Are you trying to make healthier choices when it comes to your diet but find yourself confused about which foods are better for you? As a dietitian, I am often asked about the benefits of different types of seafood, for instance, salmon vs halibut.
Let’s take a look at the facts. To start with, is seafood good for you?
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Health Benefits of Seafood
You’ve probably heard about the many health benefits of fish. But did you know that 80-90% of Americans are not meeting the recommended 2 servings per week of seafood (1)?
Seafood is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to have numerous health benefits such as reducing inflammation, improving brain health, and lowering blood pressure.
Additionally, seafood is a good source of high-quality protein, which is essential for building and repairing muscle tissue. It also contains a variety of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin D, vitamin B 12, and selenium, which are important for maintaining overall health.
Like all seafood, salmon and halibut are excellent sources of protein and other nutrients. But maybe you’ve been wondering, which fish is the best bet?
Nutritional Comparison of Salmon and Halibut
You might have heard about the heart-boosting omega-3 fatty acids in salmon, but halibut isn’t far behind. It’s also a treasure trove of nutrients, boasting minerals like potassium and magnesium.
The nutritional value of each fish depends on factors like species, cooking style, and serving size. So while not exact, the table below compares the average nutritional facts of salmon and halibut per 100 grams (about 3.5 oz) of cooked fish:
|Nutrient||Salmon (2) (Cooked)||Halibut (3) (Cooked)|
|Calories||142 kcal||111 kcal|
|Protein||19.8 g||22.5 g|
|Total Fat||6.3 g||1.6 g|
|Saturated Fat||0.98 g||0.35 g|
|Omega-3 Fatty Acids||1.73 g||0.25 g|
|Cholesterol||55 mg||60 mg|
|Sodium||44 mg||82 mg|
|Potassium||490 mg||528 mg|
|Vitamin D||Varies (4)*||231 IU|
|Vitamin B12||3.2 mcg||1.3 mcg|
|Selenium||36.5 mcg||55.4 mcg|
|Phosphorus||200 mg||287 mg|
|Magnesium||29 mg||28 mg|
*Vitamin D will be much higher in wild salmon vs farm-raised salmon
Calories and Protein
Salmon and halibut are both excellent sources of protein, making them great dietary choices if you are looking to increase your protein intake. However, halibut has less calories than salmon, making it a good option for those with weight loss goals.
Fats and Micronutrients
Salmon and halibut are both excellent sources of vitamins and minerals. However, they differ in their fat content and micronutrient composition.
Salmon has a higher fat content and is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for heart health and brain function. On the other hand, halibut is lower in fat than salmon but still contains beneficial omega-3s.
Both fish can help you meet your daily needs for vital micronutrients such as vitamin D and selenium. Incorporating both salmon and halibut into your diet can provide a range of nutritional benefits while simultaneously reducing your intake of saturated fats.
Differences Between Salmon and Halibut
While both salmon and halibut can be part of a healthy diet, they differ in a few key ways. Appearance is the most obvious difference, with salmon having a pinkish hue and a slender shape compared to halibut’s flatter and more oval appearance.
There are 3 different species of halibut. Halibut are generally larger fish. An Alaskan halibut (or Pacific halibut) can grow to be 8 feet long and weigh up to 500 pounds (5).
There are 7 different species of salmon. Salmon are generally small fish, although some larger species like Chinook salmon (or King salmon) can get to be over 120 pounds (6). Pink salmon and sockeye salmon varieties average 15-17 pounds (7).
In terms of habitat, salmon can be found in both fresh and saltwater while halibut are exclusively saltwater fish.
Taste and Texture
Salmon and halibut offer distinct differences in taste and texture that appeal to different palates. Salmon has a rich and buttery flavor, with a firm texture.
Halibut is milder in flavor, with a sweet taste. Additionally, halibut has a flaky texture that separates easily when cooked, making it ideal for dishes like fish tacos or ceviche.
Ultimately, deciding which is the best fish for you depends on personal taste preferences and the cooking method you choose.
