Halibut and Salmon are both excellent protein options to include in a healthy diet; however, one might be better for you based on your goals, preferences, and health concerns.
So what are the differences between halibut and salmon? The main differences between halibut and salmon are that halibut is a lower calorie option with 88 less calories than salmon and has a wider variety of nutrients. However, salmon has 1.3 g more protein and 4.5 times more omega-3 than halibut, which can help to keep you satisfied longer and reduce inflammation.
As a Registered Dietitian, I recommend consuming a variety of protein sources to ensure you are getting different nutrients throughout the day, but it’s important to know what these nutrients are so that you’re choosing the best fish based on which nutrients you may be lacking.
In this article, I will explore the pros, cons, and differences between halibut and salmon so you can determine which is the best option for you.
Halibut vs. Salmon: Nutritional Information
Halibut and Salmon have different nutrients to offer, so I compared their nutritional information to see how they stack up against one another.
|Saturated fats (g)||0.3||3.1|
|Monounsaturated fats (g)||0.7||4.4|
|Polyunsaturated fats (g)||0.7||2.8|
One of the main differences between Halibut and Salmon is that Salmon has more calories (+88 kcal) than halibut.
The higher calorie content of salmon could be beneficial for those looking to gain weight, because the calories in salmon can help you to achieve a caloric surplus (eating more calories than your body needs to maintain weight), which is required for weight gain.
Those with a weight loss goal in mind, could actually benefit more from halibut because of its lower caloric content that can help you achieve a caloric deficit (eating less calories than your body needs to maintain weight), which is required for weight loss.
The nutritional information above also reveals that halibut and salmon have a similar protein content, but salmon has slightly more protein (+1.3 g) than halibut.
Although the difference in protein between the two fish isn’t much, it could be more significant if you need to have a specific protein goal and/or you struggle to get enough protein throughout the day.
Protein plays a crucial role in our bodies because it helps to maintain and/or build muscle mass, increases your fullness levels, and slightly increases your metabolism (helping you burn more calories).
For these reasons, protein is one of the most important macros to consider when deciding between halibut and salmon.
One of the biggest differences between halibut and salmon comes from the fat content. Salmon has 8 times more fat compared with halibut. Halibut only has 1.3 g of fat, while salmon has 10.4 g in a 100 g serving
When evaluating the fat content of salmon and halibut it’s important to consider what type of fat each fish has because unsaturated fat has more health benefits than saturated fat.
A low saturated fat intake (less than 6% of your calories from saturated fat) is recommended to avoid heart disease.
Salmon does have more saturated fat (+2.8 g) than halibut, but they’re both still within the recommended guidelines for saturated fat intake with less than 5 g of saturated fat per serving. This means that they’re both great choices for encouraging heart health.
For more information on foods that are low in saturated fat, check out my other article: 10 best foods that are high in calories but low in saturated fat.
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Another difference between halibut and salmon is the micronutrient content, with halibut having higher levels and a wider variety of micronutrients than salmon.
When looking at this table it’s important to note that nutrient concentrations less than 5% are low. Concentrations above 20% are high, indicating that it is a significant source of that specific micronutrient.
|Ingredient||Halibut - Daily Recommended Value in 100g portion||Salmon - Daily Recommended Value in 100g portion|
The Top Nutrients In Halibut and Their Benefits
- Niacin. It can help your blood vessels to widen, which helps to reduce high blood pressure. Research suggests that increasing your daily consumption of niacin by 1 mg per day can result in a 2% reduction in the risk of high blood pressure.
- Phosphorus. It plays an important role in bone health by helping to regulate how much calcium your body absorbs to keep your bones and teeth healthy.
- Magnesium. It plays an important role in your mood. One study found that people under the age of 65 with low levels of magnesium had over 20% higher risk of developing depression.
It should be noted that halibut also has a significant amount of vitamin B12, but not as much as salmon does.
The Top Nutrients In Salmon and Their Benefits:
- Selenium. Selenium is a powerful antioxidant that can help reduce inflammation in your body. In a meta-analysis of 25 research papers, they concluded that increasing your selenium consumption by 50% more selenium could decrease your risk of heart disease by 24%.
- Vitamin B12. This vitamin plays a crucial role in forming red blood cells, which are the ones in charge of transporting oxygen and nutrients throughout your body. This nutrient is especially important for those who are pescatarian because they tend to be deficient in this vitamin due to their limited protein sources.
It should be noted that salmon also has a significant amount of niacin but not as much as halibut does.
Halibut vs. Salmon: 5 Differences
1. Taste and Texture
Salmon has a more intense flavor compared to halibut and has a slightly buttery taste and texture because it has a higher fat content than halibut.
Halibut has a similar texture and flavor to tilapia and is often described as having a sweet, mild flavor and a firm texture.
While they have different flavors, one of the advantages of both is that you can combine them with any herb or spice of your choice, and they will still taste great.
The winner for best taste and texture is salmon because it has a more distinct melt-in-your-mouth flavor; however, this also just comes down to my personal preference.
