How to Choose Safer, Sustainable Seafood

Fish

In addition to being a tasty source of protein, many fish contain heart-healthy benefits and essential omega-3 fatty acids. Some examples of fish that contain high amounts of omega-3 FA’s are salmon, mackerel, sardines and albacore tuna.  To reap the heart-healthy benefits, the American Heart Association recommends eating fatty fish 2x per week. But some fish species contain high levels of mercury and there are certain fish that should be avoided, especially for those who are pregnant, nursing or feeding young children. For more information  on eating seafood while pregnant or nursing, check out a separate guide provided by the Academy of Nutrition.

Whether you’re grocery shopping or dining out, when it comes to choosing farm-raised or wild seafood, it’s important to understand what types of fish are safer to eat and the effect it has on the environment and our health. Read on to learn more about sustainable seafood and a fish guide for lower mercury choices.

Fishy Words

To help you decide what fish to eat or buy, let’s go over the basic fish terms found on restaurant menus, fish aisles and package labels.

Farm Raised – Farmed fish are the exact opposite of wild fish– they are farm raised in pens. Farmed raised fish are often overcrowded, which allows for little room to swim and can also cause many issues. First, raising large quantities of fish in such a small space leads to increased waste, toxins and risk for disease. Some (not all) farms try to prevent or combat this by treating the fish with antibiotics. In addition, farm raised fish are often fed wild fish, which contributes to overfishing. In addition, farmed fish are fed smaller fish. These small fish may contain toxic contaminants, which when fed to other fish, may cause a buildup of the very same toxins.

Common farmed fish include imported fish, Atlantic salmon (which is fancier name for farmed salmon), striped bass and shellfish. If the fish you’re purchasing is farmed, be sure it’s USA-farmed, as environmental standards in other countries may be inconsistant and/or not regulated.

 

Here’s the Catch

Opt for domestic fish over imported fish – American farmed fish generally have more stringent rules than fish sourced from other countries.

Choose locally caught fish – Not only is this more sustainable, but you’re supporting local farmers while getting fresher catch

Choose fish caught by line or troll – Even wild fish can be caught using unsustainable practices. Fish caught by large nets can cause damage to the ecosystem since they result in high “by-catch”–species that were unintentionally caught.

Check your local advisory – Seafood risks change seasonally and can vary from species to the state where you’re fishing. Stay up to date with the Environmental Protection Agency’s fish advisory.

Choose fish low on the food chain – Since they live the shortest amount of time, they accumulate the least amount of toxins. Fish low on the food chain include sardines, anchovies, mussels, oysters and clams.

Use a mobile app to keep a pocket guide in handy – Download the  Seafood Watch app provided by the Monterey Bay Aquarium app to help you stay up-to-date with seafood and sushi recommendations.

Choose Your Fish Wisely – Check out this fish guide below and more information provided by the Natural Resources Defense Council

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Use this guide below to help you determine how which fish to eat in moderation and which fish to avoid based on high mercury levels. Whether you’re at a grocery store or dining out, there’s always a way to find out where and how the fish is sourced. As always, if you’re unsure about where your food comes from, always ask!

Super Foods Super Expensive

Are “Super foods” worth the money? This answer depends on which food one is referring to. The Willis Report recently asked me if consumers who are being bombarded with trendy super foods like quinoa, goji berries, acai berries, and spirulina getting the most for their money? Well these foods are indeed packed with nutrition especially vitamins, antioxidants and phytochemicals but they are not necessarily better than other more main stream supper foods like blueberries or salmon. See our post “Are Super Foods So Super?
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While “super foods” like raw pumpkin super chips or oats with goigi berries are extremely nutritious, they don’t always live up to their cost. They could possibly be even less super than a local or frozen food as they may be less fresh if they are exotic, processed, or have added ingredients. Keep in mind there is no formal qualification defining super foods. Rather this term is used loosely implying this specific food has as much or a greater amount of nutrition than another food.  

When comparing prices of foods marketed as ‘super foods’ and sold in specialty health boutiques, I found that pumpkin chips were five times the costs of just purchasing pure pumpkin seeds and flax seeds. Oat based cereal sold, as a super food was twice as expensive as purchasing stone ground oats with fresh blueberries and a chocolate bar from Africa that was only 44% cocoa was sixty-six percent more expensive then a USA dark chocolate bar like Sweet Riot with 70% coca.

