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Thursday
Aug042016

Ask Summer: The Seafood Question

Question:

“I’m worried about toxic contaminants, like radiation, mercury and PCBs, found in fish. Should I avoid eating fish all together?  What do you recommend?”

 

Answer:

I love eating seafood!First off, I applaud you for working to avoid exposing your body to toxins! This is a key component of what I recommend to folks who are interested in doing the work needed to improve their health and energy levels.  However, I DO NOT recommend cutting seafood out of your diet to achieve this goal! Consuming healthy seafood from clean waters is actually a very wise dietary choice. It’s just a matter of making wise choices on the seafood you do consume.  I’ll give you some resources and pointers for picking the cleanest and most nourishing seafood options here.

 

Tip #1: Choose small, oily, deep-sea fish.

As usual, American culture has it backwards on which fish are the best food choices. Most cultures around the world prize the small, oily, deep-sea fish -- like mackerel, sardines, and anchovies -- that we have often been taught to disdain or use as bait! Because smaller fish are further down the food chain, they will have a much lower concentration of any contaminants than larger fish. And because these fish are fatty, they will have more of the healthy fats, fat-soluble vitamins, and omega 3 fatty acids that us Americans don’t typically get enough of in our diets. Fish are one of the best sources of these important nutrients which is why I recommend including them in your diet.  An additional nutrient contained in these beneficial fish, selenium, is actually protective against the toxic effect of mercury in our bodies, giving seafood a built-in antidote to mercury contamination.  Since selenium is particularly deficient in the Pacific Northwestern United States where I live, including these small but nutrient dense fish in your diet is definitely part of a healthy diet.

 

Tip #2: Avoid farmed salmon!

While there are some sustainable seafood farming practices going on our there, they are few and far between, and when it comes to salmon, just say no to farmed fish!  The diet fed to farmed salmon raises their omega 6 content – that’s the fatty acid that most of us in the US get too much of already, and the whole point of eating seafood is to up our intake of omega 3, which we don’t get enough of, not to get more of the omega we’re already eating to excess (6)!  Additionally, salmon farms have been found to spread disease to wild fish, and release contaminants into the water that affect the wild fish as well.  There are also reports of higher levels of mercury and other toxins found in farmed salmon compared with their wild counterparts.  I wish it was unnecessary to have to mention the importance of avoiding any seafood (or any food!) that is genetically engineered (GE), but with farmed salmon, GE fish are a real possiblity that you will never find in the wild.  Always avoid consuming Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) to increase your health and vitality, and this goes for fish as well. 

 

Tip #3: Know your source.

Not only do we want to consider the health of our bodies in choosing which seafood to consume, we want to consider the health of the ecosystems that support the fish we choose, so that we and future generations can continue to access healthy seafood for years to come. Make sure what you’re eating is certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or the Alaska Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) program. As is so often the case, what is best for our bodies is usually also what’s best for the earth and our precious oceans.

My favorite seafood source, Vital Choice Seafood, is certified by both MSC and Alaska RFM. You can visit their website to order seafood from them directly, and while you’re there, you’ll find a wealth of information on the health benefits of seafood consumption, seafood sustainability, healthy fisheries and more! Enjoy 10% off your first purchase with Vital Choice by using the code: VCAFINT during checkout. You can also come in to my office to purchase some of their canned seafood options right here in the Rogue Valley – but please call or email first, since these products are only available from me and NOT stocked on the shelves of Organic Elements Spa.

Here in Oregon, we also have a great resource for LOCAL sustainable seafood – by buying a share in the Port Orford Sustainable Seafood Community Supported Fishery (CSF).  Modeled after Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), a share of POSS puts you in relationship with local, sustainable fishermen and puts their nourishing catch out of Port Orford on your table on a regular basis. Find out more about them by visiting their website HERE.

Finally, any time you’re purchasing seafood at a retail outlet or restaurant, be sure to ask if the seafood was wild caught or farmed sustainably, and if so, ask what certifying body has deemed the seafood sustainable. If you are eating out at a restaurant, I recommend asking a knowledgeable staff member about the source of their salmon.  If it's farmed salmon, let them know that you are not ordering it because you want to avoid fish that will detract instead of add to your health and that you would have ordered it if it was wild salmon.

 

Tip #4: Use your resources.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium has many handy pocket guides -- and even a smart phone app! -- to help us make good seafood choices. For best results, stick with the options in the “Best Choices” column of their guides, and avoid the rest. There are different guides for different regions of the US, and you can find them online HERE, or if you are in the Rogue Valley, you can come in to my office and pick up a paper guide for our region.  Again, it’s always best to call 541.326.8952 or send an email to let us know you’re coming, so I can make sure to have exactly what you’re looking for waiting for you when you arrive. In fact, you can consider me one of your primary resources for info on seafood that will sustain your body while honoring the ocean’s bounty. Come in for an appointment to talk more about incorporating healthy seafood and other traditional, nutrient-dense foods into your diet. I look forward to hearing from you!

 

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