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Can eating salmon help you lose weight?

We know it’s healthy, but is it good for weight loss?

Can Eating Salmon Help You Lose Weight? | Juniper

Whether it’s grilled, steamed, pan-fried or even raw, there’s no doubt salmon is one tasty fish. 

It’s also widely touted as a particularly nutritious form of seafood, containing several vitamins and minerals crucial for good health, as well as beneficial fats.

We know it’s healthy, but can salmon also help you lose weight? As it turns out, it actually can.

Nutritional facts of salmon

Salmon contains lots of great stuff: protein, B vitamins, selenium, niacin and potassium, along with several other vitamins and minerals [1][2].

You’ve probably also heard salmon referred to as an oily fish [3]. This simply means it contains plenty of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, healthy fats that are beneficial for cellular function as well as your heart, brain, eyes, skin and kidneys [4].

Interestingly, though, not all salmon are created equal. 

There’s actually a bit of a nutritional difference between farmed and wild-caught salmon (i.e. the type found naturally in rivers, lakes and oceans). Farmed salmon contains less protein, vitamins B6 and B12, selenium, niacin, and potassium. However, it does have a higher fat and thiamine content.

There can also be some disparity between farmed salmon, with a 2020 study assessing farmed salmon sold in the UK finding there’s a significant variance between retailers [5].

The study concluded there was a fairly wide range of fatty acid profiles and selenium content, meaning there could be a noticeable nutritional difference depending on where you buy farmed salmon from.

What are the health benefits of salmon?

Generally speaking, salmon boasts a bunch of health benefits. These are just a few of them.

It’s good for your heart

Like other types of oily fish, salmon contains 2 types of omega-3 fatty acids that are particularly good for you: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). 

Research shows that a diet high in fish and higher levels of omega-3s is linked to a lower chance of heart problems like heart failure, coronary disease, and fatal coronary heart disease [6].

Experts recommend eating 1-2 servings of seafood per week to reap the heart-health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. You need to get these fatty acids through your dietv because your body doesn’t produce them itself.

It's also good for your brain

DHA, in particular, is great for your brain [7]. It protects the neurons in your brain, curbs inflammation, is integral in the production of neurotransmitters and can help improve memory, learning, and mental health [8].

On the other hand, a lack of DHA in your brain is connected to a range of brain-related conditions, including Alzheimer’s, memory loss, mood problems, and ADHD.

It nourishes your skin

Those omega-3 fatty acids we mentioned earlier — as well as the vitamin A contained in salmon — can also do wonders for your skin. And it’s all to do with how they help control free radicals [9].

Free radicals are produced by the body as a natural by-product of several bodily processes [10]. The body also makes them when it’s exposed to environmental stressors like UV radiation, pollution, chemicals, smoking, and even X-rays [11].

However, excessive free radical damage can lead to skin concerns such as fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots, and uneven skin tone. Fortunately, in conjunction with astaxanthin — the antioxidant that gives salmon its distinct pinky hue — omega-3 fatty acids have the capacity to curb free radical damage.

It has anti-inflammatory powers

Omega-3s have yet another powerful property: they’re able to beat inflammation. 

When your body produces an inflammatory response, it releases certain chemicals, including leukocytes and cytokines. Omega-3 fatty acids actually have the capacity to disrupt these chemicals, leading to reduced inflammation and pain [12].

This is why fatty fish is often recommended to those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammation-related conditions, like heart disease. 

Is salmon good for weight loss?

It absolutely can be. Salmon is high in protein and fairly low in calories: there’s about 25.4g of protein and 182 calories in a 100g serving of wild salmon, and 22.1g of protein and 206 calories in 100g of farmed salmon. This makes either option a great addition to a weight loss diet.

Protein is a crucial part of weight loss because it makes you feel fuller for longer (potentially reducing the urge to snack between meals) and it helps build lean muscle. Muscle burns more calories than fat, which is why building more of it is so advantageous for weight loss.

The omega-3 fatty acids in salmon may also help boost metabolism. Several studies have demonstrated the power of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation in increasing metabolic rates, even by up to 14% [13][14][15].

A 2022 study also found that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation helped boost weight loss results. Two groups of obese adults were put on a weight loss diet, with one group given 1020mg of omega-3 daily. At the end of the 12-week study, the group taking the omega-3 supplements had less abdominal fat in terms of both mass and percentage [16].

However, salmon alone won’t necessarily help you lose weight. Weight loss is all about creating a calorie deficit (i.e. consuming fewer calories than you’re burning, usually through exercise), otherwise, you won’t really lose weight.

