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Have you been eating enough fish?
I really feel that, no matter where you fall on the diet spectrum, none of us really are. The truth is, I just don’t love cooking fish at home. The best way I’ve been able to regularly get it into our diet is canned, wild salmon or wild-caught frozen seafood. Let’s face it, going into a fish market is pretty much impossible with two babies and a mammoth double stroller.
I think we’ve all seen articles and heard the news about fish and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 are good for your heart, omega-3’s are in fish…ergo, eat more fish. Well, why aren’t you? The truth is, fish really isn’t a staple of the Standard American Diet – perhaps unless it’s Lent and you’re in the Drive-thru line for a patty of mystery marine-life. Instead, in our world, we are assaulted with the omega-6 fatty acids. They’re what you’ll find in almost any processed food product – and are heavily present in vegetable (soy) oil, canola oil, corn oil, etc. There are so many studies about why omega 6 oils are ruining our health. Humans need to maintain a more favorable ratio of omega 3:omega 6 fats – the ideal ratio should approach almost 1:1. Most americans are consuming a ratio of omega 3:6 somewhere between 1:10 or 1:20! (see more on this here). Several studies in the past year alone indicate the detriment of manipulating this ratio in the favor of unsaturated, omega 6 industrial oils. For example: an unfavorable ratio is related to depressive symptoms in women (1), abnormal mental development in the fetus (2), obesity in childhood (3), and onset of high blood pressure in childhood (4), and an imbalanced ratio is also implicated in the progression of coronary artery disease (5). This is just a snippet of the litany of research supporting that processed foods are destroying our health and begin affecting our offspring in-utero.
I’ve seen ads on TV lately for corn oil, claiming its “heart healthy” and it makes me sad. I’m really sad that we’ve let it get this far. We’ve let multi-billion dollar agribusiness corporations tell us that their industrially derived oils are safe – and not only safe, but beneficial. It’s pretty much impossible to even get lunch at Whole Paycheck without everything being crusted in canola oil. The small amounts you consume daily, that you think aren’t detrimental, add up and gradually overwhelm our systems. Every cell membrane in your body is made up of fats, and the types of fats you eat matter much more than you think. We’ve spent 60 years demonizing cholesterol and developing drugs to antagonize its synthesis, and not nearly enough time and energy on these dangerous polyunsaturates.
What am I doing to protect my family from this imbalance?
I’m consuming as much pasture raised meet as I can find. According to this article, grass fed beef is 2-5x higher in omega-3s than grain fed beef, and much lower in omega-6 content. As of right now, I’m trying the best I can, with what I can find. I truly believe in the benefits of eating responsibly raised animals and I’m looking forward to raising them myself. (check out eatwild.com for resources near you). This also applies to dairy products from cows. Cows that are pastured produce milk fat with equal ratios of omega-3 to omega-6 (source). I’ve actually been finding grass fed milk, cream, and butter at my local amish market. There is a huge difference when butter is pastured because the color is a rich, deep yellow. I will always choose grass-fed and local over “certified organic” – because organic certification is very expensive and many small farms cannot afford the designation. Also, anything that is 100% grass-fed or pastured is raised properly and technically “organic” anyway.
I’m finding easy ways to incorporate more fish. My favorite thing to do lately with canned salmon is to mix it with an egg, some salt, pepper, paprika, and ground mustard. I’ll heat up a skillet with butter, and fry the mixture into a salmon “cake” until browned on both sides. It may sound weird, but it’s honestly SO good. My twins will often split a whole can of salmon between them. If you want to step it up a notch, add some fresh dill and some sour cream or plain greek yogurt (if you do dairy).
I’m really loving it right now served over some lightly dressed greens (with a mixture raw honey, olive oil, and raw apple cider vinegar – if I’m giving my girls some of the greens, I’ll sub the honey for maple syrup since they haven’t had honey yet). Not only is canned salmon good for you, but it’s very economical. I bought the can pictured below at my local store for around $3.50, it’s 7.5 oz, BPA free, and sustainably sourced. I also try to monitor the toxin content of the fish we eat – luckily, canned wild salmon is on the very low end of the mercury spectrum. You can check the mercury content of the fish you’re eating based on your body weight and frequency of consumption here.
Wild, Alaskan cod is also reasonably priced and available frozen. (Just make sure it’s wild caught!). “The Rock” basically survives on cod, because it’s super high in protein.
Lastly, another way I’ve found to ensure we’re all getting our omega 3, vitamin D and vitamin A needs taken care of has been cod liver oil. This is not the nasty stuff you’re thinking of. My twins actually love it and get upset when their daily dose is gone.
There’s been a lot of debate over the past year about cod liver oil. I don’t think I could write about this topic without touching on it. When I started eating “primal,” about 4 years ago, I took fermented cod liver oil from Green Pastures. It’s very expensive. It’s about $60 a bottle – and you can easily get through a bottle in a month. I always thought this was a quality product, but recently there has been some huge controversy about whether or not cod liver oil can actually be fermented. (If you want to really get into the nitty-gritty, here’s a really well-written article). I’ve been pretty skeptical about this whole thing, to be honest. It seemed like all of the sudden, brands of “extra virgin” cod liver oil started appearing and people starting shunning the fermented product they had been touting for years. I’m not an expert, but I am a consumer – and honestly, this annoyed me. I’m just trying to find the best option for my family and budget, not get involved in some sort of cod liver oil holy war.
I saw on the Weston A Price website that they had listed Nature’s Answer cod liver oil on the “Best” list. I’m not sure why it has since been removed, but I checked it out and ordered it (link here). I’m on my second bottle of this stuff and I can honestly say I think it’s a decent product. What I liked most about it is that the Vitamin A:Vitamin D ratio is 10:1. A lot of other brands have really high Vitamin A: Vitamin D ratios, which could cause you to overdose on vitamin A in order to get anywhere near the right amount of D per day. It contains about 500 mg each of EPA and DHA per teaspoon (which are types of omega-3 fatty acids). Nature’s Answer is also very reasonable in price.
I’ve also been looking into NutraPro brand cod liver oil, as that is also recommended by WAPF and is considered “virgin.” This might be my next purchase once my current bottle of Nature’s Answer is complete.
If cod liver oil just isn’t for you – there are other ways. Commercial fish oils can be rancid and contaminated with heavy metals and other toxins from the ocean, but they are easier to take in convenient capsules for those who can’t stomach the idea of consuming a liquid. The Primal Blueprint website has a Primal Omegas line that looks like it’s really controlled for quality and toxins. I’ve never tried it, but if you prefer capsules it seems like a pretty good option (also, if you use the coupon code Grok15, you’ll get 15% off!)
All in all, it can be very hard to get the proper amount of fish in our diets. Not only is it sometimes difficult to source, but most of the time – I just don’t want to eat it. It’s nice to have the ability to use supplements, like cod liver oil, and find grass-fed dairy/meat that will lend us the ability to balance our omega levels as well. Honestly, even just avoiding processed foods and industrial oils is a huge step in the right direction.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this!
How do you get seafood and Omega 3’s into your diet? Have you ever tried cod liver oil?
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