A FISH STORY: the food, and the oil supplements

The debate over fish, and fish oil, is to me one of the most interesting ones in nutrition in its complexity. We have to ferret out, from the debate, the sophisticated marketing of the fish industry, which capitalized on emerging data 15 years ago that red meat is bad for us. (But fish is good for us, they clamored—and scrambled to provide “data” that this is so.)

Then we must evaluate the sources of fish, in a planet where virtually every waterway is highly contaminated and fish retain mercury at high levels off the coast of every continent. (Canned tuna is one of the most high-mercury foods you can find. I recommend you eliminate it from your diet.)

Then we have to look at farmed fish—even more problematic because they are fed ground-up fish pellets, made of guts and skin and bones. (Also chicken feces and genetically modified corn, soy, and canola oil.) These fish products, then, actually containconcentrated environmental pollutants.

Farmed fish is well documented to be higher in PCBs, dioxins, and other carcinogenic chemicals than wild fish. Most of the fish consumed by humans is now raised in farms. Wild “free range” fish eat plenty of toxins, too—but not concentrated in “fish pellets” like on the farms. Fish in farms are fed chemicals to make them pink rather than their natural grey color, are low in Omega 3’s due to their lack of a natural diet, and are given antibiotics at a higher rate than any other livestock!

And we have to look at the nonsense about fish oil. Does it really prevent heart disease? Everyone accepted this quickly as “settled science” mostly because a few data points were being repeated by so many doctors and so many supplement companies. But now we have 20 years of data and those who look at longitudinal trends know that fish oil has saved us from nothing.

What if a fish died and was floating in the water? Would you eat that fish’s flesh, or squeeze oil from it to eat, even 12 hours later? Of course you wouldn’t. It would be rancid. So says Dr. Brian Clement, N.M.D. and PhD, with whom I spoke in Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale. What if it sat for days, and then you deodorized and purified it, highly refined it, put it in gelatin capsules, and put it into distribution so it sat another several months before you ate it?

You’ve noticed that you burp up rancid fish oil taste for hours after you take yours? Rancid oils are carcinogens. The pharmaceutical companies that produce the vast majority of the fish-oil pills will pacify you by saying, “But we deodorize the oil.” Ah, so they use petroleum products, like coal tar, to mask the rancidity. I ask again, do you want to refine a fish-oil product and cover up the obvious signs that it is putrefied and not appropriate as food?

This is not an effective way to get Omega 3 fatty acids in your diet. Especially when there are perfect plant-food sources that don’t cause you to burp up rancid nasty.

Flax, chia, and hemp seeds are fabulous sources of Omega 3 fatty acids. I recommend having all three on hand. I love sprouted flaxseed to add to green smoothies. (I know of 28 anti-cancer compounds in flax. And this product is sprouted, which increases not only fiber, but also explodes vitamin and mineral content. Flax has 7x more lignans than the next-highest source—these compounds are highly breast-cancer protective.)

You get no fiber in your rancid fish oil caps. I really don’t think it’s a good source for anyone, of Omega 3’s. Save your money and eat some good whole foods instead:  greens have Omega 3’s in small but highly bio-available amounts.

And chia, flax, and hemp are perfect green smoothie ingredients, but I eat them in lots of ways:  roll raw cookies in them or put them in baked products. I love chia drinks from the health food store (one variety of Synergy kombucha is full of it). A spoonful of chia seed at night, chewed well and swallowed, and chased with a big glass of water, will fill up your stomach and get rid of your hunger.

 

My least-favorite things in Africa, part 4

Things I don’t love in Africa:

1.           Eating the Mopanie Worm. It’s a delicacy, the roads are covered with them, and locals eat them dried. Supposedly they’re very nutritious and high in protein. I have a personal philosophy of NOT eating caterpillars–in the photo below, I’m only hamming it up in my “kiss and release” program.

2.           Sugar companies and cane fields. It’s where much of the mischief begins (see me in front of the sugar cane field below).

3.           Townships. Over half a million live in this one, near Pretoria, in the photo below. I hate that so many live without things I take for granted every day.

4.           Malaria. I refused to take the pills. I bought some all-natural bug spray but used it only once. I guess I trust my immune system more than the drugs that make you nauseous, sensitize you to the sun, and you have to take for a month before and a month after.

