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Wellness with Wild Waters!

FAQ & Answers

Buy with Confidence

Randy explains: The quality of canned salmon is extremely variable. Consequently, many people who have experienced poor quality canned salmon wrongly believe that its all bad. This couldn't be further from the truth, as our many testimonials reveal. The flavor of canned salmon is directly related to the quality of the fish that goes into the can. Because canning hides poor quality, many processors use their worstquality fish for it. Having been in the industry for many years, we understand this and are extremely selective when purchasing canned salmon on your behalf. We personally sample every lot we buy.

Here's an example of the kind of 'Smoke and Mirrors' you avoid when you purchase the Vital Choice brand:

We once contacted a processor about purchasing some canned red salmon from them. We told them we wanted only fresh-packed fish, and specifically wanted to avoid any that had been packed from previously frozen salmon. (While pre-freezing is quite common, it sometimes causes the fats to congeal and rise to the surface during the canning process.) The company rep told me, "don't worry, we turn our cans upside-down during the cooking process so that they (the congealed fats) won't be visable to your customer."

We said "no thanks" and have never been back. Few if any supermarkets are this discriminating when purchasing their canned salmon, nor would they be willing to pay the higher price necessary to obtain the very best quality. This distinction is the primary difference between Vital Choice canned salmon products and other brands. We know fish and buy the best. Price is always a secondary factor.

Vital Choice management has over 50 years experience in the Alaska fishing industry. During this time we have developed many close relationships with harvesters and processors. As a result, we are highly qualified to navigate through a lot of marginal product and select the very best for you. In short, we know when, where and how to obtain the very best of the catch and are committed to providing it for you. Only premium quality sustainably harvested wild salmon get the Vital Choice label and we guarantee every product we sell.

For those of you who have wondered why you ought not consider other brands of seafood that are also labelled as wild, the following article written by the founder of Vital Choice in USA further explains the superiority of Vital Choice Seafood in every respect that determines the quality of the fish that will nourish you and your family.

How We Land the Best Fish
The what, where, when, and how of “Why Vital Choice?”
by Randy Hartnell

One topic I’ve not yet addressed in our newsletter is an important one: Why should someone seeking superior wild salmon choose Vital Choice? After all, the health and environmental advantages of choosing wild versus farmed salmon—better nutrition and culinary quality, protection of ocean ecosystems and salmon species—would seem to apply to all wild salmon.

But, as any experienced Alaskan fisherman can tell you, the quality of wild salmon varies widely and depends on several factors. I use the knowledge gained through commercial salmon fishing to select the best possible fish for you, our customer.

Here’s a quick summary of four variables that affect the quality of wild salmon; 1) Species, 2) Regional Origin, 3) HarvestTiming, and 4) Handling.

Superior species
There are five distinct species of Pacific salmon, each with its own appearance, flavor, texture and nutritional profile. When it comes to salmon, oil content is a key determinant of flavor and nutritional value.

We select Sockeye, King and Silver salmon because they generally offer the best oil content. And, like all wild salmon, these species’ oil contains EPA and DHA: the omega-3 fatty acids proven to promote healthy hearts, brains, and joints. (You may be interested to know that, in addition to the well known omega-3s mentioned above, recent laboratory analysis revealed that Alaskan sockeye contain 34other beneficial fatty acids!)

The other two Pacific salmon species, Pink and Chum, also have their niche in the marketplace. Most pinks are canned, while many chums (also marketed as "Arctic Keta" or "Silver Brite") are smoked. Compared with wild Pacific Sockeye, King, or Silver salmon, neither can compete consistently for culinary quality.

We also favor Sockeye, King and Silver for their rich red color, which they get from high levels of healthful carotenoids—primarily astaxanthin, which is one of the most potent and beneficial antioxidants known—up to 500 times or more powerful than vitamin E!

Finally, among commercial species, all wild Pacific salmon tend to be very low in mercury. World and U.S. health agencies alike consider Pacific wild salmon very safe to eat, even on a daily basis. (Our sashimi grade tuna is also unusually low in mercury, for reasons I’ll explain in a future issue.)

Location, location, location
Alaskan salmon are like wine—harvested in diverse areas, each possessing unique regional characteristics that influence flavor, texture, and nutrient content.