This is why salmon should be treated as part of a healthy, balanced diet, not your entire weight loss strategy.

What is the best type of salmon for weight loss?

Wild salmon is generally considered the more nutritious option. 

Because wild salmon is found in rivers, lakes and oceans, it’s able to feed on whatever’s in its natural environment — think other smaller fish, zooplankton, and prawns. Farmed salmon, on the other hand, are fed fish pellets, animal byproducts and grains like wheat, canola, and soy. 

This is why there’s such a variance in the nutritional profiles of wild and farmed salmon, and even between different brands of farmed salmon. The vitamins and minerals they contain are largely based on what they eat.

There’s also a difference between red and pink salmon. Generally, the former is richer in omega-3s and protein, while the latter is lower in calories. Red salmon comes from sockeye salmon and can only be found in the wild. If you’re buying farmed salmon, it’s almost definitely going to be the pink variety.

Can you eat salmon every day?

For the most part, you’re unlikely to experience any adverse effects by consuming salmon every day. But you probably don’t need to; experts believe that eating 2 portions of oily fish, like salmon, each week is enough to reap the health benefits [17].

However, the rules change if you’re pregnant because mercury levels become more of a concern. Compared to several other types of fish, salmon is fairly low in mercury. But to ensure you’re not consuming too much of the stuff, experts still recommend sticking to 2-3 servings per week at most [18].

Is salmon better than chicken for weight loss?

Tossing up between salmon and chicken as your protein of choice? 

You can certainly add either to your weight loss diet, as each is high in protein and fairly low in calories, and neither contains carbs (if you’re looking to reduce your carbohydrate intake). But, there are a few differences between them.

In a 100g portion, chicken breast contains slightly more protein (31g compared to 25.4g in wild salmon and 22.1g in farmed salmon), and is lower in calories (165 compared to 182 in wild salmon and 200 in farmed salmon) and fat (3.57g compared to 8.13g in wild salmon and 12.4g in farmed salmon) [1][2][19].

However, salmon typically contains more vitamins and minerals, making it the slightly more nutritious option. 

6 weight loss-friendly ways to eat salmon

So, how can you add salmon to your diet if you’re looking to lose weight? Here are 6 of the healthiest ways to eat it:

1. Steamed salmon

Steaming is an excellent way to prepare salmon because it keeps the fish moist but doesn’t require you to add any oil — thus reducing both the calorie and fat content of your meal.

Simply place your salmon fillet in the steamer and put it on the stovetop, or wrap your fillet in a baking paper parcel and cook it in a hot oven. Both methods take about 15-20 minutes in total, also making this way of cooking salmon a quick option for weeknights.

2. Poached salmon

Whether you poach your salmon in water or stock, you’ll be met with a super tender end result. Plus, much like steamed salmon, poaching doesn’t need any additional oils or fats.

Place your salmon fillet in a saucepan of simmering water or stock and cook for 8-10 minutes. You can also add seasonings to the water — like fresh lemon slices, herbs, onion or garlic — to boost the flavour.

3. Grilled salmon

Grilling is a slightly healthier option than pan-frying because it requires less oil. You just need to lightly grease your grill pan before cooking the salmon, which will raise the fat and calorie content only a little.

Make sure to cook your salmon skin-side down first, which helps the salmon retain its juices. You can always remove the skin before eating if you want to reduce the fat and calorie content.

4. Smoked salmon

Though higher in sodium than fresh salmon, smoked salmon is another healthy way of eating this fatty fish. Plus, it's incredibly convenient and the perfect ingredient for a quick-and-easy dinner or snack.

5. Raw salmon

If you’re a fan of sushi, sashimi, carpaccio or ceviche, each is a great way to gain all the nutritional benefits of salmon.

6. Tinned salmon

Canned salmon can certainly be a part of a healthy weight loss diet. It’s super convenient and a great addition to salads, sandwiches, pasta dishes, fish cakes, savoury tarts, and slices.

Just note that it is also higher in sodium than fresh salmon and, depending on what you pair it with, it can venture into unhealthy territory. Try to avoid high-fat and high-calorie salad dressings, condiments like mayonnaise, and excessive amounts of high-sodium ingredients such as cheese.

Sides with your salmon

If you’re looking for healthy side dishes to go with your salmon, you can’t go wrong with these weight-loss-friendly options:

  • Salad
  • Steamed veg
  • Steamed or boiled potatoes
  • Brown rice or quinoa

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