Seafood

choosing seafood

     Being some what of a pescatarian it is imperative that I only consume high quality seafood since it is such an important part of my diet (minus occasional dining out).  There are many many things to consider when purchasing seafood.  At first since I learned many things all at once it was very overwhelming, but now it is more of second nature.  I am posting this to provide a quick guide to help guide you in your shopping selection.

1) Wild caught is almost always better than farm raised.  Wild caught fish have shown to have very high essential fatty acid compositions compared to farm raised, they also are better quality and tone because they are wild and have endless room to travel and swim.  Farm raised also depending on the farm may be contaminated with pollutants, can be fed GMO food and can have antibiotics in them.  Now where you get your wild caught food is also important and a good selection requires some geographical as some world events knowledge.  For example after hurricane Katrina it would not have been a good idea to eat food from the because there was a lot of contamination from the stagnant water that went in the ocean as well as after the oil spill.  Now that some time has passed I will eat from there again.  However I will probably never eat from the North Pacific simply because the amount of radioactive pollutants that leaked during the nuclear spill.  Also if you care about the environment, you should worry about if it was environmentally caught.  Does the company prevent by catch and protect the topography of the ocean floors?  There are some environmentally friendly and healthier options of farms however they tend to be very expensive.

2) Packaging matters.  If you are buying canned fish does it have preservatives or does the can contain BPA?  If it is frozen does it contain preservatives or color enhancers? When was it frozen on the boat which would indicate really fresh fish with little chance for contamination.  Also I try not to buy previously frozen fish because you do not know was frozen and it has been refrozen after being thawed and that could increase contamination chances and decrease  freshness.

3) The type of seafood matters.  Shrimp are delicious but they are also scavengers and do not provide hardly any essential fatty acids as is the case with many bottom feeders.  It is important that if you eat scavengers to get them from an either very clean farm or ocean and only indulge once in a while.  Likewise very large sea creatures tend to live longer and have higher amounts of fatty acids.  This may sound great but a lot of pollutants are fat soluble and the longer a fish lives the more it is exposed to toxins in the water and if it has a high fat profile it can hold on to many more.  Fish like these include tuna (sushi type not tuna salad) and swordfish.   Only indulge in these once in a while as well.  Also if you have the choice of fish fillets choose the lighter ones.  The darker flesh is located on the perimeter of the fish and hold the most toxins (ex. mercury).  Healthy choices include Salmon, Anchovies, Sardines, Tilapia, Flounder, all mostly smaller cold water fish.

4)  How you eat it matters. Are you having sushi?  Uncooked fish has a higher chance of passing on live bacteria and parasites to you.  It is so delicious so how can you decrease your chances other than by limiting intake?  Only eat at very reputable Sushi establishments that have a very skilled Sushi chef and very fresh sushi grade fish.  Also be generous with the raw ginger and wasabi and low sodium soy sauce, all of which were originally included with sushi to kill potential contaminates.  Also doing a parasite cleanse every so often is not a bad idea.

5)  You matter.  Are you nursing or pregnant? Avoid all high mercury fish and scavengers.  Does your family have young children who will eat it as well?  The same goes for them.  Raw sushi is also a no no for children, pregnant women, or those with compromised immune systems/pore gut health.

     So there you have it! Hopefully this list isn’t too overwhelming and is helpful in choosing all of your seafood purchases.  Of course I could expound much more but then each item could be a post in and of itself.  I hope you use these points to conduct your own research and reach your own conclusions of what you want to incorporate into your diet.

Fat

  healthy fat coconut oil

     There are many different ways that people view fats.  The majority of people I have encountered think that fat makes them fat and are on a low fat diet.  Other people restrict certain kinds of fat.  I am writing this to tell you about how good fat can be for you.  As a matter of fact most of you do not get enough healthy fat. Healthy fat that is!  Western diet does not recommend enough of it.  I try and consume fat along the levels of a Mediterranean diet and recommend that 25-35% of your total calorie intakes be directly from fat.  Fat has a lot more calories than carbs and protein so you actually will have smaller portions of food if you use fat properly in your diet so there is no need to worry about gaining weight.  In fact you will probably have more energy and feel more satiated.

     There are different kinds of fats and some are good and some are bad.  However it is not so easy as to just rule different groups of fats as evil and other ones as healthy.  No, there are many rules and exceptions all built upon biochemistry.  There are two kinds of fats: Saturated and Unsaturated.  The term Saturated come from the fact that there are no double carbon bonds in the molecule, instead the carbon atoms are “saturated” with hydrogen bonds.  Saturated fat has gotten a bad rap.  Yes, you guessed it I am about to tell you to eat it!  Many other biochemical factors go into determining if a fat is healthy or not.  One would be length of the molecule and the type of fatty acids.  A good hint that something is a  saturated fat is that it is solid at room temperature and liquefies when it is heated.  Thy are derived from plants, land animal meat and products.

     I do not eat land animal meat or products, I will talk about that at a later time, however as far as fats go for someone who does eat meat I do not see them as being a source of healthy fats.  The only saturated fat that I not only recommend but encourage use of is Coconut Oil.  Of all the types of acids in Saturated Fat, Coconut Oil has the highest content of Lauric Acid which is anti-inflammatory, viral, bacterial and fungal.  Because it is a Saturated Fat it remains stable at very high heating temperatures and makes it one of the only oils safe to cook with at high temperatures.  Olive oil is great chilled on a salad or in a hummus or tahini sauce but when it is heated it can oxidize very quickly.   Coconut Oil resists oxidation and has a very long shelf life.

     As for Unsaturated Fats, first of all it has one of two configurations (geometric structures).  The first one is called “cis” and occurs naturally, the second is called “trans” and occurs through processing and chemical reactions.  The latter is also known as Hydrogenated Fats.  This is very bad for you and this is the only fat with a hard and fast rule that you should never break. Do not eat them ever!  There are two types of Unsaturated Fats: “mono” and “poly”.  Monounsaturated fats can be very good for you, supporting your cardiovascular system and lowering bad cholesterol.  Olive oil or avocado on a salad are wonderful sources.

     Next is Polyunsaturated Fat which is best known as Omega-3 (N-3) and Omega-6 (N-6) Essential Fatty Acids.  Omega-3 can be found in seafood (wild) and plants.  Most people are actually lacking in it.  They are essential to health and perform a variety of functions involving: lowering blood pressure, cardiovascular health, fighting depression and boosting brain function.  Good plant sources include flax and chia seeds.  Omega-6 on the other hand is more readily consumed in America and an imbalance of N-3:N-6 can cause inflammation.  A good ration to follow is a 2:1 many people have a ratio closer to 1:16.   There are however some N-6 that actually inhibit versus promote inflammation.  These include sources such as Evening Primrose Oil, and Borage Seed oil to name a few which contain the anti-inflammatory factor: Gamma Linolenic Acid.  This balance helps to support hormone production and metabolism, reproductive health, skin, hair and nails.

     I hope that this has helped to explain the difference between healthy and unhealthy fats.  It can be a lot to take in and I did not even go into much detail!  As you can see, there are more good than bad fats and most people are not eating enough fat or too much of the wrong kind.  So go out, enjoy some avocado and olive oil over a salad for lunch, some tahini for a snack and at dinner relish a delicious  piece of wild caught salmon sauteed in coconut oil.  You will be doing yourself a favor.