Because I spent 20 years fishing Alaskan waters—and stay in close contact with my commercial-fishing colleagues—I know just where and when the finest specimens of each species of salmon can be caught.

For example, fish migrating to large rivers usually offer higher oil content—with its attendant flavor and health benefits—than salmon destined for smaller rivers. Salmon have evolved over thousands of years to be optimally suited to their particular migration pattern. Since they cease eating when they enter fresh water, they require sufficient energy reserves—fat to fuel their journey. Generally speaking, the longer the fresh-water segment of their odyssey, the more of these healthful fats they’ll store.

Harvest Timing
Timing is another key quality factor. As salmon return to coastal waters seeking fresh water spawning grounds and stop eating, they begin to live off of their fat reserves. This results in loss of oil content and a fading of skin and flesh color. Salmon harvested in this relatively deteriorated state will ultimately be sold to less discriminating buyers, or to those focusing more upon price than quality. These fish can be identified by their dull or dark skin, which ideally should be a bright, shiny silver color.

Last winter I was visiting a Bread & Circus (Whole Foods Market) store in Massachusetts and, as always, took a stroll through the seafood section. In the freezer case I saw wild Alaskan salmon steaks exhibiting the dark skin indicative of late-run salmon. I wondered how many well meaning B&C customers would look beyond the ‘Alaska wild’ brand to notice the dark skin, and how many among those who purchased the substandard fish would be disappointed with their experience and go back to eating farmed salmon.

We are careful to select only those salmon that are caught at their peak condition, exhibiting bright scales, abundant healthful fats and carotenoid-rich, deep-red flesh.

Handle with care: slower-paced processing
The rapid rise of salmon farming has driven many fishermen out of business, with corresponding negative impact on the salmon processing industry. (For example, North Pacific Seafoods in Cordova, Alaska shut down recently when Costco and Sam’s Clubs cancelled their contract with the processor and replaced their canned Pink Alaskan salmon line with farmed Chilean products.)

Accordingly, when the wild harvest is at its peak, the few remaining Alaskan processors must handle huge volumes of fish very quickly. (Some 34 million salmon are projected to be caught in Bristol Bay alone this year!) This temporary overabundance relative to processing capacity will likely pose a big challenge to those fishers and processors who've survived the farmed salmon fall-out, as they will strain to accommodate nature’s bounty in a manner that preserves its quality.

To ensure that we get the highest quality product, we target salmon processed on the "shoulders" of the season, when harvest rates are slow and facilities aren’t overburdened. We also seek out fish harvested by people and methods known for producing consistently superior products.

Wild salmon are extremely delicate and must be handled with care every step of the way if they are to retain their inherent quality. Some fishermen appreciate this and treat their fish accordingly, but unfortunately many do not or, in the case of the more fast-paced prolific fisheries, simply don’t have the time to. Many of these fish will end up being canned. None, however, will ever carry a Vital Choice label.

These factors, as well as many others, create a minefield for the uninformed wild salmon consumer. When you choose Vital Choice salmon you are putting my experience, knowledge, and commitment to work for you. I view myself as your salmon advocate and hope you will too!

Vital Choice fish are not certified organic and we don't ever make that claim. All "organic" really means is that the animal or plant raised under organic standards has been in a (reasonably) controlled environment its entire life, free of pesticides, growth hormones, GMOs, etc. While there are some who think wild salmon should qualify as organic, by definition they could never meet the controlled environment standard--just as nothing raised on a farm by humans can be called truly natural or wild. 

Are chemicals added to your salmon?

Vital Choice salmon contains NO added chemicals, including those that may be administered prior to harvest. No artificial coloring. No Preservatives. No pesticides. No growth hormones. No antibiotics. No GMOs.

Why is it important to avoid mercury and other toxins?

