You may already know that eating wild salmon for its omega-3 oils is one of the best ways to improve your health (while also helping to heal numerous medical conditions).
But can you really afford to fork over $20-45 per pound for fresh wild salmon several times a week in today’s economy?
The Good News: Now You Don’t Have To!
Believe it or not, canned wild salmon is just as nutritionally beneficial as fresh — but at a fraction of the price. And while you can’t broil it like a fresh fillet, you’ll be surprised at the amazingly tasty meals you can make with it. (See three of our best canned salmon recipes below.)
But you’ve got to start with a good-quality canned salmon (which isn’t as easy to find as you may think). So recently the My Healing Kitchen Taste Panel went fishing for the most delicious brands.
I’ll tell you which one beat all the others hands down in a moment. But first let me remind you why you want to eat more of this extraordinarily healing fish . . .
The Most Healing Food on Earth?
Did you realize that omega-3 deficiency is the 6th leading killer of Americans? (2009 Harvard University research study) And that not getting enough of this super-healing fish oil kills more people every year than breast cancer?
Here’s why omega-3 fatty acids are so important: Thousands of years ago our diets had a healthy 2:1 balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fats. (Omega-6 fats trigger inflammation in the body, while omega-3 fats neutralize it.)
In our current diet (full of refined carbs and vegetable oils), that ratio is now 20:1 (in favor of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids).
This excess of omega-6 fats is creating lots of inflammation throughout our bodies. And scientists believe this inflammation is the underlying factor in heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, cancer — and virtually every chronic and degenerative disease.
Omega-3 to the Rescue!
But when you increase your intake of omega-3 oils, you reduce inflammation, protect against heart disease and stroke, boost your brainpower and take the “ouch!” out of your painful joints. I’d give omega-3 fatty acid’s an Academy award for that performance!
Wild and Wonderful — or a Farm-Raised Fiasco?
For my money, “wild” is the only salmon worth eating. Farmed-raised varieties contain 35% less omega-3 fatty acids and are up to 14% higher in inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids.
Even worse, studies show that farmed salmon contain high levels of nasty polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) — an endocrine disrupter — as well as the carcinogen dioxin.
Like feedlot cattle, farm-raised fish are crowded together, fed antibiotics, create excessive pollution and encourage parasites. Yuck!
To top it off, farmed fish contain 35% more fat (and not the good kind) because they barely have room to swim — making them “couch potatoes” of the water.
But Is Salmon Sustainable?
Alaska produces 10 times more salmon than America’s other Pacific coastal states, in part because the Alaskan freshwater habitats have remained relatively pristine, compared to the deforested, dammed and developed West Coast. Wild Alaskan Salmon is certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).
Alaskan salmon are among the best managed species in the world, with excellent monitoring of both the fish populations and the fishery. The current abundance of Alaska salmon and its habitat reflects the success of the state’s management practices, according to a report by the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
But not all fisheries are created equal. Locally owned companies tend to do a better job of supporting healthy fish populations. Large, corporate fisheries controlled by out-of-state interests tend to be harder on the fish and the people who make their living from them.
Which Salmon “Cans” Best?
Not all wild salmon “cans” well. Sockeye (also known as red salmon) is prized for the way its tender, flavorful, flaky meat retains its flavor and texture in a can. Other salmons (such as pink salmon) tend to be cheaper, but the flavor is lost and the tough, chewy meat coming out of the can resembles tuna fish more than salmon.
Let the Tasting Begin!
In a blind taste test, our Taste Panel judged the flavor, consistency and appearance of the best-selling canned wild sockeye and pink salmon products on the market. Each was drained and served plain (no mayo, condiments or garnishes). We ranked them according to the My Healing Kitchen “5 Thumbs Up” rating system (with “5” being the best possible score). Here’s how they fared:
|Top Catch: Vital Choice Wild Red Alaskan Sockeye Salmon — skinless and boneless ($5.79 for 6.35 oz, plus shipping)Pros: This product trounced the competition and wowed our judges with surprisingly fresh salmon flavor and tender, flaky texture. The medium-orange flesh was delicious and contained no hint of having been processed.|
