Wild vs Farmed Salmon – What’s Better For Your Fertility?

We know all about the health benefits of salmon. Its high omega-3 content makes it fantastic for supporting brain health, hormone function, reducing inflammation and joint pain, and even promoting skin health. Not to mention it’s also high in protein – and super delicious!

Omega-3s, found in abundance in salmon, play a key role in optimising fertility and general health. Omega-3 fats support your reproductive hormones, and are actually essential for the production of these hormones. And as you know, if you’re not producing your sex hormones, it becomes pretty difficult to conceive…

So regardless of whether you opt for farmed or wild salmon, both provide critical nutrients to optimise your chances of conceiving, and growing a healthy baby.

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Read more about the role of omega-3s in optimising your fertility here.

And if trying for a baby isn’t on the cards for you right now, you’re still benefitting equally from eating salmon with plentiful support around benefiting heart health and inflammation management, particularly important for those with PCOS and endometriosis.

So let’s get into it: which type of salmon should you be opting for if you’re looking to optimise the nutritional value or benefit?

Research by Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide reveals farmed Atlantic salmon offers the highest nutritional quality of all salmon varieties available in Australia.

But the next question is: should you opt for farmed or wild salmon? Which is healthier?

Nutritional Value

When it comes to nutritional value, you want to be looking for a salmon variety that contains the ideal ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids (Riediger et. al, 2009). Fatty acids are a widely used phrase, which acts as an umbrella term for a range of fatty acids important for health and disease prevention. Consuming these in the ideal ratio of up to 4:1 (omega-3:omega-6) (Simopoulos, 2002) ensures you’re getting the maximum bang for your buck in terms of health benefits. The lower the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6, the more your risk of diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other inflammatory diseases, is reduced (Simopoulos, 2002).

EPA and DHA, the two omega-3 fatty acids you’ve likely heard of, play a key role in healthy development and ageing and reducing your risk of disease, while omega-6 fatty acids play a key role in brain function and decreasing inflammation in your body (Innes et. al, 2018) when consumed in the optimal ratio to omega-3s.

Both Omega-3s and -6s are contained in salmon, but here’s where the farmed vs wild debate gets interesting. While both wild and farmed salmon contain large amounts of omega-3s, they have very different quantities of omega-6s. In fact, farmed salmon contains around four times the amount of omega-6 fatty acids than wild salmon (Blanchet et. al, 2005). While this isn’t a big concern, it does mean wild salmon has a much more ideal ratio of fatty acids if you’re looking to maximise the health and nutrient benefits you’re getting.

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Contamination

As with most seafood, salmon is subject to some contamination, or compounds that can have negative health effects, including increased cancer risk, if consumed in excess. But first things first, before you panic: both farmed and wild salmon are within the Australian health guidelines for fish consumption, meaning you can eat both varieties without having to worry about any negative side effects to your health (Foran et. al, 2005).

However, it’s probably no surprise that we have a clear winner when it comes to the type of salmon you want to consume if you’re looking to reduce your exposure to these compounds. Higher levels of contaminated compounds are found in farmed salmon, compared to the wild-caught variety – at least within Australia.

It’s important to note though, if you are sourcing your salmon from overseas, this may not be the case. In fact, salmon sourced from Northern Europe (which is very common in Australia!) was found to contain the greatest amount of these contaminants – yet still remained within safe limits for consumption (EFSA, 2005).

So overall, wild salmon takes the cake, yet all salmon is perfectly safe to eat!

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Environmental Impact

With the increasing focus on the environment, for many of us, the sustainability of our marine life plays a big role in deciding what variety of salmon to go for.

While both wild and farmed salmon have their pros and cons, farmed salmon is sourced from their natural habitats, while farmed salmon are farmed in open water cages in the ocean (Mowi, 2021). This means the method of farming salmon while creating a realistic living environment for the fish, causes some disturbance to the water and marine life living around and below the man-made cages, the salmon are harvested in, including bacterial growth and reduced oxygen in the harbour waters (Mowi, 2021).

Having said that, farmed salmon reduces the stress placed on marine ecosystems from overfishing, given the salmon are bred for consumption and farming.

So what’s the bottom line? Both farming and wild salmon can be sustainable, however, measures are required in both methods to ensure the marine population and ecosystems continue to thrive without threat.

If you’re looking to choose the most sustainable salmon available, keep an eye out for MSC-Certified varieties of salmon when you’re doing your shopping. This certification signals that your seafood is sustainably sourced, without excess harm to ecosystems and marine life, and also gives you confidence in the reliability of the seafood you’re buying – this way, you know your seafood is correctly labelled (MSC, 2021)!

The Verdict: Wild Salmon or Farmed Salmon?

While both farmed and wild salmon are extremely nutritious providing valuable omega-3 fatty acids, and perfectly safe to eat, wild-caught salmon clearly takes the cake. It contains slightly less fat than farmed varieties, as well as fewer calories and more minerals. Plus, wild salmon contains fewer contaminants and is slightly better for the environment and marine ecosystems. Both types are amongst the best sources of omega-3 fats and protein, and make an excellent regular addition to your plate! So of course, go for whatever variety you prefer the taste of, or whichever is available and within your budget – they’re both doing wonders for your body at the end of the day!

How much salmon should you be eating?

Ideally, 2 serves of omega-3 rich fish like salmon per week ensures you’re getting the most health benefits, without any potential health risks from the contamination compounds in salmon.

Want to better understand your nutrient needs during pregnancy and prior to conception, and learn key strategies, tips and tricks to optimise your fertility? Book in for a session with The Dietologist team today to take your fertility, and the health of you and your unborn baby, into your own hands!