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5 foods every woman should eat more of: Wild salmon

Foods for Women: Page 5

By , Caring.com contributing editor
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Salmon on cutting board

5. Wild salmon

Wild salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and iron, and it's a high-quality source of protein. A word of caution: Independent studies comparing the nutritional content of wild and farmed salmon showed the farmed variety had drastically reduced levels of protein and healthy omega-3 fats. Farmed salmon were also found to have significant levels of carcinogenic substances and other toxins, as well as higher levels of inflammatory omega-6 fats. If you're eating for health, opt for the wild variety.

Salmon is one of the few food sources naturally rich in vitamin D, which is needed to absorb calcium, maintain proper levels of calcium in the blood, and promote normal bone growth. Due to these qualities, vitamin D is regarded as an important nutrient in helping prevent osteoporosis. Sockeye salmon scores the highest in vitamin D; a four-ounce serving of sockeye provides 739 IU of vitamin D -- compared to Chinook salmon, which provides 411 IU for the same size serving.

Vitamin D's benefits extend beyond good bones, however. Medical and health experts now recognize this nutrient as playing an essential role in overall health. Unfortunately, vitamin D deficiency is a widespread problem that has been linked to depression and multiple sclerosis, two conditions that women are at a higher risk for than men. Researchers have additionally linked low levels of vitamin D with obesity and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Our bodies don't produce essential fatty acids, so we must get them from our diet. Wild salmon is exceptionally rich in heart-healthy omega-3 essential fatty acids, which guard against inflammation, reduce the risk of strokes, lower blood lipids, boost HDL ("good") cholesterol, decrease blood pressure, and help prevent heart disease. Omega-3s might be fats, but -- in moderation -- they're actually pretty figure-friendly: Not only do they slow digestion, which means you feel satiated for longer, but they may also help get rid of belly fat. Several studies link consumption of omega-3s with reduced abdominal fat. Other benefits of omega-3s include a reduced risk of breast cancer and improved brain function. Some research suggests that omega-3s may be helpful in treating depression, although further research is needed in this area.

Quick and healthy tip: Sprinkle salmon fillets with fresh chopped rosemary and black pepper, top with lemon slices, and place under the broiler for ten minutes or until it flakes easily. Leftovers work well the next day crumbled into omelets, sandwiches, or salads.