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Ask the experts: Smoked salmon

Q: "I am aware of the health warnings associated with eating too much salted meat like bacon and ham. Do these same warnings apply to smoked salmon? I assume that fresh salmon would be better for you, but are there any recommendations on weekly amounts of smoked salmon? If you also have information on smoked chicken that would be great, but smoked salmon is my main interest."

Sally

A: Nutritionist Bronwen King responds:

"The main risk associated with eating too much salted, processed meat like bacon and ham is for certain cancers. The Cancer Society of New Zealand states, "Evidence exists that the way meat products are preserved and/or prepared probably affects cancer risk. Salted meats probably increase the risk of stomach cancer and preserved meats probably increase the risk of cancers of the colon and rectum." Similarly, the American Cancer Society states, "Eating large amounts of smoked foods may slightly increase the risk of certain types of cancer so it is best to eat these only in moderation". However, I could find no specific mention of smoked salmon or smoked chicken in any of the six cancer societies around the world that I researched. On the other hand, all six cancer societies recommend eating fish, particularly those rich in omega-3 fats, for their overall health benefits and for possible protection against bowel cancer.

I can see no reason to worry about including smoked salmon (or smoked chicken) as a protein source in a diet rich in fruit, vegetables and whole grains and low in processed foods. To me, the health benefits of eating salmon, even in its smoked form, far outweigh any possible risk. Making sure you have plenty of fruit and vegetables will ensure you have an army of antioxidants to mop up any free radicals that may form.

The only caution I would give with smoked salmon is that it is high in sodium, so anyone with high blood pressure will want to watch how much they eat, and opt for fresh salmon when possible."