To quote H.L. "Sam" Queen,  health care educator and certified clinical nutritionist of the Institute for Health Realities in Colorado Springs, USA:

"The human body was designed to anticipate and successfully cope with most toxic exposures, including mercury. However, illnesses develop from toxic exposure for a variety of reasons. Repeated exposures that overwhelm the body's ability to respond, impeded exit capabilities, altered genetics, and alterations in the quantity and quality of the binding proteins are among the most common. When one or a combination of these roadblocks is active, the six sub-clinical defects seen in all diseases and toxicities lead to compromised health. Typical outcomes include fatigue, so-called "brain fog", poor concentration, weight change, muscle wasting, the feeling of being "toxic", and susceptiblity to disease and infection. Mercury is the most persistent and pervasive of all of the environmental toxins, as well as the most toxic"

Mercury  is highly toxic and bioaccumulative. Mercury is frequently found in lakes and streams as a result of industrial pollution. This causes great health hazards in the affected fish and those who eat those fish.

Mercury is easily absorbed through the skin, respiratory and gastrointestinal tissues. Mercury attacks the central nervous system and endocrine system and adversely affects the mouth, gums, and teeth. High exposure over long periods of time will result in brain damage and ultimately death. (The term "Mad as a hatter" is thought to relate to occupational insanity caused by exposure to mercury componds in the manufacture felt hats in the 19th century) It can pose a major health risk to the unborn fetus. Humans or animals poisoned with mercury or its compounds often manifest excessive salivation, a condition called mercurial ptyalism.

The Australasian Society of Oral Medecine and Toxicology states that - " Mercury is cytotoxic. ie. It kills cells. Mercury is implicated in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's Disease. Mercury will severely reduce reproductive function. Mercury crosses the blood-brain barrier and into breast milk. Mercury rapidly depletes the immune system. Mercury will induce a number of Auto Immune Diseases. Mercury will cause an increase in number and severity of allergies. Mercury is transported along the axons of nerve fibres and casues neurological symptoms. Mercury binds to haemoglobin in the red blood cell thus reducing oxygen carrying capacity. Mercury damages blood vessels reducing blood supply to the tissues. Mercury will cause single strand breaks in DNA. Mercury is Poisonous!"

Vital Choice Salmon: Natural, Sustainable, Pure

Alaskan salmon are among the purest of all ocean species. In addition to residing in the most remote and pristine waters left on earth, Alaskan salmon are relatively small, short-lived fish that feed at the lower end of the food chain. Consequently they grow free of hazardous levels of contaminants found in larger, longer-lived carniverous species.

A word about the unique Alaskan Sockeye Salmon: After hatching in their natal streams, sockeye will reside in remote, pristine fresh water lakes where they feed and grow for 1-3 years before migrating out to the Bering Sea. During this latter stage of their lives they feed primarily on phytoplankton and krill brimming with antioxidants and omega-3 nutrients that give the sockeye its striking red flesh. Unlike farmed salmon, Wild Alaskan Sockeye and all other wild Alaskan salmon speciesgrow free of antibiotics, pesticides, synthetic coloring agents, growth hormones and GMOs.

Lipid-adjusted contaminant levels have been found to be significantly higher in farmed Atlantic salmon than those in wild Pacific salmon (F = 7.27, P = 0.0089 for toxaphene; F = 15.39, P = 0.0002 for dioxin; F > or = 21.31, P < 0.0001 for dieldrin and PCBs, with df = (1.64) for all). Levels of total lipid were in the range of 30-40% in the fish oil/meal that is fed to farmed salmon. Farmed salmon, though still a good source of healthy omega 3 fatty acids, also contain high concentrations of organochlorine compounds such as PCBs, dioxins and chlorinated pesticides. The presences of these contaminants may reduce the net health benefits derived from the consumption of farmed salmon, despite the presence of the high level of Omega 3 fatty acids in these fish.

For these reasons the Environmental Protection Austhority (EPA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Alaska Division of Public Health and other organizations have found Wild Alaskan salmon to be among the purest of seafood options, even recommending them to pregnant and nursing woman as a safe fatty fish source of vitally important nutrients. 

The FDA is conservative in protecting the health of American consumers. As such, it has set consumption advice for mercury at the 1 ppm (parts per million) level, which is the limit allowed by the FDA for fish intended for human consumption. The level is purposely set 10 times lower than the lowest level associated with health problems (specifically mercury poisoning). This conservative level allows for the greater protection of everyone – adults, children and even unborn babies. In six random samples, Vital Choice sockeye salmon tested at .02 ppm for mercury and no detect for PCBs (detection threshold .02 ppm).

