If there’s one thing that’s more likely to kill you than anything else, it’s your heart. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the world, with stroke following close on its heels. Over 700,000 people suffer a heart attack in the United States every year where you can attribute 1 out of every 4 deaths to heart disease.
The tragedy inherent in this disease is that it’s primarily caused by choices you make, like what you eat, how often you move your body and whether you take measures to reduce stressors in your daily life. But in that tragedy is also hope, too: if heart disease is primarily caused by choices you make, you can start to make better choices.
What Arctic Peoples Taught Us
1Danish researchers in the 1970s were examining the traditional diets of Greenland natives and found that had lower rates of heart disease than found among more developed countries with populations that had access to and consumed processed foods.
This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, as people who adhere to their traditional diets exhibit better health (read more here) in general, but it got the researchers looking at the seafood-heavy diet of Greenland natives and they began to unravel a host of connections between omega-3 fatty acids, like DHA and EPA, and cardiovascular health.
Salmon and Other Oily Fish Support Heart Health
Foods rich in DHA and EPA, like wild-caught salmon, are a staple of Greenland natives. A 100-gram portion, which is about the size of a deck of cards, of wild-caught Pacific salmon offers up about 1300 mg DHA and EPA. Here’s the thing: People who eat fish regularly, even as little as once or twice a week, are 36% less likely to die of heart disease than those who avoid fish (read it here).
In addition to being a rich source of heart-healthy DHA and EPA, salmon is also particularly rich in B vitamins and vitamin D, with wild-caught salmon being richer in both these nutrients than farmed salmon (we buy our wild-caught salmon here, directly from the fishermen).
The reason omega-3 fatty acids are so supportive of heart health (they also support cognitive and emotional health, too) may lie in the strong anti-inflammatory properties of these essential fats.
Pro-Tip: Avoid Farmed Fish and Stick to Wild-Caught Salmon
Wild-caught salmon contains a higher ratio of omega-3 to omega-fatty acids than farmed salmon, which are fed grains and soy. Wild-caught salmon is also richer in micronutrients: it contains about 25% more vitamin D, 40% more vitamin B12, and 4 times the calcium of farmed salmon.
To ensure authenticity, your best bet is to buy wild-caught salmon directly from the fishermen which is why I buy mine from our partners at Alaska Gold Brand by the Seafood Producers Cooperative. For the best pricing, you can order in bulk or order one of their monthly boxes.
Other Foods Rich in Omega-3s
Wild-caught oily fish, like salmon, sardines, and anchovies, are one of the most concentrated food sources of omega-3 fatty acids. So eating fish, fish roe and taking a whole foods supplement like cod liver oil will give you plenty of omega-3s, specifically as DHA and EPA.
You can also consume plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids in foods like flax and chia seeds, but plant-sources contain ALA, which the body must convert to the more beneficial forms DHA and EPA, and it is relatively inefficient at making that conversion (read more here). They’re still good to include in your diet regularly, but including fish which contains DHA and EPA is more reliable.
Our Favorite Salmon Recipes
We tend to eat a lot of wild-caught salmon that we order directly from the fishermen here. Here’s some of our family’s favorite salmon recipes, and you can find more in both of my cookbooks: The Nourished Kitchen and Broth and Stock.
Salmon with Honey Chipotle Bourbon Butter pairs the sweetness of honey and heat of chipotle chiles with the butterness of wild-caught coho salmon.
Salmon Chowder with Salmon Roe, Dill and Potatoes is a nordic-inspired chowder that’s light, fresh and dotted with EPA- and DHA-rich salmon roe as well as creamy potatoes.
Salmon Burgers with Dill and Old Bay are made with salmon meat, rather than filets, and a great and affordable way to get wild-caught salmon into your diet.