Salmon... the New Beef?

Zora Jimenez | 8/31/2011, 2:07 p.m.

As Americans take a bit more stock in what they eat and how they prepare it, many have substituted beef and chicken for fish. And with so much focus on the amazing benefits of Omega-3 oils, salmon has come out heads and shoulders above the rest.

Several recent studies have found that salmon contains small bioactive protein molecules (called bioactive peptides) that may provide special support for joint cartilage, insulin effectiveness, and control of inflammation in the digestive tract. One particular bioactive peptide called calcitonin (sCT) has been of special interest in these studies. The reason is because a human form of calcitonin is made by the thyroid gland, and we know that it is a key hormone for helping regulate and stabilize the balance of collagen and minerals in the bone and surrounding tissue.

Nutritionists worldwide tout the benefits of eating salmon, including, its excellent source of protein, with 18 grams per 3 ounces. It is also a great source of potassium, selenium, B12 and niacin. Most importantly, wild salmon is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids promote heart and brain health, reduce inflammation, increase circulation and memory, and help to control blood sugar.

Some consider wild Alaskan salmon is superior to farm raised salmon for several reasons. Farm raised salmon do not produce as many omega-3s as their wild counterparts because their diet consists of grains. Grain-fed salmon produce omega-6 fatty acids which can cause inflammation. Farm raised salmon has often tested high for polychlorinated biphenyls, PCBs, and might be the most PCB-contaminated protein on the U.S. market. For these reasons, farm raised salmon should be avoided, with the healthful wild salmon always being the best choice.

Typically, salmon are born in fresh water, migrate to the ocean, then return to fresh water to reproduce. Classified as an "oily fish", salmon is considered to be healthy due to the fish's high protein, high omega-3 fatty acids, and high vitamin D content. Salmon is also a source of cholesterol, with a range of 23-214 mg/100 g depending on the species.

In addition to the all of the health benefits, salmon is also extremely tasty and versatile. Raw in dishes like ceviche, smoked for breakfast and eaten with bagels and cream cheese, or prepared grilled, poached, baked or even made into burgers, salmon is considered easy and quick to prepare.

Jennifer August, a University of Maryland graduate student said that when she relocated from Miami a year ago, the first thing she asked locals about was where to find great salmon. August, 27, said she was immediately "hipped" to Panache in downtown D.C.

"They were a bit expensive for me, but I date a lot and can usually get my dates to pay the tab two or three times a month. The blackened salmon is that phenomenal - almost as good as my grandfather's recipe," August said.

The Blackened Norwegian Salmon at Panache is pan seared medium served with Spanish rice and a grilled tomato- jalapeno okra compote. It is considered by many salmon aficionados in the area to be among the best. The barbecue salmon served with 24-hour tomatoes, fresh green beans and a side of parmesan polenta is an Informer favorite found at Zest Bistro at Barrack's Row on Capitol Hill.

Sweetwater Tavern, with locations in both Falls Church and Fairfax, Virginia, offers a Short Smoked Grilled Salmon Salad over mixed greens with champagne vinaigrette, dates, sun dried cranberries, new potatoes & pine nuts, and goat cheese. This same, amazing salmon, is available as an entree, Short Smoked Salmon Filet marinated and smoked, then hickory grilled on basil redskin mashed potatoes and Dijon cream.

For those who would prefer to prepare salmon at home, there are thousands of recipes that are quick and simple. A general rule is to start with a great salmon filet from a butcher - Whole Foods or Harris Teeter offer pretty good selections. Fresh herbs and garlic wrapped in Parchment paper and baked for twelve to fifteen minutes. Paired with rice or couscous, and fresh vegetables, a great meal is possible in less than 20 minutes.