In Australia and New Zealand, the Food Standards Code of Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) has deemed that the level of mercury permitted in seafood should not exceed 0.5mg per kg of fish which in the above terms would equate to 0.5 ppm.

Vital Choice Salmon levels are therefore 25 to 50 times below the acceptable "safe" level and because the fish is regularly tested you have this assurance of purity in contrast to this lack of security with other brands. As we have seen there is still different grades of quality even amongst wildfish depending on where it is caught and how it is harvested, handled and processed. For this reason Dr. Joseph Mercola warns everyone to avoid eating any kind of seafood unless you know where it comes from and that it tests clear of contaminants. His choice is also Vital Choice after conducting his own independent lab tests and finding barely detectable levels of any hazardous toxins

How long has it been in the can?

The canned salmon sold by Vital Choice is harvested in July and August of each year. Chances are good that the fish you receive will have been packed during the previous harvest season. Occasionally a small amount of product may carry over from a prior year, but we try hard to avoid this. In comparison, canned salmon from a grocery store might be two or more years old. 

How long will it keep?

Canned salmon is fully cooked and will keep for several years. In fact, some connoisseurs claim that, like wine, the flavor of canned salmon actually improves with age, even going so far as to cellar the best "vintages."
Once opened, partial tins may be kept in the refrigerator for a day or two, similar to canned tuna. Much longer and the fats will begin to oxidize and become rancid. We recommend that you transfer the fish to a glass container with a lid for storage in the fridge once opened. 

Has any water or oil been added?

Neither water nor oil are added toVital Choice canned salmon. Only 100% wild Pacific sockeye (red) salmon goes into the can, along with a pinch of salt before it is sealed and cooked. The liquids present in the can are natural juices that come from the healthy fats present in the fish when it is cooked. Approximately 2/3 of the fish's omega-3s are found in the gray fatty tissue and the brine that comes from it. Even so, in canned sockeye salmon, the remaining 1/3 will amount to about 1.25 g per 3.5 ozs. This exceeds both the Canadian and European RDA for omega-3s.  

What is the can lining made of?

Salmon cans used to be lined with an epoxy resin coating that could leach trace amounts of an estrogen-like chemical compound known as "bisphenol A" (BPA) into the contents. In tests the amount of BPA found in canned red salmon averaged only about .011 mg/kg (or about one part per one hundred million-- well below the 3 mg/kg considered safe). Researchers in Europe, Japan and the USA have all concluded that such low levels pose no risk to humans. Nevertheless due to the concerns of many that BPA may be detrimental to health, the canned salmon industry proceeded to convert to a BPA-free lining. While the BPA was never proven to present a health hazard at such low levels, a substitute called polyethylene terphitate (PET) has since been adopted. PET is an extremely common plastic packaging material used in the food industry. PET is used in everything from soft drink and water bottles to peanut butter jars and surgical implants.

It has been studied extensively and deemed safe by many regulatory agencies. Like any indirect food additive, the scientific testing of PET is based on two key principles: establishing that there is a minimal amount of transfer of substances between the plastic packaging and the food, and establishing that any substances that may transfer from the plastic to the food do not pose a risk to human health.

As a result of advances in analytical chemistry, even the most miniscule level of migration from the plastic to foods can now be measured. Tests to determine the levels of compounds that have the potential to transfer from the plastic into food are conducted using conditions that simulate the actual use of the material. These tests have found that the migration of any components of PET plastics under laboratory conditions is well below applicable safety levels. Therefore, FDA has determined that PET is acceptable to use in the applications for which it has been tested.

The toxicological properties of PET and compounds that migrate under test conditions have also been well studied. The International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) –a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the scientific understanding of issues related to nutrition, food safety, toxicology, risk assessment and the environment – has comprehensively reviewed the scientific and technological aspects of PET. In a report on PET for food packaging applications issued in July of 2000, ILSI summarizes the large body of test data that demonstrates the safety of PET resins and compounds for food and beverage containers:

"PET itself is biologically inert if ingested, is dermally safe during handling and is not a hazard if inhaled. No evidence of toxicity has been detected in feeding studies using animals. Negative results from Ames tests and studies into unscheduled DNA synthesis indicate that PET is not genotoxic. Similar studies conducted with monomers and typical PET intermediates also indicate that these materials are essentially nontoxic and pose no threats to human health. . . . It is important to stress that the chemistry of compounds that are used to manufacture PET shows no evidence of oestrogenic activity. There is a significant body of evidence that demonstrates that the use of PET is not a concern and is perfectly safe in this respect.”

