What type of salmon is healthiest?

America’s most popular fish to eat is none other than beloved salmon. This is popular on the menu during the holidays, and we consumed over 1.1 billion pounds of salmon in 2021, a 16%  increase from the previous year.* If you choose to eat fish, salmon CAN be a healthy choice because it contains omega 3's, is full of protein, and low in saturated fats and cholesterol.* HOWEVER, there are certain types of salmon you'd want to avoid. 

What Type of Salmon Should I Eat? 

70% of the salmon consumed is farmed salmon.* Most farmed salmon we eat are labeled “Atlantic Salmon” since they are mainly grown in salmon farms in the North-East coast, Canada, and Norway. But surprisingly, the majority of the farmed salmon that Americans eat come from Chile. Wild Atlantic salmon is an endangered species and it is illegal to fish for them. 

If you see the label “Atlantic salmon”, it will almost certainly be farmed. Avoid. 

Unfortunately, our waterways are heavily polluted now too - so even wild fish now comes with a baggage of environmental toxins previously not found in fish e.g. mercury - a neurotoxin, PCB - an endocrine disrupter and associated with breast cancer, PFAs - endocrine disrupter, associated with certain cancers, thyroid disease, fertility issues. 

So IF you choose to eat fish, it is important to be educated on the best type of fish to pick and limit the amount you consume - this article is here to help you. 

Why should I avoid farmed salmon?

  • Synthetic food dyes (see below)
  • Antibiotics (disrupts our friendly gut bacteria)
  • High in environmental toxicants like PCB and dioxins (endocrine disrupters associated with increased risks of breast cancer)

Farmed salmon is naturally gray in color because they do not feed on the diet that wild salmon feed on. Wild salmon eat krill and shrimp, which are high in pink/orange pigments called carotenoids e.g. astaxanthin. Farm-raised salmon live in a pen and are fed a feed including smaller fish, grains, ground-up soybeans, and chicken fat… basically byproducts of other industries, rather than the diet nature intended salmon to eat. In order for farmed salmon to appear pink/orange, synthetic carotenoids are sometimes used. 

Why does farmed salmon have antibiotics?

The answer lies in the way these fish are farmed. According to Putlizer-prize-winning journalist Douglas Frantz and his wife and fellow journalist Catherine Collins, authors of Salmon War,  “Farmed salmon are bred to grow fast in cages so crammed that they are rife with parasites and disease. The fish eat pellets of fishmeal, vegetables, and animal byproducts; they are doused regularly with pesticides and antibiotics.”*

“Some studies warn that a single meal per month of farmed Atlantic salmon can expose consumers to contaminant levels exceeding standards from the World Health Organization. The risk is greatest for infants, children, and pregnant women because of the potential harm from contaminants to developing brains.”

Seafood Watch, an independent guide to fish consumption, recommends avoiding most farmed salmon. There are more sustainable farmed salmon but the label “sustainably farmed” is deceptive and it’s hard to know who to trust. My general advice for now is to stick with wild salmon. 

Choose Wild Salmon instead.

Wild salmon available in the U.S. is mainly Pacific salmon (mostly wild). Specifically, salmon caught in Alaska (chinook/king, chum, coho, pink, sockeye) are among the better-managed fish stocks in the U.S. and are also low in contaminants. Most Alaskan salmon populations are healthy, and fish are caught with gear that does little damage to the environment.*

Wild salmon is also more nutrient-dense than farmed salmon. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database and a study by Boston University, 3 ounces of salmon provides*:


Wild Salmon

(% of RDA)

Farmed Atlantic Salmon

(% of RDA)

Vitamin D


















Vitamin A




Are there Toxins even in Wild Salmon (e.g. Mercury)?

There is mercury in almost all fish, including salmon. 

Why does this matter? Mercury is a known neurotoxin* i.e. it can damage our brain and nervous system in excess and can harm our kidneys and immune system too. 

You’ve probably heard of the adage “The dose makes the poison” - this is true when we are talking about acute poisoning. Our bodies have natural detoxification organs like the liver & kidneys, which can eliminate a certain amount of toxicants we encounter - so the key question is: how much mercury are you exposed to by eating fish, and is it safe? 

And the answer is: it depends. On the following:

  • How well your detoxification organs are working (This is why I created my Detox Right course - to help those of you interested in using science-based ways to improve our natural detox defences) 
  • Are you exposed to other (and perhaps even higher) amounts of mercury e.g. amalgam fillings, air? 
  • Your genetics and stage of life - it is wise to be more cognizant of mercury if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, as we know it passes through the placenta and through breast milk - and since a developing brain/nervous system is more susceptible to neurotoxins, it is wise to take steps to reduce your exposures (ideally 6 months prior to conception) but if not, during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Please do not take any ‘heavy metal detoxes’ - these are more likely to harm than do any good. 


Fortunately, salmon is fairly low in mercury. According to the FDA*, salmon on average has 0.022 parts per million (PPM) of mercury. This is fairly low considering swordfish has 0.995 PPM (45 times that of salmon). You do have to be careful with tuna if you are worried about mercury.

The fish with the lowest mercury is sardines with 0.013 PPM, but sardines have their own issues, namely PCBs - which can somewhat be mitigated by a high-fiber diet (because fiber binds onto the PCB and reduces the absorption), and perhaps even green tea


What other toxicants are found in fish?

I really do hate being Debbie Downer - that said, I also strongly believe that knowledge is power, and without awareness, we cannot take steps to protect ourselves. 

