Not All Salmon Benefits The Brain

Salmon can be a tricky topic when it comes to brain health.  It may be a powerhouse of nutrients that works to improve your brain’s function or it can be a house of destruction that leads to further inflammation and toxicity.  It is all in what you pick.

The Salmon That Harms

See this picture.  This is what you do not want when it comes to salmon.  Farmed salmon is a powerful pollutant to the body.  It contains in no uncertain terms levels of mercury, pesticides, dioxins, dioxin-like compounds (DLCs) and Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).  What does all this mean?  Thank you Wisconsin Department of Health for informing us:

PCBs are a group of 209 different compounds. PCBs are manufactured substances and have no smell. They are yellow, oily liquids that don’t burn easily. There are no natural sources of PCBs. Companies in the United States first made PCBs in 1929. They’ have been used as coolants in electrical equipment, in metal-cutting oils, in microscope lens oils, and in inks, dyes, and carbonless copy paper. In 1977, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned the use of PCBs. The EPA was concerned about the harmful effects of PCBs. For example, PCBs can accumulate in the environment. PCBs may be present in old fluorescent light fixtures and parts of appliances made before 1978. For most people, eating fish or other seafood caught from polluted water is the main way in which they are exposed to PCBs. Women who are pregnant or who plan to have children should be especially cautious about eating contaminated fish. When people eat contaminated food over many years, PCBs can build up in their body fat. When people lose weight or breastfeed, their bodies use stored fat and put stored PCBs back into their blood. Babies may be exposed to PCBs in breast milk from mothers who often eat PCB contaminated fish.”

Wikipedia goes on to state the following about PCBs: “The International Research Agency on Cancer (IRAC), rendered PCBs as definite carcinogens in humans. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), PCBs cause cancer in animals and are probable human carcinogens.[4] Many rivers and buildings including schools, parks, and other sites are contaminated with PCBs, and there have been contaminations of food supplies with the toxins.  Some PCBs share a structural similarity and toxic mode of action with dioxin.[5] Other toxic effects such as endocrine disruption (notably blocking of thyroid system functioning) and neurotoxicity are known.” 

Neurotoxicity means it is toxic to your brain.  Obviously, no one wants to eat food that is known to be neurotoxic, therefore, eliminate farmed salmon from your child’s diet immediately.  Most salmon you find in restaurants and grocery stores will be farmed salmon or Atlantic salmon (i.e. farmed). So what salmon is safe to eat and beneficial to your brain health?  Let me fill you in!


The Salmon That Saves

Wild-Caught Alaskan Sockeye Salmon pictured above is the fish of choice.  Some fisheries may claim wild-caught and not actually be so.  Shocking, I know! Note the sarcasm.  When you are looking at a package ensure that it states it is Alaskan Sockeye Salmon.  It will have the least amount of toxins.  Some doctors report other viable options with lower toxicity rates are as follows: Coho, Pink, Kodiak Coho and Chinook.  You probably want to know why you should be eating salmon at all given the issues with pesticides and other toxic chemicals.

Wild-Caught Alaskan Sockeye Salmon boasts unreal amounts of nutrition and enough scientists have articulated the benefits way out weigh the possible detriments.  Alaskan salmon can add this to your diet in 4 tiny ounces: Vitamin B12, Selenium, B3, Iodine, Choline, B5, Biotin, Potassium, Protein, and Phosphorus.  Might I go on?  Thank you Alaska for providing one of the few natural food sources that provides 127% of your daily value of Vitamin D.  Most Americans are deficient and many of us are depressed.  Vitamin D works to fight off depression.  Win-win in my book!  Last but not least, Omega-3 Fatty Acids can be found in your pretty red, small serving of fish.  Many children are extremely low in omega-3’s and this is bad news bears.  We need our children to consume healthy omega-3’s to fight inflammation, fight depression, reduce ADHD symptoms, prevent Alzheimer’s and Parkison’s and calm anxiety.

Most recommendations suggest eating Alaskan Salmon one to three times a week.  I follow these guidelines for my own family and incorporate the fish into our diet in several ways:

  • Add to cooked noodles and vegetables
  • Make salmon cakes (similar to crab cakes)
  • Grill the fish
  • Bake the fish
  • Combine it with vegetable fried rice
  • On a lazy day or if my children are being picky about it,  I add it to a box of Annie’s Organic Mac N’ Cheese with peas and pepper.  Peas and pepper just jazz it up it a bit.  Make it any vegetable or seasoning you wish.


When Given A Choice

Between farmed salmon on the left and Alaskan sockeye salmon on the right – pick the fish on the right.  If you are going to spend the money on a food that is beneficial to your child’s brain, go all the way in the correct direction.  It will be worth every penny.  Forget the farmed fish.  Visit a farm instead.  If ever there is a time and place to be picky, please be picky with your fish consumption.

For more information about seafood safety for pregnant women and children, please visit the FDA here.