Can You Eat Salmon Skin?

Salmon is a delicious fish and a great source of protein, as well as other nutrients like vitamins and minerals. 

It is consumed worldwide and a part of several cuisines. However, whether you can eat salmon skin or not remains a controversial topic – some people believe it can cause health complications while others swear by its nutritional properties.

Salmon skin is also often cooked on its own, either by frying or baking.

In this article, we’ll look at the risks and benefits of eating salmon skin.

A significant proportion of the nutrients in salmon are concentrated in the skin. In fact, most of the omega-3 fatty acids in the fish are in the skin. These fatty acids are known to promote the loss of fat and improve your heart’s health (1).

Plus, salmon skin acts a great barrier to all the other nutrients in the fish itself – by cooking salmon with the skin on, you minimize the loss of these nutrients due to heat, etc, during the cooking process.

However, due to environmental pollution, salmon, as well as other fish, may contain toxins. These toxins have a cumulative effect so as long as you don’t consume huge portions of fish and seafood on a regular basis, you are at no risk (2).

In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends eating salmon two to three times a week due to all its health benefits (3).

Regardless, if your salmon is from waters that are known to be heavily contaminated, it’s best to remove the skin before cooking it. Generally, the most contaminated fish are farmed from the Atlantic Ocean so avoid eating the skin of fish from there. 

The Pacific Ocean is the least contaminated ocean so salmon from these waters are perfectly safe to consume, skin and all (4).

The main toxins found in contaminated fish, including salmon, are polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). They are a known carcinogen and can cause birth defects in children so to be on the safe side, pregnant women should avoid consuming the skin (5).

Methylmercury is another toxin found in salmon. In large amounts, methylmercury can be toxic to humans. It has also been linked to birth defects and pregnant women are at a higher risk of experiencing the negative effects of this toxin (5).

Removing the skin from the salmon will greatly reduce the concentration of these toxins. It will also reduce the amounts of pesticides in the fish by up to as much as 50% (6).

So, overall, salmon skin is safe to consume as long as you are not pregnant. However, it should still be consumed in small amounts and no more than 3 times a week. Just remember to check where the fish was farmed from and avoid eating the skin of fish from the Atlantic Ocean.

As salmon skin is full of nutrients and extremely yummy, it’s a great food to include in your diet. The risks involved are negligible if you take the proper steps.

References:

  1. Lauritano, C., & Ianora, A. (2016). Marine Organisms with Anti-Diabetes Properties. Marine drugs, 14(12), 220. doi:10.3390/md14120220
  2. Smart, D. R. (1992). Scombroid poisoning. A report of seven cases involving the Western Australian Salmon, Arripis truttaceus. Medical Journal of Australia, 157(11), 748-751.
  3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2017). Advice About Eating Fish. [online] Available at: https://www.fda.gov/food/consumers/advice-about-eating-fish.
  4. Moura Reis Manhães, B., de Souza Picaluga, A., Bisi, T., de Freitas Azevedo, A., Torres, J., Malm, O. and Lailson-Brito, J. (2019). Tracking mercury in the southwestern Atlantic Ocean: the use of tuna and tuna-like species as indicators of bioavailability. Environmental Science and Pollution Research.
  5. O’Neill, S., Carey, A., Harding, L., West, J., Ylitalo, G. and Chamberlin, J. (2019). Chemical tracers guide identification of the location and source of persistent organic pollutants in juvenile Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), migrating seaward through an estuary with multiple contaminant inputs. Science of The Total Environment, p.135516. Epub ahead of print.
  6. Zabik, M., Zabik, M., Booren, A., Nettles, M., Song, J., Welch, R. and Humphrey, H. (1995). Pesticides and Total Polychlorinated Biphenyls in Chinook Salmon and Carp Harvested from the Great Lakes: Effects of Skin-on and Skin-off Processing and Selected Cooking Methods. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 43(4), pp.993-1001.