2. Cooking Methods
While you can use the same cooking methods for both fish (pan-frying, baking, and air frying), the most significant difference between these fish are their cooking times.
Salmon takes longer to cook than halibut because of its higher fat content; generally, salmon cooks in 15-20 minutes. Halibut cooks faster and can be cooked through in about 10-15 minutes.
The cooking time is likely also influenced by the thickness of the filet since salmon usually comes in a thicker filet than halibut.
The winner for the fish that cooks the best is halibut because it’s a better option for those that have less time to prepare their meals.
There is a significant difference between halibut and salmon because salmon costs $10 to $17 less than halibut, depending on where you purchase it.
Halibut is expensive to buy ranging from $26 to $30 depending on where you shop. The prices of halibut make it difficult to purchase if you’re on a budget or need to consume large quantities of protein.
In the following table, you can compare the prices for 1lb of halibut and salmon from different locations.
Not only is there a significant difference in the price of halibut and salmon but there’s also a significant difference in price depending on where you buy it. Stores like Whole Foods and Costco offer more expensive products compared to stores like Target and Walmart.
Salmon is the most cost-effective fish because it is approximately $13 to $16 cheaper than halibut. For the most affordable salmon, you should shop at Walmart or Target.
4. Omega-3 and Omega-6
There are significant differences in the amount of omega-3 and omega-6 fat content between salmon and halibut; however, both have sufficient quantities of the healthy omega-3s and are low enough in Omega-6 to avoid excess inflammation.
Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are essential to your body since you cannot produce them, which means that you need to obtain them from your diet.
Although you do need some inflammation for your body to adapt to certain situations (like when you cut yourself and your body needs to heal), it becomes a problem when you have more inflammation than the body can handle.
That is why most people experience high levels of inflammation, which can lead to poor sleep, digestive issues, and problems losing weight.
This is why it’s essential to have a higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s help to compensate for the large quantities of omega-6s that are in other foods (like vegetable oils).
Salmon has 4.5 times more omega-3s than halibut, with 2,342 mg compared to the 522 mg that halibut has.
While halibut still has a good omega–3 content, it doesn’t compare to the concentration of omega-3s that you get with salmon.
Both halibut and salmon have the advantage of being low in omega-6, with salmon having 122 mg, and halibut with 30 mg.
Salmon is a better source of omega-3s because it has 4.5 times more omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce inflammation in your body, and it’s still below the upper limit for omega-6 per serving
5. Mercury Content
Another difference between salmon and halibut is their mercury content, with salmon being low in mercury and halibut having a moderate amount. For this reason, salmon can be eaten more often than mercury.
One of the most common concerns when eating fish is the increased risk for mercury poisoning. High levels of mercury can lead to fatigue, headaches, depression, tremors, and memory problems.
The FDA has a table that classifies the fish based on whether they are the best option (low in mercury), a good option (some mercury), or ones you should avoid (high in mercury).
According to the table, salmon is one of the best options, meaning that it is low in mercury and that it’s safe to consume it 2-3 times per week.
On the other hand, halibut is in their “good choice” category (some mercury), meaning it’s best not to consume it more than twice per week.
When it comes to reducing your risk of mercury poisoning the winner is salmon because it’s safer to consume more often than halibut.
Halibut vs. Salmon on Environmental Sustainability
There seems to be a concern when it comes to fish and the relationship with the environment. There are two ways you can get salmon or halibut: farmed raised or wild-caught.
Farmed-raised animals are bred in farms. They are grouped in small spaces, often in small areas of rivers or the sea. Since they are grouped in small spaces, it increases their stress levels, and it makes it easier for them to catch diseases. Due to this, they are often given antibiotics and growth hormones.
On the other hand, wild-caught fish are the ones you catch in nature. This offers a more sustainable approach, but studies have shown that wild-caught fish can have 50% omega-3 content compared to farmed-raised fish.
Whenever possible, try to choose wild-caught over farmed raised or make sure that the farming conditions are environmentally friendly.
Halibut vs. Salmon on Different Diets: Which Is Better
Salmon is a better choice for the keto diet because it’s high in protein and fat, which is important on the keto diet because fat are the two main nutrients for those on keto.
On a keto diet, the goal is to reduce your carb intake, and when carb intake is low, fat intake increases to compensate and serve as your primary energy source.
A common mistake people make on the keto diet is not eating enough fat to sustain themselves. Since salmon is higher in fat than halibut, it is a better option for a keto diet.
However, this doesn’t mean that you cannot have halibut while on the keto diet, it’s just not as good of an option as salmon because it’s low in fat, so you would need to compensate by adding other high-fat sources like butter, avocado, nuts, or seeds.
Salmon is the winner for the best option for the keto diet because it provides healthy fats and protein, which are the key nutrients for the keto diet.
The primary focus of a paleo diet is to reduce inflammation, which can be accomplished by increasing omega-3s because of their anti-inflammatory properties in the body. Thus, salmon is the better option for a paleo diet.
If you want to include halibut, which is lower in omega-3, I would recommend adding other foods that are high in omega-3, like chia seeds or flaxseeds to your diet.
