Is salmon fattening or good for weight loss?

Salmon is not only delicious, it is nutritious too, being an excellent source of vitamin B12, selenium, potassium, omega-3 fatty acids and various antioxidants. It can also be prepared in lots of different ways.

But what about when you are trying to manage your weight – should you still be eating salmon? The short answer is yes. Provided you don’t overindulge, salmon is perfectly fine to eat and may in fact be beneficial for weight loss.

Salmon and weight management

Because there are so many factors that come into play, weight management can be a complex topic. But when it is stripped down to its core, weight management can be summarised into a short and simple equation: calories in – calories out.

‘Calories in’ represents the energy you obtain from the food that you eat. All foods have calories, but the number can vary greatly, depending on what the food is made up of.

Foods that contain a lot of fat tend to be high in calories (because fat has 9 calories per gram) whereas those that are mainly made up of water tend to be low in calories (because water has 0 calories per gram). This is why a cup of almonds has more than 500 calories, whereas a cup of spinach only has 7.

‘Calories out’ represents the energy that your body burns throughout the day. Even whilst at rest your body is burning energy to keep you alive, which is known as your basal metabolic rate (BMR). The more active you are throughout the day (e.g. if you are always on your feet and exercise regularly), the more calories you burn.

‘Calories in – calories out’ will tell you whether you are in a energy surplus or deficit. The former means you are consuming more energy than you are expending; this excess energy is stored by the body as fat and leads to weight gain over time. The latter means the exact opposite and your body will be forced to use its fat stores as a source of energy, leading to weight loss over time.

Calorie requirements are dependent on a number of factors, including an individual’s age, gender, height, weight and activity levels. You can enter your details into the tool on this page to calculate a rough estimate of your calories needs.

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This calculator will never show a number below 1000 calories per day. Please speak to a qualified health professional before attempting to eat less than that.

For example, a 33 year old lady who weighs 80 kg (176 lb), is 170 cm tall and exercises 3 – 5 days a week would need to consume approximately 2400 calories to maintain her weight and 1900 calories to lose weight.

So how does salmon fit into all of this? A 3 ounce (85 g) serving of salmon cooked under dry heat has 175 calories; to be part of a filling meal, a person would consume around 6 to 9 ounces of salmon.

So on a 1900 calorie diet, a 6 ounce serving of salmon would equate to roughly 18% of total calories. This means that even when you are trying to lose weight, salmon can (and should) be a part of your diet, provided you eat it in reasonable amounts.

How salmon can be beneficial for weight loss

Salmon is a protein rich food, with a 3 ounce serving providing you with 19 g of high quality protein. Protein can be highly beneficial when it comes to weight loss.

Out of the 3 macro-nutrients (the other two being carbohydrates and fat), protein is the most filling. This means that eating sufficient amounts of protein may result in an overall reduction in intake of food, and therefore calories.

For example this study found that increasing protein intake from 15% to 30% of total calories resulted in 400+ fewer calories being consumed.

Protein consumption also helps to boost metabolism. This means that protein comes in handy on both ends of the calories in – calories out equation.

Apart from protein, salmon is also one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Research seems to suggest that the consumption of fatty fish and fish oil (both of which are high in omega-3 fats) may assist with weight loss and reducing belly fat.

Can eating salmon cause weight gain?

As mentioned previously, the balance of calories being consumed and expended will determine whether an individual gains or loses weight. Any food if eaten in large enough quantities can result in weight gain.

Salmon is a food that can be beneficial both for weight gain and weight loss. The factor that makes all the difference is portion size. If eating large enough quantities of salmon on top of all of your other food causes you to go overboard on calories, you will gain weight over time.

One final thing to keep in mind is that the way in which you prepare salmon, and the foods that you eat it with is very important.

Grilling, steaming and baking some lightly seasoned salmon will not add any extra calories to it. Eating salmon prepared in this way together with plenty of vegetables makes for a healthy and waist friendly meal.

On the other hand, covering salmon with batter, deep frying it and eating it together with a side of deep fried potato chips and tartar sauce will not do any favours to your waistline.