5.           Ostrich and buffalo billatong (jerky), for sale everywhere. No thanks.

6.           The fact that making the “Go Texas Longhorns!” sign is flipping someone off. It seemed like such a friendly gesture, before, and now it will be forever vulgar in my mind. (I had a long debate with our guide regarding my opinion that the American gesture for that sentiment is so much more intuitive.)

7.           Elephant dung–it’s everywhere in the streets “on safari” and you have to dodge it. But, check out my video of a male dung beetle making good use of it, rolling the female dung beetle along, eggs safely inside the ball of elephant poo.

American processed-food outreach knows no bounds

I seem to be rather clumsy. First of all, I’ve been initiated as a cyclist:

After three months and about 1,000 miles, I finally wrecked my bike. Thanks to a kid changing lanes as I hauled down the canyon at 15+ mph. (Kid was fine.)

See the photo of us on the balcony (on our cruise vacation we just got back from). You can see the road rash on my shoulder. (I have some other banged-up parts that don’t show. Ow.)

Emma and I may or may not have sung karaoke Love Story (Taylor Swift) with an audience of several hundred and a live band including backup singer, see photo below. I may or may not choose to put the video up on YouTube.

But then I was swimming in Cabo a few days ago, where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific at a place called The Arch, see photo of Emma below. (Sea lions! Sea turtle! Many beautiful fishies!) And I accidentally got smacked into a reef because I was checking out said beautiful fishies and apparently got too close just as a wave came in.

Anyway, my arm was all cut up. I don’t think my fellow passengers minded, since they figured THEY’D be safe in a shark attack. But the inflatable-boat captain who drove us out to Chileno Bay gave me a lecture, probably for everyone’s benefit, about staying away from the reef.

That’s why we call it ECO SNORKELING, he said.

Well, that’s just rich, I thought. A lecture on keeping the wildlife healthy, from a guy dumping Frito-Lay products by the bagfuls to feed the fish, to entertain the tourists. (Not that I didn’t feel guilty for donating part of my forearm to the coral–I very much regret any harm I may have unintentionally inflicted on it.)

Turns out that saltwater fish feel the same way about Frito-Lay that folks around here do. It was an all-out feeding frenzy.

I’ve been in over 20 countries in the past 3 years. In December I go to Africa. One thing that strikes me in my extensive travels is the Monroe Doctrine of the vast American processed-food empire. American outreach–the worst parts of our culture inflicted on helpless others–knows no bounds. I thought I’d seen it all in rural Vietnam when I saw a two-year old with black, rotted teeth, riding a tricycle and drinking Coke. I’ve seen impoverished Mexican mothers feeding their newborn infants Similac–no doubt given them free in the hospital to encourage them to bottle-feed rather than breastfeed.

And now we’re feeding the tropical fish fried corn chips.

free movie: Food Inc. showing next Saturday

I mentioned seeing Food, Inc. (here on the blog) last year. Had to go to a seedy little theater an hour away to find it, as it was the only showing anywhere around here.

Because I’m steeped in this industry (counterculture, anti-S.A.D. nutrition) and have read widely on the subject, I didn’t see anything new in the film. For most of America, though, I believe it will be enlightening.

I was a bit disappointed. The film slams modern Goliath Monsanto (deservedly), modern agribusiness that has turned our food supply into a thousand permutations of corn and soy, and deplorable poultry/livestock practices. But then it doesn’t leave the viewer with anything uplifting to really DO about the problem.

However, it’s a good first step towards getting us away from accepting the offerings of fast food, refined food, and animal products in America.

I would absolutely recommend taking your child or teen for a primer on what has happened to food in America.

I was at The Good Earth today and a reader approached me about posting this on my blog:

You can see Food, Inc. for FREE on

May 15 (Sat.) from 1-4 p.m.
with a panel discussion with local chefs and area farmers afterward

At Meridian School in Orem, UT:
280 S. 400 E.

More info at meridianschool.org.

Costco products to avoid

I was at Costco today and saw another product that is an egregious example of how savvy marketers are preying on those who have a small amount of nutrition information but don’t understand the big picture.