Salmon is the winner because, as I mentioned in earlier sections, salmon has 4.5 times more omega-3s than halibut.
With a shortened eating window, many of my clients struggle to eat enough calories and protein while intermittent fasting, so salmon may be a better option to help them reach their nutrient goals.
However, if you’re intermittent fasting and struggling not to go over your daily targets, then halibut is a better option for you because it’s lower in calories.
Salmon is the best choice for those who are intermittent fasting because it’s a great source of protein and fat, and it’s high enough in calories to hit your daily targets in a shorter time frame.
Both fresh halibut and salmon are excellent options for a low sodium diet. However, if you buy it canned, then it’s best to look for one that has less than 140 mg of sodium per serving size to be classified as low sodium.
Wild Planet has a salmon option with only 55 mg of sodium, making it the best choice for this diet. Halibut, on the other hand, is difficult to find canned.
Salmon is the best option for a low sodium diet because when served fresh it’s low in sodium, and low sodium canned versions of salmon are also readily available.
Low FODMAP Diet
Since they don’t contain carbs, halibut and salmon are both low in FODMAPs, making them an ideal protein option for irritable bowel syndrome.
Be careful how you cook them since garlic and onions are high in FODAMPs and could increase gastric symptoms (bloating or diarrhea).
Winner: It’s A Tie
Salmon and halibut are equally as good for the low FODMAP diet because both of them are low in FODMAPs.
Halibut vs. Salmon: Which Is Better For Weight Loss?
Halibut is a better option for weight loss since it is lower in calories. Halibut has 88 fewer calories than salmon. Food that is low in calories and high in protein can help you achieve your weight loss goals.
Higher protein foods are also beneficial for weight loss because they help you feel fuller for longer, which can cause you to consume fewer calories throughout the day. Salmon is slightly higher in protein than halibut but only by 1.3 grams so there isn’t a significant difference between the two.
Although halibut is lower in calories than salmon, it doesn’t mean that you can’t consume salmon while pursuing your weight loss goals, you just need to ensure that you’re adjusting the other foods you eat throughout the day to stay within your calorie target for the day.
You can use a calorie counting app like MacroFactor to help you modify your diet depending on which protein you choose to add. Get a free 2-week trial using the code FEASTGOOD when you sign up. Start your free trial on either Apple or Google play.
The Winner: Halibut
Halibut is the better option for weight loss because it’s lower in calories than salmon but has basically the same amount of protein per serving.
Halibut vs. Salmon: Which Is Better For Muscle Gain?
Salmon is a better option for those who are trying to gain muscle because it is higher in calories and protein,which are important for muscle gain.
To gain muscle more efficiently, you need to be in a caloric surplus (eating more calories than your body needs) and you need to consume enough protein to encourage muscle growth.
Salmon has 88 more calories compared to halibut to help you achieve a calorie surplus, and it also has 1.3 g more protein, which isn’t much more than halibut, but it can still help increase your protein intake.
If you’re having trouble reaching your daily calories, then adding salmon as a protein source is a great way to add extra calories without noticing it.
If you prefer halibut over salmon, then you should consider adding other high-calorie foods like avocado, nuts, butter, and seeds to help you reach a caloric surplus.
Salmon is the best option for muscle gain because it has slightly more protein and it’s higher in calories to help you achieve the calorie surplus that you’ll need to gain muscle more readily.
Practical Recommendations: Eating Halibut vs. Salmon
Mix Them Up
For a healthy diet, you need to have lots of variety in the foods that you eat because each food provides different nutrients and benefits.
This means that the best way to incorporate these fish is to have salmon one day, and halibut the next day. Alternatively, have salmon one week and switch to halibut for the week after.
Choose The One You Like
The most important thing when following a meal plan or structuring your eating is enjoying the food that you’re eating, because if you’re not enjoying your food then it will be harder to adhere to the plan.
I don’t recommend forcing yourself to eat foods you don’t like, even if it might be better for you. There are always other good options that you might enjoy more.
Track Your Food
Using a macro tracker can be helpful when you’re consuming both halibut and salmon because the calories and macros of these two fish are different.
Tracking your food can come in handy if you want to substitute one fish for the other but don’t know how to balance the rest of the foods or your meals to stay on track with your calorie/macro targets.
Cook Them In Different Ways
One of the struggles that people have with fish is that they don’t know how to cook it, but you can cook fish in many different ways, using many different flavors.
For those that prefer having recipes, I’ve compiled the following list with my favorite salmon and halibut recipes:
- Honey garlic salmon
- Garlic buttered salmon in foil
- Easy baked halibut
- Pan-seared halibut with mango-avocado salsa
Other Fish Comparisons
- Tilapia vs. Salmon
- Cod vs. Tilapia
- Flounder vs. Tilapia
- Tilapia vs Chicken
- Cod. vs. Salmon
- Cod vs. Flounder
- Halibut vs. Flounder
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About The Author
Brenda Peralta is a Registered Dietitian and certified sports nutritionist. In addition to being an author for FeastGood.com, she fact checks the hundreds of articles published across the website to ensure accuracy and consistency of information.