There’s a reason the Mediterranean diet is hailed as one of the healthiest diets, getting a thumbs-up from most nutrition experts (myself included). With this diet, fish is often prioritized – and for good reason. Let’s discuss why salmon is one of the best foods for promoting a healthy lifestyle, with over 30 healthy salmon recipes so you never run out of ideas on how to consume it!
What Is So Special About the Mediterranean Diet?
While there’s no specific definition, the Mediterranean diet typically consists of eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and fish twice weekly. So why is it so highly recommended? Well, research shows the diet has potential in decreasing cardiovascular disease, risk of stroke, cognitive decline, inflammation and Alzheimer’s disease (1).
It is often a combination of these foods that contributes to a healthy lifestyle, however, this post we will be focusing on fish, specifically salmon – and why it’s one of the best foods to eat for your health and why.
Why Is Salmon One of the Best Foods to Eat?
Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential, meaning our body cannot make them. They are important components of the membranes that surround every cell in our body. DHA specifically surrounds the retina and brain, and assist with functions for your heart, blood vessels, lungs, immune system and endocrine function.
The three most important omega-3’s are:
– Alpha-linolenic (ALA): found in plant oils, soybeans, nuts/seeds (flax, chia and hemp), fortified eggs and foods.
– Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA): some fish, seafood, and algae.
– Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA): found mostly in fish and seafood.
Our body can convert ALA from foods into small amounts of EPA and DHA – but this is not an efficient process.
Therefore, the best way to consume EPA and DHA is through fish and seafood – with salmon being one of the best sources.
Why Not Just Take Fish Oil Supplements?
Here’s the thing: most recommendations state to consume omega-3 fatty acids from food, as most studies have examined the benefits from eating fish and not taking supplements. Further, fish oil supplements are not regulated by the FDA.
By consuming fish, we are also getting a high-quality protein source with additional vitamins and minerals.
However, there are studies that recommend fish oil supplements if you have cardiovascular disease or rheumatoid arthritis.
Benefits of DHA and EPA: 2 Most Important Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The American Heart Association recommends 1-2 servings of fish per week, mainly because there is strong evidence that it can decrease triglycerides and increase HDL (the “good”) cholesterol (2).
Research strongly suggests that omega-3’s may reduce the inflammatory pathway in atherosclerosis, but more detailed studies are needed (3).
Although it is best to consume omega-3 fatty acids from diet, studies have shown that fish oil in supplement form may reduce the disease progression of rheumatoid arthritis (4). This is because the recommended amount of EPA and DHA per day to reduce inflammation is very high, unreasonable to obtain from diet alone.
Omega-3 fatty acids are critical for fetal brain and retina development during pregnancy. They also might play a role in the prevention of perinatal depression (5). Because of this, it is recommended that pregnant women consume 8-12 ounces of low mercury fish per week, such as salmon!
EPA or DHA are often added to prenatal vitamins but again, the research of its’ benefits in supplement form is limited.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease
Both DHA and EPA are critical to the development of eyesight. In a recent meta-analysis, higher intakes of omega-3 fatty acids were associated with a lower risk of age-related macular degeneration as well as decreased disease progression (8).
Depression and Anxiety
There have been studies which suggest that omega-3 fatty acids can decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety! A recent 2023 study found that those taking an omega-3 supplement with an anti-depressant elicited significantly higher improvement in their depressive symptoms (9).
Mediterranean Diet Salmon Recipes High in Omega-3’s
Here are some Mediterranean diet salmon recipes for inspiration. Most of these recipes are prepared with healthy fats like olive oil, which is what the Mediterranean diet entails.
Salmon is fast and easy to make – serve with vegetables and a side of whole grains!
Miso Salmon (Dinner at the Zoo)
Soaked in a delicious marinade of miso, mirin, brown sugar, soy sauce and sesame oil then topped with sesame seeds.
Buttery Baked Salmon with Broccoli (My Chef’s Apron)
A simple yet flavorful dish that can be cooked together on a sheet pan in less than 30 minutes.
Other sheet pan options:
Sheet Pan Salmon with Green Beans and Sweet Potatoes from Dancing in the Rain.
Air Fryer Salmon Bites (Dish n the Kitchen)
These are teriyaki glazed salmon bites made in the air fryer in under ten minutes!
Salmon Rice Bowl
Inspired by the TikTok salmon rice bowl – packed with flavor and lots of veggies! A healthy, delicious Mediterranean diet salmon recipe.
Easy Old Fashioned Salmon Patties (Sabrina Currie)
For a bit of nostalgia, try these flavorful salmon patties made with canned salmon and salty crackers for a combination of sweet and savory.
Instant Pot Salmon Tikka Masala (Piping Pot Curry)
Try this dish for Indian-inspired flavors with the ease of an Instant Pot.
Baked Chili Lime Glazed Salmon (Simply Made Eats)
Simple, quick yet packed with flavors!
Orange Salmon with Pistachio Crust (The Foodolic)
This salmon perfectly embodies the Mediterranean diet with the incorporation of olive oil and nuts.
Sweet Chili Salmon (The Dizzy Cook)
Touted as the “easiest salmon recipe you’ll ever make” – just glaze it with a sweet chili sauce and bake in the air fryer for the perfect mix of sweet and spicy.
Honey Dijon Glazed Salmon (flavour and savour)
A salmon filet brushed with a simple glaze of olive oil, red wine vinegar, shallots, grainy Dijon mustard and honey.
Salmon Fish Tacos with Creamy Avocado Salsa (Muy Bueno)
Switch the corn tortillas for whole wheat and you’ve got yourself a quick, easy meal full of healthy fats.
Chipotle Salmon and Rice (Daisies and Pie)
Another super easy salmon recipe with Mediterranean ingredients – olive oil and avocado.
Mediterranean Salmon (Haute and Healthy Living)
It’s even in the name! This is the quintessential Mediterranean salmon recipe with ingredients like olives, tomatoes, feta cheese, olive oil and vinegar. Serve over this Mediterranean grain bowl for a super healthy meal.
Also try this super simple Mediterranean Baked Salmon from Cooking Gorgeous.
Pan-Fried Salmon with Peperonata (The Spice Adventures)
A super healthy meal with robust flavors – the peperonata gives it a sweet, smoky flavor.
Pan-Fried Jerk Salmon Fillets (krumpli)
If you love spices, give this Jamaican-inspired dish a try.
So In Summary, Eat More Salmon
In summary – salmon is not only a high-quality protein source with all the essential amino acids, but it’s one of the best sources of EPA and DHA. These essential fatty acids are super important, and the benefits have been widely-researched.
The field of nutrition is always changing, and as the research continues – I am confident that it will reveal even more compelling reasons to eat salmon!