The message here is when opting for value, go with the foods that are most wholesome and unaltered like nuts, wild salmon and organic blueberries. See here for more natural super foods:

http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/10-everyday-super-foods?page=2.

To find foods that have positive affects on your health without paying top price go with non-packaged fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and nuts. Stroll the bulk section of your health food store and buy foods sold by the pound rather than by the package.

  • “If it is in a package, it is probably processed!
  • If it is has been processed, it’s probably not super.
  • If it is has sugar as the first ingredient, and
  • If it is marketed as super it’s probably not so super.
  • Real whole foods are the super foods that are a super deal.”

Keep in mind, if you are buying juices or super chips with agave, these products have added sugar since agave is sugar. Local fresh and or frozen are usually the best foods to buy for greater nutrition, sustainable efforts and economical value.

 

Love Your Heart with 8 Heart-Healthy Foods

February isn’t just the month of flowers, chocolates or spending time with the ones you love..but as heart health month, it’s also about loving your heart! Heart disease remains one of the leading causes of death for both men and women1. Lifestyle choices play a major role in preventing heart disease as well as controlling it. With this in mind, it’s never too early to start focusing on overall heart health. Show your heart how much you appreciate it by incorporating these heart healthy foods!

Berries – Please your heart with antioxidant rich berries like strawberries, goji berries and blackberries, which are an antioxidant powerhouse! Blueberries for example, house high amounts of phytonutrients like anthocyanidins, which aid in the process of neutralizing free radical damage in our cells. Consuming 1-2 portions of berries daily may help reduce cardiovascular disease risk2.

Brussel Sprouts – Tender, crunchy and just a little bit nutty, brussel sprouts have more to offer than just flavor. This cruciferous veggie contains vitamin C and vitamin A which help fight against heart disease, and vitamin Its high fiber content aids in digestion, helps lower cholesterol and reduces the risk for developing heart disease, stroke and hypertension3.

Chia Seeds – Chia seeds contain a high level of soluble fiber, which helps slow down digestion and regulates blood sugar levels. Soluble fiber can help lower LDL cholesterol, reduce risk for cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Just three tablespoons of these seeds can provide 37-44% of the American Heart Association’s recommended amount of fiber per day. Two tablespoons of chia seeds provide a 3:1 ratio of omega-3:omega-6 FA. With 3x more omega-3 than omega-6, adding chia seeds to a diet can help an individual reach optimal health by balancing out the ratio of fatty-acid intake in one’s daily nutrition. To learn more about chia seeds, click here.

Collard Greens – This cruciferous veggie is high in vitamins A,C, K and folate. It contains antioxidants and provides us with anti-inflammatory benefits.

Greek Yogurt – Low in saturated fat and cholesterol, Greek yogurt makes for a heart-healthy snack. It’s high in protein and calcium, which can help you stay fuller longer, while strengthening your bones.

Olives – Monounsaturated fats in moderation are heart-healthy fats that help lower blood cholesterol levels4. A rich source of monounsaturated fats is olives, which have been shown to lower LDL (“bad cholesterol”) and increase or maintain HDL (“good cholesterol”).

Salmon – High in omega-3 fatty acid, DHA and protein, salmon helps lower blood pressure and reduces inflammation5.

Wheat germ – Packed with B vitamins, the nutrients found in the grain play a vital role in maintaining heart-healthy bodily functions. In addition to lowering the risk of heart disease, B vitamins like folate are especially for women of childbearing age as well as any woman eating too little veggies or fruits. As an excellent source of fiber, wheat germ helps control cholesterol.

Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids: The Scoop You Didn’t Know

Over the past few years, omega-3 fatty acids have received a lot of attention and promotion. Yet when you pick up your supplements at the local pharmacy or health food store, the label includes omega-3’s, omega-6’s omega-9’s and oh my mega confusion! What is the difference between these essential fatty acids and what is this talk about keeping a ratio? This blog will help demystify the omega-3 fatty acids versus omega-6 fatty acids confusion. Find out if you need to add omegas to your nutritional intake and which omega.

The Difference Between Omega-3 and Omega-6

Both omega-3 and omega-6 are termed ‘essential fatty acids’ (EFA), since our bodies cannot readily produce these, we must obtain them through foods or supplements.

