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Health Benefits of Smoked Salmon

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 10, 2021

If you aren’t eating smoked salmon, it may be time to add it to your diet. Smoked salmon is packed with nutrients, vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids, all of which will boost your health and lower your risk of cancer, heart disease, and cognitive decline.

What Is Smoked Salmon?

Many people confuse smoked salmon for lox. The difference is that lox is cured, but smoked salmon goes through the process of smoking. Both are usually eaten on crackers or bagels along with cream cheese and other toppings.

Smoked salmon is low in calories but high in nutrients. One hundred grams, or 3.5 ounces, has:

  • Calories: 117
  • Fat: 4.3 grams
  • Protein: 18.3 grams
  • Calcium: 11 milligrams 
  • Iron: 0.85 milligrams 
  • Sodium: 672 milligrams 
  • Zinc: 0.31 milligrams
  • Selenium: 32.4 milligrams 
  • Vitamin B12: 3.26 micrograms 
  • Vitamin A, RAE: 26 micrograms
  • Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol): 1.35 milligrams 

Pros of Smoked Salmon

Smoked salmon’s health benefits include:

  • Lower risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Better brain health
  • Lower risk of cognitive decline
  • Less anxiety
  • Help keep a healthy weight
  • Fight inflammation

Smoked salmon stands out in particular as a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can ease inflammation, preserve brain function and structure, and lower triglycerides.

Omega-3 fatty acids can also help prevent heart disease by balancing out omega-6 fatty acids in your blood.

Both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are important to health, but having too many omega-6 fatty acids can raise your odds of inflammatory disease and inflammation. By eating smoked salmon, you can keep a healthier ratio of fatty acids.

Smoked salmon also has:

  • Vitamin B12. This helps boost nerve function, DNA production, and the production of red blood cells.
  • Vitamins A and E. These are antioxidants that can override free radicals, which can lead to disease and tissue damage.
  • Astaxanthin. This is an antioxidant that lowers the risk of heart disease through the increase of HDL (“good” cholesterol) and the decrease of LDL (“bad” cholesterol).

Not only is smoked salmon low in calories, it is high in protein, which means it can help you feel full for longer. It may also boost your metabolism, making it easier to shed extra pounds.

One study showed that children with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease had bigger losses in belly and liver fat after they got more omega-3 fatty acids.

Smoked salmon can lower inflammation, the cause of many chronic conditions such as cancer, ulcerative colitis, diabetes, and heart disease. 

A study on women ages 35 to 70 showed that they were able to reduce inflammatory markers in their bodies by eating 80 grams of salmon and other fatty fish every day.

Cons of Smoked Salmon

Smoked salmon is high in sodium. A 100-gram serving has 672 milligrams of sodium. The same amount of fresh salmon has only 75 milligrams.

Eating too much sodium can significantly raise your risk of stroke and heart disease. According to the World Health Organization, you should try to limit your sodium intake to 2,000 milligrams per day. The American Heart Association suggests an even more modest limit of 1,500 milligrams per day.

It’s especially important not to eat too much smoked salmon if you have a cardiovascular condition.

It may raise your risk of cancer. Too much smoked meat can put you at higher risk of certain cancers, such as colorectal cancer.

It may have harmful bacteria. If you have a weak immune system or a sensitive stomach, you might want to avoid eating too much smoked salmon. Cold-smoked salmon in particular may have the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, which can lead to listeriosis.

To avoid listeriosis, you can try hot-smoked salmon. Unlike cold-smoked salmon, which is smoked at 50 F to 90 F (10 C to 32 C) for about a day, hot-smoked salmon is processed at at least 145 F (63 C) for more than 30 minutes. This isn't hot enough to cook the salmon, but it is hot enough to kill bacteria, making it safer to eat.

Cooked Salmon as an Alternative

To get the health benefits of smoked salmon without these risks, try cooked salmon. It has all the omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals of smoked salmon with much less sodium. It’s also a good way to avoid listeriosis.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

American Heart Association: “How much sodium should I eat per day?”

American Journal of Medicine: “Fish consumption and colorectal cancer risk in humans: a systematic review and meta-analysis.”

British Journal of Nutrition: “Dietary inclusion of salmon, herring and pompano as oily fish reduces CVD risk markers in dyslipidaemic middle-aged and elderly Chinese women.”

Experimental Biology and Medicine: “The Importance of the Omega-6/Omega-3 Fatty Acid Ratio in Cardiovascular Disease and Other Chronic Diseases.”

Food and Drug Administration: “Fish and Fishery Products Hazards and Controls Guidance.”

International Journal of Food Microbiology: “Reduction and inhibition of Listeria monocytogenes in cold-smoked salmon by Verdad N6, a buffered vinegar fermentate, and UV-C treatments.”

Marine Drugs: “Potential Anti-Atherosclerotic Properties of Astaxanthin.”

Nature: “Inflammation and cancer.”

Nutrition & Metabolism: “Diet induced thermogenesis.”

Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases: “A double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized trial to evaluate the efficacy of docosahexaenoic acid supplementation on hepatic fat and associated cardiovascular risk factors in overweight children with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

Oncotarget: “Red and processed meat consumption and colorectal cancer risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis.”

U.S. Department of Agriculture: “Fish, salmon, coho, farmed, cooked, dry heat,” “Salmon, raw,” “Salmon, smoked.”

‌‌Women’s Health (London, England): “Omega-3 fatty acids and cognitive function in women.”

World Health Organization: “Guideline: Sodium Intake for Adults and Children.”

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