Apples and Oranges

It is important to be sure that you're comparing "apples to apples." In April,2005, NY Times writer Marian Burros reported that 80% of the so called "wild salmon" she purchased in area stores actually tested out as mislabled FARMED salmon.
Is the salmon at your local supermarket truly wild? Has the vendor selected only the purest sustainably-harvested fish? Most of the salmon sold in supermarkets is farmed salmon that is mass-produced in foreign waterborn feed lots subsidized by environmental degradation, a lack of regulatory oversight and low-cost labor. Wild salmon is different from farmed in many important ways.

Is the salmon at your local supermarket truly wild? Has the vendor selected only the purest sustainably-harvested fish? Most of the salmon sold in supermarkets is farmed salmon that is mass-produced in foreign waterborn feed lots subsidized by environmental degradation, a lack of regulatory oversight and low-cost labor. Wild salmon is different from farmed in many important ways.

Quality Costs More

The old adage that "You get what you pay for" is especially true when it comes to salmon. To get a wild fish from the remote corners of Alaska to your plate in prime condition requires a lot of special care. Along the way there are many obstacles to quality that can interfere to diminish it. Consequently, there are only so many prime fish available and the law of supply and demand dictates that they will cost more. Unlike most supermarkets that are increasingly competing with one another to find any available wild salmon, Vital Choice standards are much higher. Our long history and close ties to the Alaskan commercial fishing industry give us a unique advantage in sourcing the best fish on your behalf, but they will never be the cheapest.

 Your Health is Priceless 

"Fish is health insurance and most of us lack enough coverage."  Jean Carper, Author: Food, Your Miracle Medicine

It would be hard to think of another food that has as many proven health benefits as wild salmon. When considering the cost of Vital Choice products keep in mind the true value of what you're buying. Given the sky-rocketing cost of health care and pharmaceutical drugs, what is the value of optimum health? How much would you pay for improved heart, brain, eye and immune system health?

"O health, health! The blessing of the rich! the riches of the poor! who can buy thee at too dear a rate, since there is no enjoying this world without thee? Be not then so sparing of your purses . . . as to abridge the natural course of life" Ben Jonson: Volpone, II-1, 1605

The Hidden Costs of Cheap Food

Vital Choice is committed to the goal of restoring economic viability to the wild salmon fishing business. Presently most other protein producers (cattle, hog and poultry farmers) are on the verge of bankruptcy. Many have already been driven there by the mega-corporations who forsake food quality to drive every possible penny out of production. Salmon farming is now exerting this same socio-economic pressure upon those who risk their lives to supply us with the healthiest protein on earth. It is vitally important that one not forget the hidden social, nutritional and environmental costs of cheap food.

Customer Comments

"Your salmon is outstanding! I'm on a limited budget so am always on a quest to get the most for my purchasing dollars. Recently I purchased salmon at a natural foods market and that, too, was from Alaskan waters and was significantly less expensive. Though it was wild harvested, I did not like the flavor or the odor. Who would have thought!...I've just placed another order with your company. Your salmon is unsurpassed in my opinion. I'll save elsewhere...but not on my salmon!"  Rosalie Birge, Litchfield, CT

"We love your fish and will gladly pay a higher price for fish that is pure and not contaminated. As man continues to pollute and destroy the habitat for the fish and the animals, it is a pleasure to find a company like yours that cares and provides us with great fish. Thank you...we will buy lots more."  Jim and Jean Myers

"We're on a tight budget, but it's worth every penny!"  Lynn G. & David F., Bethlehem, PA

How do I gain the best value?

 Our best values are achieved by selecting our larger package offerings.  If you are unable to accommodate these larger quantities, we suggest you consider joining with a friend to share an order. In this manner you will both achieve the lowest cost per kg and minimize packaging and transportation resources.