While there are many types, the three most common omega-3 fatty acids are Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA), Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA), and Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA). DHA and EPA are mainly found in cold-water fish like tuna, salmon, and sardines, while ALA is found in plant sources like canola oil, walnuts, flaxseed, and soybeans. Unlike DHA or EPA, which can be readily absorbed by our bodies, ALA from plant sources like seeds, nuts or vegetable oils are only partially converted (about ten percent) by our bodies into the beneficial forms EPA and then DHA. Studies have shown that the health benefits of EPA and DHA are greater than ALA. Therefore, the goal is to try to get Omega 3 FA’s in the form of DHA and EPA.

Unlike omega-3‘s, omega-6‘s consists of only one type of fatty acid, Linoleic Acid (LA), which is later converted into Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA). As opposed to omega-3‘s, getting omega-6‘s from the foods we eat daily, is rather simple. LA is commonly found in seed oils like corn, canola, sunflower and soy — ingredients found in many of the processed foods Americans typically consume in abundance. The better sources of omega-6’s include raw nuts, like pistachios and seeds like chia. Since Americans typically consume much more of the fatty acid omega-6, it is more important for one to focus on including omega-3 fatty acids in their diet or through their supplement. However, for an individual following a low processed food lifestyle such as a paleo, vegan or vegetarian diet, omega-6’s must be included. A great source of an omega-6 fatty acid is the seed known as chia.

Helpful Hint: Two tablespoons of chia seeds provide a 3:1 ratio of omega-3:omega-6 FA. With 3x more omega-3 than omega-6, adding chia seeds to a diet can help an individual reach optimal health by balancing out the ratio of fatty-acid intake in one’s daily nutrition.

Both Are Beneficial

Omega-3’s have been found to lower the risk factors for heart disease and cancer, as well as have anti-inflammatory properties (whereas some omega-6 can contribute to inflammation). This fatty acid is necessary for brain function, healthy development of nerves and eyesight. Omega-3’s have been linked to the prevention and treatment of several other conditions like arthritis, ADHD, Alzheimer’s, depression, diabetes, high cholesterol and blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and osteoporosis to name a few.

Omega-6’s provide a defense against and can aid in reducing symptoms in diabetic neuropathy, rheumatoid arthritis, eczema, allergies and high blood pressure. Studies also show that consuming 5-10 percent of energy from omega-6’s may help decrease the risk of CHD and cardiovascular disease.

Together, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids produce many of the health benefits described above. The catch? Eating them in the right amounts.

As In Most Things, Balance Is Key

In today’s society, the convenience of fast-food and heavily processed snacks makes for a not-so convenient way for us to maintain a balanced consumption of both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Most processed foods contain a high amount of omega-6 and data shows that a Western diet may contain too much omega-6 fatty acids. If we recall, some omega-6’s may promote inflammatory properties but too much can result in inflammation. Recent research suggests that this imbalance may contribute to health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and more. One such study shows that while the dietary intake of omega-3:omega-6 ratio should range from 1:1-4 for optimal health, the evolutionary changes in the Western diet has led to an increase in consumption range of 1:10-20. To reach a healthier balance between the two, experts suggest that a lower ratio of omega-3/omega-6 fatty acids is more desirable for reducing the risk of many chronic diseases.

However, just as important as it is to consume a healthy ratio of the two, it is equally important especially for vegetarians and vegans, to consume enough essential fatty acids as to prevent deficiencies. Remember, as remarkable as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids exhibit in aiding our brain development, immune system function and blood pressure regulation, sources should be consumed in healthy moderation!

Take Home Message:
Aim for a dietary intake with a ratio of 1 omega-3 FA : 1-4 omega-6 FA.

Happy Heart Month (and Day) Part 2

You need to love yourself, in order to take care of yourself. On this Valentine’s Day, learn to how to keep your heart healthy. Get you cholesterol and coconut questions answered!

By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE

Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services

www.MomDishesItOut.com

Q)   Does eating cholesterol really impact cholesterol level?

We have know for years that saturated fat is the true culprit to raising LDL production by our body. One should decrease their saturated fat intake to decrease their LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein- aka bad cholesterol). Many people have misunderstood this for years. The focus should not be on a cholesterol free product such as palm oil but rather a lower saturated fat and higher monounsaturated fat like almonds. Decreasing dietary cholesterol intake lowers your LDL about 3-5% where as decreasing your saturated fat intake decreases your LDL by 8-10% as reported by the National Cholesterol Education Program.

Q)   Will this depend on other nutrients that the food contains? If it’s not, what does impact cholesterol levels then?

Yes, levels of saturated fat, monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, exercise, stress and genetics all effect our cholesterol levels. A favorable fat profile of a food should look like this >Monounsaturated fats> Polyunsaturated Fats> Saturated Fats (need more research as to which saturated fats may be more beneficial).

