Salmon skin is generally safe for people to eat. However, other factors — such as individual health or where you get your salmon from — may affect whether or not you should eat salmon skin.
Salmon is both delicious and nutritious. In addition to being a source of protein, it provides omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins B and D, and minerals like niacin and phosphorus. Many people looking to substitute red meat in their meals turn to salmon for its health properties.
While some people like to remove the skin before cooking a fillet of salmon, others swear by leaving the skin on and eating it for an additional health benefit.
The skin of a salmon contains the highest concentration of omega-3 fatty acids on the fish. There’s strong evidence that these fatty acids can reduce triglyceride levels and decrease your chances of heart disease, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Cooking fillets with the skin on can also keep nutrients and oils inside the salmon itself that might otherwise be lost in the preparation process.
Salmon is one of the fish that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends eating two to three times per week for health benefits.
Forms and doses
Much of the world’s salmon supply has been contaminated by environmental pollution. But when it comes to human exposure, these toxins have a cumulative effect. That means that it’s still generally safe to consume salmon and salmon skin in conservative amounts.
It’s also important to pay attention to where your salmon comes from. The FDA, with the help of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has compiled recommendations to advise people how to consume fish safely.
The most contaminated fish is farmed from the Atlantic Ocean. Wild-caught salmon from the Atlantic is slightly less contaminated. If your salmon was caught in the Atlantic Ocean, it might be best to avoid eating its skin. The best kind of salmon skin to cook and eat would come from a wild-caught Pacific salmon.
Risks and side effects
Salmon skin is generally safe for people to eat. However, fish are known to be contaminated by pollutants in our air and water.
Chemicals called polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) can be absorbed by salmon during their life through their skin and in other fish that they eat. PCBs are a known carcinogen and have been linked to birth defects.
Methylmercury is also absorbed by salmon during their lifetime. These chemicals can be toxic to humans when consumed in large amounts. Pregnant woman are especially prone to experiencing negative side effects from these toxins, and might even pass them to their unborn child. Methylmercury has also been linked to birth defects.
Parents may also want to be wary of the effects of these toxins on their young children. A study from 1995 found that skinned salmon from the Great Lakes area had 50 percent less pesticides than salmon with the skin on.
If you’re a pregnant or nursing woman, you may want to avoid salmon skin altogether to be on the safe side.
For most other people, the benefits of eating salmon skin will probably outweigh the risks for if the salmon comes from uncontaminated waters.
Salmon skin can be cooked by itself, apart from the flesh of the fish, to make tasty recipes you might never have tried before. Crispy fried salmon skin has a similar texture to bacon, but without many of the health concerns associated with that high-sodium pork product. And baked salmon skin can be broken apart to serve as a salad garnish (think croutons without carbs!), used in sushi, or eaten as is for a healthy snack.