Our 24 Can Pack offers the best value per can and if you choose to order three 24 Can Packs (72 Cans) you will save the most on the postage costs.

What is Kosher?

The word kosher is a variation of the Hebrew word meaning "fit" or "proper." Simply put, kosher foods meet the dietary requirements and are prepared in accordance to the Jewish Law. The determination of kosher and non-kosher foods depends on two variables: the source of the ingredients and the status of the production equipment. Kosher certification, which is the guarantee that the food meets kosher requirements, revolves around both of the above criteria. Kosher fish must have both scales and fins. Shellfish such as shrimp and lobster are prohibited, as well as some fresh fish such as swordfish, sturgeon, catfish and eel.

Which organization certifies your product? 

Our canned salmonis certified kosher by Orthodox Union (‘OU’) www.ou.org  Foods can be identified as kosher by the presence of a hechsher (plural hechsherim), a graphical symbol that indicates that the food has been certified as kosher by a rabbinical authority. (This might be an individual rabbi, but is more often a rabbinic organization.) The most common symbol is the U inside a circle, standing for the Union of Orthodox Congregations.The (U) insignia of the Orthodox Union is a symbol of expertise and integrity. As a non-profit service organization, the Orthodox Union has been the leader in the field of reliable kashrut for nearly three-quarters of a century. It has made reliable kashrut available in a range of products spanning the gamut of human needs. It has made these products accessible around the world.

The various species of salmon differ somewhat by color, oil content and texture. The differences listed below are generalizations and may vary by region of origin. For instance, sockeye salmon bound for a small river requiring a short migration will be lower in oil content than those headed for a large one. Some king salmon may be comparable in color to sockeye salmon or less red than silver.


Color, from most red to least:
1. Sockeye
2. King
3. Silver

Oil content, from leanest to richest:
1. Sockeye
2. Silver
3. King

Texture, from firmest to most delicate:
1. Sockeye
2. Silver
3. King

Omega-3 content -may vary depending upon region of origin - all are excellent sources
1. King
2. Silver
3. Sockeye

Antioxidants -astaxanthin
1.Sockeye
2. King
3. Silver

What is the Omega 3:6 ratio between Wild and farmed salmon?

"The n-3 to n-6 ratio was about 10 in wild salmon and 3-4 in farmed salmon.

The supermarket samples were similar to the farmed salmon from the same area.

The higher this ratio is the better for in modern diets we have an unbalanced and excessive proportion of Omega 6 fatty acids which has shown to contribute to poorer health.

At present our products are only available in a limited number of Health Food Stores. If you would like your local store to stock anything feel free to ask them to contact us.

The amazing benefits of Vitamin D are only just beginning to be made more public with the latest research findings touting its protective effects against many diseases such as cancer. The principle source of Vitamin D is firstly sunshine falling on our skin that activates cholesterol from the blood and fatty layer under the skin converting it to Vitamin D. The other major source is certain fish where it is especially concentrated in the liver. The infamous Cod Liver Oil that has been widely known as a favorite cure-all for generations was more than a simple folk remedy. Far tastier as most would agree are fatty fish such as Sockeye Salmon and it is not only in their livers that you will find healthy Vitamin D.

Why Does Sockeye Offer a Surfeit of Vitamin D?
by Randy Hartnell and Craig Weatherby

We received this perceptive inquiry from a reader perplexed by an aspect of last week's article on vitamin D and bone health:

"So, do we know how salmon become vitamin D rich? I was surprised to hear the skinless fish was so rich in vitamin D, since it is stored in fat. They probably don’t process sunshine. Is their liver making vitamin D?"

Curious,Peggy

 

Sockeye and vitamin D: case solved

Peggy’s question was a good one, and we weren't certain of the answer, so we sought a scientific explanation for the unexpectedly high vitamin D levels in our skinless sockeye fillets.  Vitamin D is fat-soluble, so it concentrates in the fat under the skin of fish, and in their fat-rich livers. 

 

Yet, as the chart in our last issue shows, lab tests show that our sockeye salmon contains more vitamin D than fattier Vital Choice fish such as sardines, sablefish, and king salmon. (See Vitamin D Graph in question no. 5. above)

 

Why would our skinless sockeye fillets test higher in vitamin D than fillets of fish with fattier flesh?

