The Healthiest Salmon in the World

Sockeye salmon turn bright red when they head up river to spawn.

© Harald Hois

Sockeye salmon turn bright red when they head up river to spawn.

Sockeye salmon turn bright red when they head up river to spawn.

© Harald Hois

The sockeye salmon is one of seven species of Pacific salmon and it is prized all over the world for its firm, succulent orange meat and fine aroma. Oncorhynchus nekra, or sockeye salmon, breeds the cold lakes and rivers from Alaska to the Sacramento River in California, in the Yukon Territory, in British Columbia (Canada) and near Washington and Oregon (USA).

It is at home in the Asian coastal waters from the Anadyr Basin to Hokkaido, especially on the east coast of Kamchatka, more rarely in the Sea of Okhotsk.

Sockeye salmon fry spend up to three years in their native habitat, the fresh water lakes of North America, before heading out into the Pacific where they thrive on zooplankton. Interestingly the young salmon are not red when they swim out to sea, rather they have silver flanks with black speckles and a blueish hue to their top - hence their other knickname - bluebacks. 

Having gorged on plankton they return to their original spawning ground at around the age of five, taking on their distinctive red colour as the enter the fresh water rivers. Once back at the lake where they were born, they will mate and then die. Like all oily fish, salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids, but sockeye salmon has more omega-3 than any other species of salmon.

In British Columbia, Canada, more precisely around Shuswap Lake and in Tsútswecw Provincial Park, the sockeye migration can be observed at close quarters. The Adams River salmon run is the largest salmon spawning event on Canada's west coast. Chris Whittaker, the executive chef at Jack Sam's Restaurant & Lounge in the Quaaout Lodge & Spa overlooking the idyllic

Little Shuswap Lake, sees red salmon as the most important food in his region, "We serve sockeye in our lodge. The healthy fats of just this type of fish and the tender pink of the meat give the dish a very special touch, whether raw, smoked or fried or boiled."

Health benefits

The health benefits of salmon are enormous, for example; 100 grams of this delicious fish contains 2.7 grams of omega-3 fatty acids. This is probably the healthiest way to consume fat and protein - no fish on earth has such positive fat values.

Salmon has more potassium than an equivalent amount of banana which is great for lower blood pressure and thus reducing the risk of a stroke. Vitamins B6, B12, B2, niacin and riboflavin are now known to reduce immflamation and they keep your brain and nervous system functioning properly.

Sockeye also has more astaxanthin than any other salmon, in fact it is the astaxanthin that gives the meat its red hue. Like omega-3 this antioxidant has an anti-inflammatory effect, but it is also thought to contribute to keeping our skin looking young and healthy.

The omega-3 fatty acids strengthen brain performance, decrease omega-6 levels in our blood as well as lowering trigycerides and the calcium ensures our bones remain healthy and strong. Regular consumption of oily fish, such as salmon, not only lifts the mood, it also reduces the release of stress hormones and helps you fall asleep and stay asleep.

Even the high protein content can help with weight loss, as protein is known to regulate the hormones which control our appetites - salmon, sockeye or not, really should be part of our diet every single week.