More and more companies are truly motivated to provide us with excellent nutrition. It’s exciting. We live in a time when we have more options to eat right than ever before.

Other companies, unfortunately, especially the biggest ones, are feeding the mass market garbage foods while finding ways to promote it as nutritious.

Post Cherry Almond Crunch Cereal is one such product.

The box says, “No high fructose corn syrup! Oat clusters, sun-ripened cherries, multi-grain flakes!”

Well, it has CORN SYRUP (also white sugar and brown sugar) even if it’s not HFCS. Unimpressive.

It’s full of refined oils. There might be “multi” grains (more than one, who cares!) but that doesn’t mean they’re whole foods. The cornmeal is “degermed,” which means the high-vitamin part is removed. It’s not hard to use regular cornmeal! The main ingredient in the cereal is white (refined) rice.

Sun ripened cherries. I am so rolling my eyes.

The only “whole” foods in the ingredient list are whole wheat and rolled oats, well down the list. (The first thing in any ingredient list is what there’s most of, and the last thing is what there’s least of.)

Don’t fall for it. Or the organic pop tarts on the same aisle.

I will be highly entertained if someone comes on this blog and defends Post. Jif did that, the HFCS industry did that, and Mercola did that, when I questioned their data and tactics. Well, bring it on.

Joe Mercola and GreenSmoothieGirl on agave

In the natural health space, Joe Mercola is very much a Goliath, and I’m very much a David. Today’s topic: my affinities and differences with his philosophies.

Dr. Mercola responded to my blog posting and newsletter of a week ago, about agave.

I stand firm that drawing fear-based parallels between raw, organic agave from a reputable company and tequila or HFCS is “ridiculous” as I said before.

A raw agave plant is to agave is to HFCS—as an orange is to orange juice is to Tang.

I disagree with Joe Mercola on a variety of issues, including his promoting and selling whey protein, beef, tanning beds, and his metabolic typing theory with no real basis in science.

This whole agave controversy reminds me of something I remember from when my kids were little. There was a group of parents who were furious with the Barney show. The parents decided to form a coalition to fight the producers because they’d decided Barney was really the devil in a big purple suit, teaching kids about séances and witchcraft. The lawsuit, as I recall, referred to Barney the Dinosaur as promoting Satanism.

As a young mother, I remember reading about it in the paper and laughing out loud.

There are so many true evils in the world hurting children. Sweat shots, kiddie porn. Too-heavy backpacks full of textbooks. Let’s not forget McDonald’s products and marketing program. Just to name a few.

Why spend precious energy creating fear about a harmless TV show that has the dinosaur imagining things and disappearing?

That’s how I feel about the agave controversy. Again, I disagree with People Magazine calling it a “superfood” as much as I disagree that it’s going to hurt us when used in moderation.

I have interviewed experts as well. I feel confident that predicting nutritional catastrophe because someone adds a bit of agave to her green smoothie takes away from the real, more meaningful debate.

Let’s attack the true villains gaining traction in the food world: Monsanto; modern practices in raising beef/poultry; corn/soy products taking over the food supply; processed foods; fast foods; GMO foods; pasteurized and irradiated foods.

There’s plenty of evil without attacking the little bit of maple syrup, honey, agave, or stevia we whole-foods advocates use. (Each of those has pluses and minuses. Agave’s pluses are lower blood sugar impact as well as availability in raw/organic form.)

The whole debate takes away from the basic premise I reiterate here over and over:

Plant foods are good preventive medicine. We alter them to our detriment. We have to get back to our roots. Less processed is better, less concentrated sweeteners is better, more natural is better. Whole is good; fractionated and refined is bad.

And I want to say this about Joe Mercola. Some of the things he promotes seem oversold or a bit paranoid to me, and others are counter to what I teach on this site, like an incredibly expensive tanning bed being a good way to get Vita D. However, I respect him tremendously for being one of the first on the internet to start educating people about natural healing. He is smart and educated, and I believe he has good motives.

He and I have the same goal of educating people, empowering them, to eat natural foods and live a lifestyle that avoids reliance on medical solutions such as drugs and surgery.

I agree with Mercola about far more things than I disagree with him about. I appreciate his commenting here on my blog.