What are contaminants?
Despite their valuable qualities, fish can pose considerable health risks when contaminated with substances such as metals (e.g., mercury and lead), industrial chemicals (e.g., PCBs) and pesticides (e.g., DDT and dieldrin). Through increased testing, many of our oceans, lakes and rivers are now known to be surprisingly tainted. As a result, some fish are sufficiently contaminated that Environmental Defense recommends limited or no consumption.
Where do contaminants come from?
Contaminants enter the water in a variety of ways. Industrial and municipal discharges, agricultural practices, and storm water runoff can all deposit harmful substances directly into the water. Rain can also wash chemicals from the land or air into streams and rivers. These contaminants are then carried downstream into lakes, reservoirs and estuaries.
Fish take in these substances in several ways, and their contaminant levels depend on factors like species, size, age and location. Mercury, for example, is naturally converted by bacteria into methylmercury. Fish absorb methylmercury mostly from their food, but also from the water as it passes over their gills. Generally, larger and older fish have had more time to bioaccumulate mercury from their food and the water than smaller and younger fish. In addition, large predatory fish (like sharks and swordfish) near the top of marine food chains are more likely to have high levels of mercury than fish lower in marine food chains due to the process of biomagnification.
Fish can also absorb organic chemicals (such as PCBs, dioxins and DDT) from the water, suspended sediments, and their food. In contaminated areas, bottom-dwelling fish are especially likely to have high levels of such toxins because these substances run off the land and settle to the bottom. These organic chemicals then concentrate in the skin, organs and other fatty tissues of fish. Wild striped bass, bluefish, American eel, and seatrout tend to be high in PCBs, since they are bottom-tending fish often found in contaminated rivers and estuaries.
The above was sourced from www.oceansalive.org
We always think of fish as clean and healthy alternative in our diet. I can remember about 5 years ago a well known fish supplier in New York's Fulton market was caught selling stripped bass from the Hudson River. This bass made it into some of Manhattans finest restaurants. As we know the Hudson River has faced years of chemical buildup. Not one person I know would even consider eating bass from the Hudson River. Although Shad is said to be edible from the Hudson River because supposedly it does not eat and absorb toxins during it river journey.
So is the seafood we are eating considered clean and pure? There are lots of fish that just come from the wrong areas of the world or are farmed in such a manner that increases these chemical exposures. Farmed salmon for instance has large amounts of dioxins and other harmful chemicals. These farmed salmon eat fish pellets that are made from other fish and fish parts. If these fish come from contaminated waters then it will carry down in the food supply. So the farmed salmon will bio-concentrate these dioxins, mercury and other impurities. When lots of fish are forced into small farms the risks of disease increases. This is when the use of antibiotics are increased. Because these farms are profit driven the use of growth enhancers such as synthetic hormones are given.
Where should are fish come from?
Certain areas of the world are much better off than other areas. I always like Alaska for good clean seafood. Alaska has very strict population management and is out of reach from large populated areas. I also just discovered a small company based out of Tobago, just off of Trinidad. This small company delivers hand line caught fish to several New York restaurants. Fish of this quality usually never goes to supermarkets. Supermarkets are very sensitive to price. These high quality fish most likely end up in high quality restaurants. Chefs seem to pay more for the fancy ingredients. As a general rule the fish I buy from wholesalers cost more than at the local supermarkets. There are many area around the world that supply bountiful seafood from clean waters.
What to do can we all do?
The questions you should ask are, how was this fish caught and where was it caught. There are great Internet companies that will overnight you extremely fresh fish. Also health food stores usually have a good selection on sustainable seafood in the freezer section.
As I said last month, you have ever right to know where and how the fish was caught you are eating.