When it comes to cooking salmon and halibut, there are several methods to choose from, each highlighting the unique flavors and textures of these fish.
Grilling or broiling is a popular method for salmon, as it caramelizes the natural oils and brings out their rich flavor.
Halibut fillets are best baked or sautéed to maintain their delicate texture. If you choose to bake, use some olive oil (and maybe a dash of lemon juice) to keep the fish from being too dry.
Both fish can be marinated beforehand or paired with various herbs and seasonings, depending on your taste preferences. The choice of cooking process ultimately depends on the recipe being used and your desired outcome.
These essential fatty acids are important for overall health. Since they can’t be produced by the body you must get them through your diet. The American Heart Association recommends that adults consume at least two servings of fish per week to obtain sufficient amounts of these beneficial fatty acids.
Research shows that consuming omega-3 fats can help improve heart health, brain function, and reduce inflammation in the body. Salmon is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, while halibut has lower levels.
You may have heard about concerns with mercury in fish. It is true that fish can contain mercury from contaminated environments. So what can you do to eat fish safely?
In general, the health benefits of eating fish outweigh any potential risks from consuming low levels of mercury. However, to keep the odds in your favor:
Avoid certain species. Predatory fish like shark, swordfish, King mackerel, ahi and bigeye tuna, marlin, and orange roughy all contain high levels of mercury. Eat these rarely. (Pregnant women or those nursing or planning to become pregnant should avoid these entirely) (8).
Eat smaller, younger fish. Small, young fish generally have less mercury.
Eat a variety of fish and other seafood. By varying the seafood you eat, you lower your risk of exposure to high levels of mercury or other toxic compounds.
Mercury content is an important consideration when choosing between salmon and halibut. While both fish are generally safe to eat in moderation, they do contain varying mercury levels.
Halibut tends to have high levels of mercury. You should aim to eat less than 3 servings per month. Both wild-caught and farm-raised salmon have low levels of mercury. You can eat salmon as often as you like – just be sure it’s from a good source (more on this below) (9).
Cost may affect your decision of which fish to buy. In general, halibut is more expensive than salmon. However, the cost of fish at your grocery store will vary depending on where you live and how the fish are sourced (10).
Fresh is normally more expensive than frozen, and wild-caught is more expensive than farm-raised.
Salmon vs Halibut: Environmental Sustainability
Overfishing, habitat destruction, and pollution have all had negative impacts on these fish populations and their ecosystems.
By supporting businesses that prioritize sustainable fishing practices and choosing sustainably sourced seafood, you can play a role in protecting these species and preserving the health of our oceans.
Certifications like Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) provide assurance that sustainable fishing practices are being used, making it easier to make informed decisions about the seafood you choose.
Whenever possible, opt for wild-caught Alaskan (or Pacific) salmon. This is the best choice for you and the planet.
Farm-raised all that is available? Look for Chinook salmon from New Zealand or Atlantic salmon farmed in Maine (11).
Also look for certification from the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC). This logo indicates that seafood came from a responsible farmer who seeks to limit environmental and social impacts (12).
Because of the state’s Fish Monitoring Program, Alaskan salmon and halibut have been demonstrated to be low in mercury as well as other pollutants (15).
Salmon vs Halibut: Verdict
So which is the best choice in the halibut vs salmon matchup?
Both types of fish are rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which can do wonders for your health. However, their impact on the environment and the levels of mercury they contain can be different.
Opting for sustainably sourced seafood is a wise move, and it’s good to keep in mind that enjoying moderate portions of both fish helps keep mercury exposure in check.
Ultimately, the best fish will be the one you want to eat. However, salmon edges out halibut in the omega-3 and mercury department and so is probably your best bet, especially if you are choosing options from recommended sources.
Kate is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and certified yoga instructor with a Master’s in Public Health. She loves to share what she has learned about nutrition and yoga to help people live healthier, more balanced lives. When not working on this blog or teaching yoga, Kate is usually spending time with family and friends or reading a good book.