experience and the better our quality of life will be. Another great kick back is that these anti-inflammatory effects make it easier to lose weight and keep it off.
Antioxidants and Minerals: Salmon contains a full variety of vital anti-oxidants and minerals:
- Vitamin E does its job by destroying free radicals and slowing down the ageing process. It also keeps the nervous system healthy by protecting the myelin sheaths that surround nerves. If this isn’t enough this amazing little nutrient also helps the immune system to function more effectively.
- Zinc is most well known for its immune boosting properties, however, zinc also is directly involved in proper endocrine function and the maintenance of ideal hormone levels (as discussed in a previous post about hormones and MS). It is of vital importance that hormones are kept in balance and at their correct levels.
- B vitamins for vascular and neurological health
- Calcium for bone and muscle health.
General Benefits (but may help MS symtoms)
- Beta Carotene is another antioxidant that has powerful anti-aging properties and provides protection from damage caused by free radicals. It also plays significant role in preventing and healing vision problems.
- Manganese is another essential antioxidant that also helps with memory. One common symptom of a deficiency in manganese is severe memory loss.
- Copper helps to keep the brain strong and functioning beautifully. It also stalls the ageing process and protects cell membrane from free radicals.
- Iron helps combat fatigue and also strengthens the immune system. It is also a vital element in muscle health.
Salmon Preparation And Serving Tips
There are some excellents methods to get the most out the salmon taste – if you are considering adding salmon to you MS diet consistently, these will sure to come in handy:
When cooking salmon, the trick is not to overcook it – salmon will become dry very quickly, and the smooth texture becomes more tough.
It needs to be watched and then removed from the heat as soon as it is cooked all the way through and there is no raw flesh remaining. It must, however, still be slightly pink and soft in the middle. This only takes around ten minutes in a preheated oven.
The easiest way to prepare your salmon fillet is to season it with salt, pepper and any other herbs, place it on a baking tray and bake until soft and tender. If you want to be a bit more adventurous, you can marinate it in lemon juice and stuff it with garlic and ginger (here are all the recipes with salmon on the site).
This can now be served on a bed of rice with steamed vegetables or fresh salad. I often make a salad and then break my salmon into pieces over the salad.
I top this with a few drizzles of olive oil. So absolutely delicious! It can also be incorporated into a gluten free pasta dish too.
For those of you who have not quite fallen in love with salmon just yet, please persevere with this amazing superfood. Why not start with some salmon sushi – my absolute special treat! Salmon is a wonderful alternative to meat and will provide you with the protein and essential fats you need to function effectively. It’s anti-inflammatory benefits will also help to ease inflammation in your body and hopefully help to send your MS into remission. It is the perfect ingredient for an anti-inflammatory diet.
Remember to only buy excellent quality wild salmon, as farmed salmon could be doing more harm than good. I know this is less sustainable for the environment, but given your condition, you can make it up to the world somewhere else, like cycling to work! 😉
For those of you who are salmon connoisseurs, keep experimenting with new ways to prepare and cook it. Feel free to share your ideas for preparation with us! We would love to hear them in a comment below!
I’ll be doing some more MS healing foods again soon! Please drop me a comment below if you would like me to cover any specific MS healing foods! I hope you’ll be adding salmon to your next grocery list! 😉
Lastly, if you enjoyed this post, I would very much appreciate a quick tweet from you about this post if you have time.