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Myths about a super food: Coconut Oil
By Marcus Guiliano Chef/owner Aroma Thyme Bistro
Since the 1960's, coconut oil has been unfairly labeled as “unhealthy”. The media reported studies of how tropical oils were laden with artery-clogging fats. What was not reported was the fact that the coconut oil used in the study was hydrogenated, not the virgin oil for centuries as a staple food. We now know it is the hydrogenation that is the problem. Hydrogenation is artificially adding a hydrogen molecule to the oil to lengthen the self-life. Lots of oils, like corn, soy, cottonseed and canola are loaded with dangerous trans-fat and other toxic hexane solvents. These can be found in lots of common foods like pie crusts, cookies, pre-made crab cakes, crackers, prepared sauces, bouillon cubes, even whole grain bread, peanut butter and the French Fry. Just read the label or ask your favorite restaurant to read the label and you will be shocked. In fact most food manufactures use this oil in production. So if you buy frozen French Fries at the store and bake them at home, the chances are they were already par cooked with this dangerous fat.
The fact is coconut oil is one of the most healthiest super foods known. Coconut oil is cholesterol and trans-fat free. One of the good fats that comprises about 50% of coconut oil is Lauric acid. Lauric acis is a rare mediul-chain fatty acid found in mother's milk that supports healthy metabolism and is now being studied for its anti-fungal, anti-viral, and anti-bacterial health-protecting propeties. Some researchers predict that Lauric Acid will become as well known as Omega-3's.
The FDA is now requiring labeling of “trans-fat” as of 2006. So when buying coconut oil make sure they have not added this fat or used hexane solvents. It should all be on the label. In fact it sort of like good quality olive oil, it should say “cold-pressed, virgin and/or organic” on the label.
Coconut oil is a great oil to cook and bake with. Also try it as a massage and body oil for dry and damaged skin.
For more information on coconut oil consider reading The Healing Miracles of Coconut Oil by Bruce Fife, N.D.
More information on hydrogenated fat
It is estimated that 1 out of 133 Americans suffer from Celiac Disease (CD). CD is a autoimmune intestinal disorder, found in individuals who are genetically susceptible. Damage to the mucosal surface of the small intestine is caused by an immunologically toxic reaction to the ingestion of gluten and interferes with the absorption of nutrients. CD is unique in that a specific food component, gluten, has been identified as the trigger. Gluten is the protien in grains, gluten gives breads and other baked goods its structure. These proteins are found in all forms of wheat (including durum, semolina, spelt, kamut, einkorn, and faro), and related grains, rye, barley, and triticale. These items must be eliminated from ones diet. Unfortunately many other prepared foods contain such ingredients. Even the smallest amount of gluten must go for diagnosed people.
So what do restaurants do?
If you read labels things like crab cakes, beef stock mixes, soy sauce and even blue cheese contains gluten. Even balsamic vinegar can use a barley fermenter in the process. And of course the obvious things like muffins, pancakes, bread, cookies, cakes, white tortillas and beer are pure gluten.
Not many restaurants go against the grain. There are many websites that list such restaurants as a resource. Because of the possible cross contamination of wheat and other suspect grains it even furthers the challenge in the restaurants. Remember even the smallest amount will affect a person with Celiac Disease. For any restaurant or bakery there must be complete dedication to production of glute-free products. More and more bakeries are jumping on board of this customer base. A gluten-free bakery now exist in Orange County and a hot dog eatery in Poughkeepsie also offers gluten-free menu choices.
What about grocery stores? Many food brands now offer gluten-free lines. Bob's Redmill, just one of many, has a great brownie and cookie mix. Health food stores now have gluten-free flour (made from corn, potato, tapioca, garbanzo and fava flours). Just substitute this flour in your cookie, pancake and cake recipes.
I have found at Aroma Thyme that more and more customers are finding out that they have Celiac Disease. Many nutritionists say that wheat and gluten are a common food sensitivity. If you think about it, there are not many days that we do not consume this gluten. So the theory is that our body starts to react over time in a negative way. Even if we do not have Celiac Disease, gluten may cause headaches, mood swings, fatigue and slower metabolism.
So even if you do not have Celiac Disease, avoiding gluten could make a difference. You may also want to rotate grains in your diet. So eat wheat once every four days, and follow that with rye, barley and other grains. This will give your body a restaurant
Be careful what you Catch!