 Q)   What about coconut oil and is it true it may help you to lose weight?  

The American Dietetic Association does not recommend consuming tropical oils such as Coconut oil. According to the Natural Medicines Database, ”there is insufficient evidence to rate the effectiveness of coconut oil for weight loss, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes, chronic fatigue, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome and thyroid conditions.”

 Q)   From the types of saturated fats such as stearic acid, lauric acid, etc, are there any with health benefits?

Per the research I have found, there are not saturated fats with absolute health benefits. To be prudent, one should continue to limit their saturated fat intake at this time and replace them with unsaturated fats, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. For additional reference there is a chart that clearly identify the roles of saturated fat on medscape: Role of Different Dietary Saturated Fatty Acids for Cardiometabolic Risk, By David Iggman; Ulf Risérus Posted: 04/28/2011; Clin Lipidology. 2011;6(2):209-223. © 2011 Future Medicine Ltd.

 

 

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Happy Heart Health Month – Part One

OMGoodness there are so many mixed messages about heart health. Read on tho make sense of sugar and saturated fat as it pertains to our heart health. Lets prevent Cardiovascular Disease (aka CVD).

Q) There are experts who are now saying that the evidence between saturated fat and CVD may have been biased because research didn’t take into account the sugar content of the diet.  Is sugar the real culprit?

Added sugar is associated with increased TG levels and increased LDL cholesterol (hyperlipidemia being a risk factor for CVD). However, there is an inverse relationship with increased intake of healthier carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, meaning the more you eat these foods, the less likely you are to increase your risk for CVD.  Saturated fat remains a part of the picture. Now the question is which type of SFA may be more closely associated with the increased cholesterol-raising effect of cardiovascular and metabolic risk factors. More research is needed to clarify. Most importantly focus on including fruits, veggies and whole grains and limit added sugars.

 

Q) What is the role of saturated fat in CVD risk?

Saturated fat is associated with CVD. Studies show an increase in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol after eating a meal high in saturated fat. However, recent studies are examining the different roles of the specific types of saturated fats: Short chain, medium chain and long chain SFA.  This means continue to minimize your intake of saturated fat like the visual lard on a steak until more research is available. A simple guide: choose products with < 2 grams/ saturated fat per serving. Rather focus on including monounsaturated fats like olives and avocado. 

 

Q)  There are studies that show total blood cholesterol is not a reliable indicator of CVD. If it’s not, what are the indicators then?

Total Cholesterol is not a biomarker of CVD rather one’s ratio of Total Cholesterol to HDL ratio.  HDL also known as high density lipoprotein is the good cholesterol (h for helper) and LDL, low density lipoprotein (l for want less of) the bad cholesterol. The greater your HDL and the lower your LDL, the more favorable your cholesterol profile will be and the decreased chance of cardiovascular disease. Studies indicate a Low HDL, High LDL and High TG are associated with risk for CVD. You must ask the doctor for your cholesterol breakdown and the ratio with a goal < 5.  Always ask for a copy of your blood work.

 

Q)  If a higher sugar intake may be dangerous, why aren’t  triglycerides (blood levels) more important when assessing the risk of CVD, since this marker has a good correlation with simple carbohydrates intake?

TG’s are a good indicator of risk for CVD and it should be included in the lipid profile to assess for CVD risk. However, the ATP III report issued by the NIH, encourages using TG’s as a marker for other lipid and nonlipid risk factors that ultimately raise the risk for CVD. Ask Your medical doctor for your TG level and aim for < 150 mg/dl. 

 

Check back for Happy Heart Health Month Part 2 or like Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services on Facebook to get weekly nutrition updates.

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Defy Aging with the ABC's of Youth

Defy Aging with the ABC’s of Youth

A is for anti inflammatory foods. Almonds and avocados contain monounsaturated fats that help to increase our good cholesterol, HDL. HDL functions as an anit inflammatory agent in our body!

B is for brain food. Fight aging with omega 3 fatty acids like salmon or cod liver oil. The omega 3 fatty acid known as DHA has been shown to improve memory as reported in the Chicago Health and Aging Project.

C is for cereal grains. Cereal grains like whole wheat berries, rye berries and quinoa are low glycemic grains. Prevent blood sugar and insulin peaks by choosing these grains. This can help you to decrease your risk of high insulin levels, diabetes and ultimately Alzheimer’s disease.