How to Buy The Healthiest Salmon

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How to Buy The Healthiest Salmon
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How to Buy The Healthiest Salmon

Salmon with Shiitake and Red Wine Sauce

Beef stock and red wine make a luxurious sauce for this salmon recipe by Bernie Sun, corporate beverage director for Jean-Georges Vongerichten's restaurant group.

Get the recipe: Salmon with Shiitake and Red Wine Sauce

Almond-Crusted Salmon with Thyme & Lemon Butter Sauce

It takes just about 30 minutes to prepare this enticing baked salmon dish, featuring a almond-garlic breadcrumb topping and a luscious thyme and lemon-butter sauce.

Get the recipe: Almond-Crusted Salmon with Thyme & Lemon Butter Sauce

Pink Salmon Cakes with Cilantro Pesto

Canned wild salmon is the base for these fast, delicious salmon cakes. Serve them over mixed greens or with sauteed bell peppers and a piece of toasty focaccia.

Get the recipe: Pink Salmon Cakes with Cilantro Pesto

Smoked and Cured Salmon with Orange Zest

Cold-smoking salmon usually requires an elaborate setup. Jason Alley's brilliant trick of quickly smoking the fish, then curing it like gravlax, is a great option for the home cook.

Get the recipe: Smoked and Cured Salmon with Orange Zest

BBQ Salmon Salad

Good-for-you salmon just got richer with the abundance of vitamins already in the juice which makes a fabulous salad dressing.

Get the recipe: BBQ Salmon Salad

Balsamic Glazed Salmon

In less than 1/2 hour you can enjoy this tender baked salmon, topped with a savory sauce that gently enhances the flavor without overwhelming it.

Get the recipe: Balsamic Glazed Salmon

Salmon and Spinach Cakes

Baby spinach, salmon filet and a jalapeño make a spicy blend, perfect when garnished with dill sprigs and creamy sauce.

Get the recipe: Salmon and Spinach Cakes

Salmon with Cantaloupe and Fried Shallots

John Shields of Town House in the small town of Chilhowie, Virginia, composed this dish from ingredients he picked up at his local supermarket. The magic is in the play of textures and flavors: The salmon skin and shallotsboth potato-chip crisp are wonderful with the tender, flaky fish and sweet pieces of melon.

Get the recipe: Salmon with Cantaloupe and Fried Shallots

Buckwheat-Cheddar Blini with Smoked Salmon

As a nod to their Norwegian heritage, Sophie Dahl and her family ate blini (mini pancakes) topped with smoked salmon every Christmas Eve. Now Dahl makes the blini with wonderfully earthy buckwheat flour and serves the salmon-topped hors d'oeuvres at parties throughout the year.

Get the recipe: Buckwheat-Cheddar Blini with Smoked Salmon

Salmon Club Sandwiches

The Good News Charles Dale makes this healthy club sandwich with omega-3-rich salmon grilled in a lightly sweet, tangy tamarind sauce. The extra sauce here can be refrigerated for up to 1 week and is delicious on chicken or pork chops.

Get the recipe: Salmon Club Sandwiches

Salmon with Andouille Sausage and Green Olives

To drive home the point that oaked wines and smoky foods belong together, Marcia Kiesel tops rich, fatty grilled salmon with buttered andouille, a spicy, heavily smoked sausage that's used in jambalaya.

Get the recipe: Salmon with Andouille Sausage and Green Olives

Pan-Roasted Salmon-and-Bread Salad

This is a terrific all-in-one meal and an inventive use for salmon: Grace Parisi nestles the fillets in crunchy hunks of ciabatta bread tossed with tomatoes, capers and superthin slices of lemon, then bakes the dish until the salmon is just cooked.

Get the recipe: Pan-Roasted Salmon-and-Bread Salad

Grilled Salmon with Melted Tomatoes

Jalapeños not only garnish this sweet-smoky grilled salmon but also infuse the oil used to sauté the tomatoes.

Get the recipe: Grilled Salmon with Melted Tomatoes

Honey-Soy Broiled Salmon

One sweet, tangy and salty mixture does double-duty as marinade and sauce. Toasted sesame seeds provide a nutty and attractive accent.