|Some of our tasters preferred the “traditional style” (more affordable at $3.91 for 7.5 oz. plus shipping), which includes some skin and small, soft bones that are completely edible and increase its calcium content.A perfect balance of sea salt was added to some cans (a healthful 40 mg per serving). Better yet, the omega-3 content blew away the competition at 804 mg per serving! And it’s certified kosher.Another plus: Vital Choice is a family-owned business dedicated to the health of “the coastal fishing communities, the environment, and the precious wild salmon it sustains.”Cons: We almost missed out on this delicious salmon because it’s not available in any retail store (A last-minute suggestion by a fish-savvy friend brought it to our attention.)We enthusiastically endorse this product and love the company’s integrity and fishing practices, and therefore recommend them to you. Click here to go directly to the website page featuring their canned wild salmon products. (You’ll be surprised by how many other wonderful products they also carry — from flash-frozen fresh salmon filets to organic berries, nuts and chocolates!)NA:Serving size 1/4 cup, 85 calories, 0 carbs, 40 mg salt, 804 mg omega-3’s (including 288 mg EPA and 445 mg DHA)|
|First Runner-Up: 365 Wild Caught Red Sockeye Salmon ($2.29 for 7.5 oz)Pros: Whole Foods’ house brand comes in a respectable (but distant) second place. Our Taste Panel liked the reasonable price, the medium-orange flesh, the pleasant odor and the mild salmon taste (which was not as fresh as Vital Choice’s).Cons: On the other hand, the meat was a bit dry and chewy. At 270 mg, there’s way too much salt and omega-3 content wasn’t even listed. This brand includes skin and bones.NA: Serving size 1/4 cup, 110 calories, 0 carbs, 270 mg salt|
|Second Runner-Up: RainCoast Trading Wild Sockeye (Red) Salmon (No Salt Added) ($4.49 for 5.65 oz.) Pros: Ounce per ounce, RainCoast costs almost as much as Vital Choice’s Wild Red, but the flavor, taste and nutritional quality don’t even come close.Cons: Despite its nice medium-orange color, our testers found it dry and crumbly, with a processed flavor that tasted more like tuna. No omega-3 content was listed (not a good sign).NA: Serving size 1/3 cup, 110 calories, 0 carbs, 35 mg sodium.|
The Rest of the School:
|RainCoast Trading Wild Pink Salmon ($2.99 for 5.65 oz.) Our tasters found this salmon inconsistent and mediocre. The first can we tried had a creamy texture and a nice touch of sea salt. But the second can we opened had “dry, tasteless meat with a strange aftertaste.” Our tasters thought it resembled bad tuna. No omega-3 content is listed on its label.NA:Serving size 1/3 cup, 90 calories, 0 carbs, 170 mg salt.|
|Crown Prince Pacific Pink Salmon ($3.99 for 6 oz.) Here’s another inconsistent product, with one can having a nice light pink color and subtle salmon flavor and the contents of the second resembling white tuna and having no flavor whatsoever. They do get points for listing their omega-3’s, even though it’s only 25% of what’s in Vital Choice’s Wild Red.NA:Serving size 1/4 cup, 60 calories, 0 carbs, 210 mg salt, 235 mg omega-3’s.|
|Trader Joe’s Skinless Boneless Wild Alaskan Pink Salmon ($1.99 for 6 oz) This salmon is firm, clean and chunky, but our panel disliked the unappetizing, dry, grainy texture, lack of color, bland flavor and funky aftertaste. Salt did little to improve the flavor. No omega-3 content was listed.NA:Serving size 1/4 cup, 60 calories, 0 carbs, 60 mg sodium|
|365 Whole Foods Wild Caught Skinless Boneless Pink Salmon ($2.39 for 6 oz.) Solidly in last place is Whole Foods’ Pink Salmon. It was unanimously rejected because of its dry, grainy and bitter meat, lack of color, odd aftertaste, high sodium and no omega-3 listing. Ugh!NA:Serving size 1/4 cup, 60 calories, 0 carbs, 220 mg sodium|
A Word about Economy
It’s challenging to figure out the actual price per ounce of these products due to the various size cans. If your budget is tight, price does matter — but a product that tastes like cat food and has dubious omega-3 content is no bargain.
For value, flavor and nutrition, Vital Choice’s Wild Red won hands down. And being humanely/ecologically raised makes it even more attractive.
Considering all these factors, our “Top Catch” winner is a genuine bargain. When purchased in quantity a 24-can case direct from the fishery is $139 (shipping included) — about $5.79 per can. This is an excellent value for truly “wild” omega-3-rich Alaskan salmon.
A case of “traditional-style” (including skin and bones) is only $94 plus shipping. And the flavor is so good, you can pack it for lunch and eat it directly out of the can on crackers. In a moment, I’ll give you a few terrific, original My Healing Kitchen “taste-tested” recipes so you can enjoy this truly healing food in delicious meals.
If you want to spend less, I recommend Whole Foods 365 Sockeye, which has reasonable flavor and is much less expensive. I wish it listed omega-3 content, and I don’t like the high salt content. The flavor and nutritional quality aren’t nearly as good. But if you have to have cheaper salmon, this is the one to buy. (Be sure to get the 365 Sockeye, not the 365 Pink Salmon!)
Here are the price-per-ounce comparisons for all of the wild salmon products we tested:
$.91/oz for Wild Red Skinless and Boneless (for 24-can case; shipping included)
$.52/oz for Wild Red Traditional (for 24-can case, plus shipping)
$.30/oz for 365 Whole Foods Sockeye
$.79/oz for RainCoast Sockeye
$.52/oz for RainCoast Pink
$.66/oz for Crown Prince Pink
$.33/oz for Trader Joe’s Pink
$.39/oz for 365 Whole Foods Pink
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