In August, 2009 I had the privilege of going to Alaska. Although this trip was way outside my comfort zone, I felt very lucky to experience such an amazing part of the world. One of the best parts of the trip was watching the salmon run in Alaska. This phenomenon takes place for a very short time, usually around mid-May to mid-August. The salmon run is the time when a salmon returns to the place of its birth to lay its eggs. Each year salmon run up the rivers in which they were born to spawn. All Pacific salmon will die after spawning while about 5-10% of Atlantic salmon will live to spawn again after returning to the ocean. Once the salmon returns to the river in which it was born to lay its eggs, the eggs are deposited in to a redd. A redd is a gravel nest that the female salmon makes by lying on her side and using her tail to dig a hole. A female salmon may lay as many as 5,000 eggs in different redds. After the embryos hatch they become fry. After growing up in freshwater a juvenile salmon begins to change to prepare itself for saltwater living. They lose their spotted coloring that allows them to hide in the stream and change to a silvery color that will allow them to blend into the ocean. Out of every 1,000 eggs laid only one salmon will live to return home for the spawn. After spawning, salmon die due to exhaustion and malnutrition. The environment in the rivers is not suitable for a grown salmon as they are meant to live in the ocean and cannot feed as they swim upstream. When you think about everything that salmon go through to get to their spawning grounds, it’s a wonder we have any salmon at all. Salmon must return from the sea to the place where they themselves were spawned — to the very same stream, no less. They swim against raging currents, facing ravenous predators like bald-headed eagles, sea lions, whales, sharks and bears. Storms may leave them stranded in shallow waters, which in turn leave them at risk for parasites and infections. Storms can also bring too much rain, which leaves the salmon swimming against a ferocious current.
Lucky for us, these salmon do this for us so that we can get their nutritional benefits. When you are buying salmon, always look for Wild Salmon and NOT Farm raised. Farm raised salmon do not go through the spawning process and are not as nutritionally sound as wild salmon. In fact, FDA statistics on the nutritional content (protein and fat-ratios) of farm versus wild salmon show that the fat content of farmed salmon is excessively high–30-35% by weight. Wild salmon have a 20% higher protein content and a 20% lower fat content than farm-raised salmon. Eating wild salmon has a lot of nutritional benefits as well. A 4-ounce piece of Wild Atlantic salmon has 40 grams of protein, 12 grams of fat and no carbohydrates. It is high in Omega-3 fatty acids, potassium and other B vitamins. It is also a good source of vitamins A and D. Salmon is a good source of Vitamin E and a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants act at the molecular level to deactivate free radicals. Free radicals can damage basic genetic material, and cell walls and structures, to eventually lead to cancer and heart disease. Vitamin E lowers the risk of heart disease by preventing the oxidation of low-density lipoproteins (LDLs), thus reducing the buildup of plaque in coronary arteries. Salmon contains zero grams of carbohydrate, which means it has a low glycemic index and is a great protein source.
Here is a quick and easy recipe for salmon that I can even get MY kids to eat!
4 3-4 oz fillets of Wild Salmon
½ cup Lite Lighthouse Ranch Dressing
¼ cup Yellow mustard
1 T Horse Radish Sauce
Mix dressing, mustard and horseradish in a small bowl.
Use to marinate fillets for 1 hour.
Place fillets on a wood board.
Grill about 10 minutes on each side.
Baste fillets with extra marinate while on the grill.
Serve with potatoes and asperagus.