 

I had a hunch that answer might lie in the zooplankton that constitute so much of their diet. Zooplankton is a term that covers a variety of tiny marine animals, including larval-stage crustaceans.

 

Indeed, a quick search of the scientific literature confirmed that phytoplankton (single-cell marine organisms) and zooplankton are the key sources of vitamin D in the marine food chain. Both types of minuscule sea life create large amounts of vitamin D from sunlight, and zooplankton feed on phytoplankton, thus driving their vitamin D content to even higher levels. 

 

Unlike most other fish and salmon species (except chum), sockeye feed largely on zooplankton through all stages of life, so it makes sense they would accumulate unusually high levels of vitamin D in the fat deposited throughout their flesh. Note: There are some seasonal and geographic variations in sockeye diets, so vitamin D levels will vary.

It seems that my hunch was right, and that the mystery of sockeye and vitamin D is solved. 

Thanks, Peggy … your question prompted us to dig a little deeper!

The salmon that is known as "Australian Salmon" and which is native to Australia is in fact a different species that is not related to true salmon. There are two variations - Eastern Salmon  (Arripis Trutta) and Western Salmon (Arripis Truttaceus) - both commonly known as Black Back Salmon, Cocky Salmon, Sambo, Kanawai, Salmon Trout  or Bay Trout. They are actually members of the perch family with colours ranging from olive green to steel blue. They tend to be stringy in texture with a strong fishy taste and are of such poor eating quaility that they are most commonly used as rock lobster bait and pet food, though you will also find them canned for humans in the supermarkets.

The fresh salmon you find everywhere here is actually Atlantic salmon and is most likely farmed in Tasmania where they are fed an artificial diet of pellets, antibiotics and colourings and spend their whole life in holding tanks, cages or pens of various sizes. The Commonwealth Scientific Research Organization (CSIRO) reported a concern of the problems of disease outbreaks and the worrisome recommmendation that those affected fish are still considered safe for human consumption, Although they may not make you acutely ill, this does not promote confidence or spell purity in any language.  

The Marine Stewardship council has certified only a handful of fisheries around the world and the only salmon fishery awarded their approval is the Alaska Salmon fishery.

There is mounting evidence farmed salmon contain fewer of the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids for which wild salmon are so highly touted.

A number of respected sources, including U.S. nutritionist Andrew Weil and The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, state that farmed salmon have two to three times fewer omega-3's than their wild counterparts. Meanwhile, the fat content of farmed fish ranges between 11% and 20% vs. 7% for wild.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are carbon-based molecules essential for the optimal function of every cell in our bodies, yet we cannot manufacture them internally. Instead, along with vitamins, these essential nutrients can be obtained only in the diet. Over the past century, people in developed countries, particularly in the United States, have largely eliminated omega-3 fatty acids from their diet. There is a great deal of evidence that this has had a very negative impact on the inner workings of many bodily systems, most notably the heart and the brain. We are learning that restoring the body’s natural balance of omega-3s may improve a multitude of medical disorders, including coronary artery disease, major depression, and bipolar disorder (also called manic-depressive illness).

According to Dr. Mary Enig, a world famous expert on fats, as much as two-thirds of the omega-3s in fish reside in the gray fatty layer beneath the skin. However it is interesting to note that tests conducted by the USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory indicate that the flesh of sockeye salmon (for example) contain more than 1.2 grams of EPA and DHA per 98 g serving. This exceeds the 650 to 1000 mg recommended daily intake of omega-3s by more than 20%. So whether the gray fat is consumed or not, one is assured of getting a significant 'dosage' of EPA, DHA (and many other vitally important nutrients) with each serving. One reason our 'Traditional Style' canned salmon is so much more popular than the skinless-boneless versions is that it is packed with the skin, so retains all of the healthy fats, as well as the full flavor and nutrients they impart.