Get the recipe: Honey-Soy Broiled Salmon

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By: Lisa Gosselin & Rowan Jacobsen

The new U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend Americans eat two servings of fish a week. Salmon is great choice. There are so many different types of salmon, which is loaded with heart-healthy, brain-boosting omega-3 fats, and ways to serve them that it would be hard to get bored with this fish. But that said, there are certain types of salmon to stay away from and certain questions to always ask before you buy. Here are 7 tips to help you buy the best salmon.

1. What type of salmon should I buy?

The six species of North American salmon vary in price, color and taste, but all are healthy choices. The largest is the king or chinook, prized for its high fat content, rich omega-3s and buttery texture. Sockeye, an oilier fish with deep-red flesh, has a stronger flavor and stands up well to grilling. Coho is milder and often lighter in color. Pink and chum are smaller and most often used in canning or smoking. The most common fish you will find at the market is a farmed species known as Atlantic salmon, now endangered in the wild and not a recommended choice.

2. Farmed or wild?

If possible, choose wild salmon over farmed. Groups like Seafood Watch and the Environmental Defense Fund have put nearly all farmed salmon on their "red" or "avoid" list for multiple reasons. Many farms use crowded pens where salmon are easily infected with parasites, may be treated with antibiotics and can spread disease to wild fish (one reason Alaska has banned salmon farms). Also, it can take as much as three pounds of wild fish to raise one pound of salmon. However, salmon producers are in talks with environmental groups about improving practices and a proposal is before Congress to set standards for aquaculture. Already some farms, such as Sweet Spring in British Columbia, are raising coho in closed pens, which reduce the impacts. Others, such as Verlasso in Patagonia, are using omega-3 feed additives produced from yeast rather than smaller fish, which helps cut back the ratio of pounds of fish needed to feed the salmon to 1-to-1.

3. Should I buy organic salmon?

There is no USDA organic standard for salmon and no guarantee an "organic" label means anything except the salmon was farmed.

4. Do salmon carry PCBs or other toxins?

Wild Alaskan salmon, which spend most of their lives in open oceans, generally have very low levels of toxins. Coastal and farmed salmon, depending on their feed, may have higher levels. The Environmental Defense Fund lists farmed salmon as an "Eco-Worst" choice and recommends people eat no more than one to two servings a month due to high PCB levels.

5. Is "fresh" much better than frozen or canned?

Most fish is flash-frozen when caught to preserve it for shipping. Frozen salmon is good for up to four months, when properly defrosted overnight in the refrigerator. Canned wild salmon is an excellent and economical choice. Look for BPA-free cans (Wild Planet has these) or, better yet, pouches.

6. Why is some salmon more orange than others?

Thank carotenoids, the same pigments that make carrots orange. Those magical antioxidants combat the damaging effects of free radicals. The carotenoid in salmon is a particularly potent antioxidant known as astaxanthin, which has been shown to protect against heart disease, cancer, inflammation, eye diseases, general aging and many other conditions. Astaxanthin is produced by phytoplankton, tiny plants that use it to shield themselves from ultraviolet radiation. Shrimp, krill and other tiny crustaceans eat the phytoplankton and accumulate astaxanthin in their bodies (which is what makes them pink), then salmon eat them and store the astaxanthin in their skin and muscles. Sockeye, which feed mainly on plankton, have the deepest orange color, whereas pink and chum salmon (most often canned) are the lightest. Many farmed Atlantic salmon are given feed with added synthetic astaxanthin (and sometimes another manufactured pigment, canthaxanthin) to turn their flesh orange.

7. Are fattier fish healthier?

In the case of salmon, the answer is yes. Salmon are fantastic sources of DHA, the omega-3 fatty acid that is essential for brain development, which they also get from phytoplankton. DHA is stored in salmon's fat, most often in the belly, and a 4-ounce serving of salmon can dish up 2,400 mg omega-3s. Larger species, such as king, and those which have longer upstream journeys, tend to store more fat and have more omega-3s. Farmed salmon are often fattier than wild salmon, but that's because they are fed a diet that includes grains and vegetable oils that are high in omega-6 fats, which combat the beneficial effects of omega-3s. However, the higher fat content (often as high as 16 percent versus 8 percent for wild fish) means the fish is easier to cook and retains its moistness.

Check out the slideshow above for a roundup of our favorite salmon recipes!

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