Many choose to turn a blind eye, but the truth is, our oceans are unfortunately polluted due to industrial processes and human activity, and there are other toxins that have entered the seafood ecosystem. They include:

  • PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyls are industrial chemicals previously used in electrical transformers, plastics, and lubricating oils) - linked with hormone disruption and breast cancer
  • PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers are a class of flame retardants historically used in a variety of consumer products including furniture, textiles, automotive parts, and electronics) - linked with thyroid issues
  • legacy pesticides such as Chlordanes, DDTs, Dieldrin, and Toxaphene (all of which are now banned but still exist in our oceans from previous run-offs/dumping)*
  • Microplastic - technically not a toxicant in and of itself, however, it acts as a carrier for many toxicants like phthalates, which are endocrine disrupters. We don’t fully know yet the implications of microplastics for our health, however, preliminary studies have linked its presence in stool with higher risks of inflammatory bowel disease, and I believe that, in time, its harm will unravel. 
  • PFAs - this is the group of thousands of chemicals more commonly known for non-stick cookware, water- and stain-proofing. It has been in the news A LOT recently because almost half of the tap water in the US13 were found to be contaminated with it, and it comes with a laundry list of health hazards including: thyroid issues, ferility issues, pregnancy complications, certain cancers, immune dysregulation, and more. 

Salmon in general do not fall into the categories of seafood (mainly bottom dwellers) that have super high levels of these toxins but they WILL have them, and it is wise to eat in moderation and consider what your overall toxic burden is.  

There have been few studies on microplastics in salmon but one Canadian study did find low amounts in the guts of juvenile Chinook salmon.* More research is needed to gauge the risks but we all know there is more and more microplastics in our oceans. 


3 tips I give to clients who eat fish:

- Eat a lot of fiber with your fish

- Have cilantro on the side (e,g. make it into a green salsa)

- Drink green tea


How Much Salmon Should I Eat? 

Omega-3’s are VERY important for brain development in infants/children. In adults, it plays a part in healthy inflammation, heart and brain health so it is important to ensure you are getting enough.

Fish can be part of a healthy diet, but you don’t HAVE to eat fish to obtain omega 3’s (if that’s the only reason you consume fish) - I'm not here to tell you what to do, and you should consult with your doctor or dietician to work out what is best for you. 

 Here are some sources of omega 3's besides fish*:


Omega-3 per serving


2,150 mg (DHA & EPA)

Flax seeds

2,350 mg of ALA per tbsp

Chia seeds

5.050 mg of ALA per 2 tbsp


2,570 mg of ALA per 14 walnut halves


670 mg of ALA per ½ cup of dry soybeans

Note, you will see in the table the different types of Omega3’s:  DHA & EPA, and ALA. 

Types of Omega 3:

  • DHA and EPA are the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish - these are ready for the body to use. 
  • ALA (a-linolenic acid) is a plant-based source of omega 3 - these need to be converted to EPA and DHA in the body. The rate and efficiency of this conversion varies depending on the individual (diet & genetics, for example, it has been hypothesized that too much omega 6 via processed foods in the diet can compete and slow down this conversion) so, depending on what else you are eating, sometimes doctors recommend an omega 3 supplement in plant-based eaters, in order to obtain adequate DHA and EPA - because the conversion is poor.

Test don't guess

You can get your omega-3 ratios tested via your doctor (note this is not always covered by insurance and can be expensive) or Omega Quant (affiliate discount code: platefulhealth) - this is the option I have my clients do when their insurance does not cover - I am not recommending this for you, since I do not know your health history - this is something you should discuss with your doctor. 


Bottom line:

  • If you choose to eat salmon, wild salmon (“Pacific salmon”), especially wild Alaskan salmon is your best bet - avoid farmed (“Atlantic salmon”). 
  • Eat in moderation as there are other toxins even in wild salmon. 
  • To reduce the amount of environmental toxins you absorb from fish, ensure you eat a high-fiber diet, poop daily, have plenty of antioxidants in your diet like green tea and have foods like cilantro on the side when consuming fish (if possible). 
  • If you are only consuming fish to obtain omega 3’s, there are alternative ways to get this essential nutrient - look at plant-based sources or algae-based supplements that have been heavy metal tested, 
  • Sardines are also low in mercury, but have been found to be sources of PCBs (due to how contaminated our oceans are now)*

* Sources

  1. https://www.seafoodsource.com/news/foodservice-retail/americans-consumed-a-record-amount-of-seafood-in-2021#:~:text=Shrimp%20held%20the%20top%20spot,0.90%20pound%20increase%20over%20202 
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/multimedia/health-foods/sls-20076653?s=6 
  3. https://www.worldwildlife.org/industries/farmed-salmon 
  4. https://time.com/6199237/is-farmed-salmon-healthy-sustainable/ 
  5. https://seafood.edf.org/salmon 
  6. https://www.bu.edu/articles/2006/farmed-salmon-misses-usda-vitamin-d-mark/
  7. https://www.fda.gov/food/environmental-contaminants-food/mercury-levels-commercial-fish-and-shellfish-1990-2012 
  8. https://oehha.ca.gov/fish/chemicals-fish 
  9. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0269749118314271 
  10. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/12-omega-3-rich-foods 
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9916167/
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3395437/ 
  13. https://www.usgs.gov/news/national-news-release/tap-water-study-detects-pfas-forever-chemicals-across-us#:~:text=At%20least%2045%25%20of%20the,by%20the%20U.S.%20Geological%20Survey.