Nutrition writer calls salmon No. 1 food for athletes

Posted: Wednesday, November 12, 2003

SITKA - Alaska salmon is not only good for you, at least one prominent sports nutritionist also says salmon is the most important food an endurance athlete can eat.

Liz Applegate, nutrition editor of Runners' World magazine, has written a column in the November issue calling canned salmon a must in the pantry of any serious athlete, or anyone, for that matter.

"Salmon is what I consider an overlooked food," the University of California Davis professor told KCAW radio. "People think of it when dining out, saying, 'I think I'll treat myself to salmon,' when we should be eating it on a weekly basis."

Besides recent studies that have shown the health benefits of a diet high in salmon, Applegate puts salmon at the top her list of critical foods for endurance athletes.

Applegate's column this month features the top 10 canned foods runners should stock up on. Canned salmon, which has long been eclipsed by the massive tuna industry, is her No. 1 pick. Applegate said she'll order fresh salmon when she can in restaurants, but for athletes in training, or for anyone looking for good nutrition, canned salmon is unbeatable.

"You get a great source of calcium when you get canned salmon. You don't get that from other fish, like tuna," she said. "And (you get) 35 percent of your need for protein, and runners need a lot of protein. So it's a great food canned or fresh."

The welcome plug for salmon comes on the heels of a rough summer for the commercial salmon industry. Alaskan salmon was dogged toward the end of the summer by news that concentrations of PCBs were being deposited in streams and lakes by returning sockeye. Researchers from the University of Ottawa this summer published the article in the journal Nature that set off alarms about PCBs transported to Alaska in sockeye.

The state Division of Public Health has been working to set the record straight on salmon. Dr. Tracey Lynn, an environmental epidemiologist and program manager for the public health program, said the Nature study was taken out of context. Scientists have long known that PCBs are transported by animals throughout the ecosystem. She said Alaska sockeye, or red salmon, carry some of the fewest contaminants in the food chain.

A bulletin co-authored by Lynn and published at the end of September by the state epidemiology section said people can eat unlimited amounts of salmon.

Steve Reifenstuhl, four-time Alaska Wilderness Classic winner, and multiple Iditasport champion, said he's always eaten salmon during his events. Reifenstuhl said he prefers smoked king salmon.

"I take it on all my long-distance races or adventures," he said. "Often in races your skin dries out, and I take the residual oil from a piece and wipe it on my face and it protects me."

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