Gorton’s Grilled Salmon Fillets: Too Good to be Food?

Keri Glassman Investigates

Frozen. Grilled. Salmon. Now that sounds like an easy way to keep fish stocked in the kitchen.  The package says, “flame-grilled and expertly seasoned with a classic blend of real herbs and spices”, so I am thrown right back to barbeque season, in my mind. It even touts “wild caught” and “gluten free”...two buzz words we hear all the time. All those evenings when you don’t have time to plan, is having frozen fish stashed in the freezer a good idea? Gorton’s Grilled Salmon fillets claim to offer a convenient way to serve up salmon. Simply toss in the oven or microwave and voila!  But do these salmon fillets really make the grade or are they Too Good to Be Food? 

What’s in it:

SALMON, WATER, CANOLA OIL, LESS THAN 2% OF: NATURAL FLAVOR, SUGAR, SALT,  WHEY, MODIFIED CORN STARCH, MALTODEXTRIN, SPICES, ONION POWDER, XANTHAN GUM, DEXTROSE, CITRIC ACID, POLYSORBATE 80, CARAMEL COLOR, MALIC ACID, LACTIC ACID, SODIUM TRIPOLYPHOSPHATE (TO RETAIN FISH MOISTURE), PROPYL GALLATE (TO PROTECT FLAVOR).

●        Salmon: I love salmon! It’s packed with omega-3s, reduces inflammation, and makes your skin glow. I’m glad it’s the first ingredient on this list. It is salmon after all!

●        Water: just your basic H2O!

●        Canola oil: canola oil helps give foods that yummy, rich flavor without the saturated fat found in butter. This oil has the highest levels of heart healthy monounsaturated fat of any cooking oil-- score! The monounsaturated fats and omega-3s found in canola oil are associated with healthy cholesterol and overall heart health. You may have heard that most canola oil comes from genetically modified canola crops.  If you want to avoid GMO foods, look for non-GMO or USDA Organic labels. 

●        Natural flavors: a flavoring produced in labs to give more flavor to processed foods that have lost their natural flavor due to process of freezing, dehydrating, and canning. Made from a blend of natural chemicals (a collection of gases) to produce desired flavors, but which ones? Be wary when you see “natural” with no further description. We don’t know exactly what that means!

●        Sugar: your average white stuff you borrow a cup of from your neighbor. Do you sprinkle sugar on your salmon when you make it? Probably not, but a drop in a marinade won’t hurt you either.

●        Salt: needs no explanation. Most likely used here as a preservative and for flavor.

●        Whey: source of protein found in milk that is often known for contributing to muscle formation and size.  Fish itself is a great source of protein, no need to add more. 

●        Modified corn starch: corn starch is the natural, odorless carbohydrate in corn kernels that can be found in baking powder as well as baby powder.  Modified corn starch is chemically altered to improve its properties for commercial use.  Modified corn starch is used to preserve the texture of foods during freezing, thawing and heating.   While it is safe, it doesn’t add any nutritional value to food and is only really seen in highly processed foods. However, those with gluten allergies should stay away from this ingredient, unless the food is labeled “gluten free.”

●        Maltodextrin: very easily absorbed sugar made from starch used as an inexpensive filler, thickener, or binder in sweet foods. Unnecessary!

●        Spices: These are great flavorings.  We love spices!

●        Onion powder: made from dehydrated onion and retains the health benefits of fresh onion, including antibiotic powers and cancer prevention. Thumbs up here.

●        Xanthan gum: is a colorless paste made from the fermentation of sugars by a tiny, inactive bacterium called Xanthomonas campestris.  It is used as a fat replacer, thickener, and stabilizer.   Fun fact: xanthan gum is commonly used to help lower blood sugar and cholesterol in individuals with diabetes. This natural emulsifier is okay to use in small amounts but remember if you are seeing on the package you are eating a processed food!

●        Dextrose: just another sugar-coated sugar. Dextrose is a sweet, easily digested simple sugar made from corn starch. While safe, it’s still more added sugar.

●        Citric acid: A natural acid found in fruits like lemons, limes and oranges.  It works as a natural preservative and popular flavor enhancer in many packaged foods and beverages.

●        Polysorbate 80: an ingredient that keeps food from separating but can cause nonimmunologic anaphylactoid reaction. That’s code for massive allergic reaction without a preexisting allergy. Yikes!

●        Caramel color: this food colorant comes from unnatural OR natural sources like corn syrup, potatoes, or wheat. Remember that color additives like this give foods artificial color that appears fresh--keyword appear! In 2011, studies showed that reactions between the ingredients used to make caramel color contribute to cancers of the lung, liver, thyroid and blood, in lab animals. It may help our food to look pretty, but caramel color’s potential side effects sound ugly.

●        Malic acid: often used to give that sour flavor to those gummy candies that my kids love and I love to hate! Malic acid is sometimes used in place of citric acid for less sour products.

●        Lactic acid: acts as a flavoring agent or preservative. Lactic acid is produced by natural fermentation in products like cheese, yogurt, soy sauce...

●        Sodium tripolyphosphate: this is a chemical that has many uses, ranging from something in cleaning products to a food preservative. In this product, it is probably used as a preservative.  Thumbs down.

●        Propyl gallate: this artificial food additive prevents oxidation and therefore keeps fats and oils from deteriorating or going rancid. While the FDA considers it safe, other countries either limit its use or ban it completely because of its potential toxic effect in animals.

Bottom Line:

While wild salmon is one of my favorite foods for your overall health, this product is really, only partially wild salmon.  The rest is a combo of added ingredients that render these once innocent fillets, well, not so innocent. Nature gave us salmon in the wild to catch and eat in its pure, delicious form.  While the product is easy to prepare, you can just as easily buy fresh salmon and freeze it yourself. Sorry Mr. Yellow Slicker Fisherman, but this is Too Good to be Food! 

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