While it's true that fat soluble impurities ingested by fish tend to concentrate in this fatty layer, Alaskan salmon consistently test free of hazardous levels of these contaminants. Knowledgable health experts agree that the benefits of consuming wild salmon greatly exceeds any associated health risks. Omega-3s and antioxidants are readily available in fruits, vegetables, and fish. Supplemental forms are also available, but studies show that food-source omega-3s are preferable to pills. Naturally occurring fish oils provide one of the most concentrated and accessible forms of omega-3 fatty acids.

The difference between long-chain animal source and short-chain plant source Omega-3s

Not all omega-3s are created equal. There are "long-chain" and "short-chain" omega-3 molecules. The distinction refers to the number of carbon atoms that comprise them. The shorter chains contain 18 carbon atoms (Alpha linolenic acid-ALA), while the long contain 20 (Eicosapentanoic-EPA) or 22 (Docosahexanoic-DHA). Short chain omega-3s are contained in vegetable and plant sources such as walnuts, flaxseed oil and leafy green vegetables.  When your body absorbs fats containing LNA, enzymes convert some of it into longer, more highly polyunsaturated omega-3s called EPA and DHA. These desirable omega-3s are more beneficial to your health, but your body needs about ten LNAs to make one EPA. Since the human body requires the long-chain forms, vegetable source omega 3s are of relatively limited nutritional value. While somemay be converted to the longer form, the process is inefficient, with only about 5% or so ultimately being converted. The conversion efficiency is dependent upon diet and the availability of enzymes required to complete it.Fish, on the other hand, contains little LNA, but is rich in EPA and DHA. Eating fish simply means that your body doesn’t have to work so hard converting fatty acids. Fish is your most accessible and concentrated source of EicosaPentaeonic Acid and DocosaHexaeonic Acid. 

For this reason it is important to eat food sources of the long-chain omega-3s like cold water fish. EPA has anti-inflammatory properties, and is more relevant to regulating mood than DHA. DHA, however, is also key for healthy cells and is found in high concentrations in the brain, retina and sperm, and is especially crucial for pregnant and nursing women and infants.Omega-3s and antioxidants are readily available in fruits, vegetables, and fish. Supplemental forms are also available, but studies show that food-source omega-3s are preferable to pills. Naturally occurring fish oils provide one of the most concentrated and accessible forms of omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-3 Fatty acids benefit health

The health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids were first discovered in the late 1970’s. Medical researchers began studying the marine-based diet of the Inuit to learn how these hunter-gatherer groups avoided such old-age infirmities as heart disease, stroke, and arthritis. According to Dr. Andrew Stoll’s book The Omega-3 Connection, “the Inuit advantage was attributed to the very long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, found in their food staples of fatty fish and fish-eating marine mammals like whales and seals.” All sea creatures need EPA and DHA to keep their body tissues warm and elastic in icy waters. These anti-inflammatory properties can be measured in the human body as well. Documented reports show that omega-3s play a beneficial role in reducing coronary artery disease, calming rheumatoid arthritis, and lessening depression.

Fish is called "brain food"

The human brain is more than 60% fat! The majority of fat in the brain is the type that cannot be made by the body, but must be supplied by the diet. The fats essential for optimal brain activity are the omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and, to a lesser extent, alpha linolenic acid (ALA). The omega-3 fatty acids have beneficial properties that have been studied in the treatment of a number of mental conditions ranging from depression and bipolar disorder to schizophrenia, Alzheimers, chronic fatigue syndrome and stress.

Today's society is relatively deficient in these powerful brain building omega-3 fatty acids. Gone are the days of eating simple diets full of fish, seeds and nuts; our diets are now full of processed foods that are lacking in the good, essential fats. To ensure you are receiving sufficient quantities of omega-3 fatty acids, fatty, cold water fish, such as salmon, mackeral, tuna, sardines and anchovies should fill your plate, as well as other valuable omega-3 sources derived from oil-bearing nuts and seeds, such as walnuts, flaxseed and flax oil.

The brain requires more omega-3 fatty acids than any other system in the body. With sufficient quantities of EPA and DHA in the diet, the membranes of the brain perform at their peak level, which is essential for regulating mood, emotions, and staving off depression. In the absence of EPA and DHA the brain will choose an alternate source of lipids such as an omega 6 or monounsaturated fat which has very different properties from omega-3s and could therefore negatively affect your mental health.

To build a healthy brain, eat fish!