Monday, August 1, 2011


I read this interesting article earlier today about fish, and how overfishing is actually not the biggest worry. What we should really be worried about is the acidification and de-oxygenation of the oceans. Not good news. (Not that overfishing isn't a part of the problem, even a big part of the problem, but even if we stopped eating fish tomorrow and kept polluting the way we have been, our oceans would still die.)
So, what's an eco- and health-conscious person to do? We keep hearing how great fish is for our health, how wonderful those omega fatty acids are. Especially for kids, but not too much fish because it's got mercury! And never certain kinds of fish. There's so much evidence on both sides about things we should and shouldn't do, always wrapped up in personal opinion (and frequently, self-righteousness).
I've already stated that we eat salmon and halibut. (And clams! Shane's parents go clam digging sometimes. Yum!) We're not going to stop. At the very least, we use every portion of the fish except the head, fins and skeleton. (And the head could be boiled for the dog, but most of the fish we get has already been prepared by Shane's family and the head is gone.) Even the above article suggests eating local seafood, rather than seafood brought in from across the world. And being mindful of those species that we've fished nearly to extinction. (To search what you can eat, check here.) My fish travels fewer miles than most to get to my plate, even taking into account that it comes from halfway across the largest state. (At least it's not Chilean seabass.) It's wild, so there are no nasty surprises (either nutritionally or environmentally) from its growth. And since neither of us is a huge fan of fish, we don't actually eat it all that often. (Salmon is on the menu this week, with broccoli from the farmer's market as a side.)
As for the omega fatty acids that everyone says are so great, if you look into it there are several things to know. First is, even more important than the amount of fatty acids you eat are the type and the balance. We all want omega 3 and omeg 6, but it turns out that they should be in balance with each other. You can read the abstract of a study on the issue here. (Sorry, I can't get the full article to you.) Anyway, as it turns out most Westernized diets are far too high in omega 6 and too low in omega 3. They're both called essential fatty acids for a reason, but they do two different things: omega 6 has inflammatory properties and omega 3 has anti-inflammatory properties. So the one most people eat too much of has the inflammatory properties and that sets you up for a number of diseases. Like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. (Is it really any wonder so many people have those?) It turns out that there are some foods which have the perfect balance, or at least close enough to it. Eggs are a big one. (In fact, nutritionally eggs are just about the perfect food. Not that you get all you need from eggs, but it's hard to find another nutritional bomb in a single package like that.) Grass fed beef is another one that has a great ratio of these nutrients, but NOT conventional beef. Because feedlot cows are given grains, they don't get the right balance of omegas themselves. There's too much corn in their diets, and both corn and corn oil (and other corn derivatives) have been shown to have a terrible balance. I do like the saying "you are what your food eats".
Walnuts, flax seeds, olive oil, and even most dark leafy greens are great for more omega 3. (Actually, leafy greens have more omega 3 than omega 6, which is unusual.)
So if you really want to cut fish out of your diet (or cut back) and are afraid that you'll lose out on these essential fatty acids, don't be. Just do a little research and make a few minor tweaks to your diet.

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